Fighting for “non-negotiable” copyright

Recently, the American Psychological Association (APA) has decided to not allow me to retain my copyright for a book chapter I wrote — after weeks of back-and-forth of them saying they are “very flexible” in their current license agreement and neglecting my counter-offers. How requesting all copyright and making the agree non-negotiable is flexible, I do not know. I am not the only one who has stumbled upon such problems (see Rajiv Jhanghiani’s blog post).

In February I asked the editors of the book for a copy of the license agreement, suspecting that the APA would want a full copyright transfer. On March 29 2016 I received the agreement (available here) and it indeed stated the suspected copyright transfer.

I asked the editors to inquire for an alteration to the agreement, such that the APA could print the chapter, make money but the copyright would remain with us (and I could publish a copy online under a CC-BY or CC-0 license). Note that I not only feel morally obliged to do this, but also practically have to: if I sign away all rights I cannot reuse my own book chapter in my dissertation, without getting prior approval of the rightsholder and hoping I get that exception.

Alas, the APA stated that the license agreement is “non-negotiable” and that their “policies on use of the material with proper citation are not at all stringent.” Note that they here refer to academic citations, which is not concerned with copyright (i.e., reuse) but attribution of ideas and professional standards.

Moreover, acquiring all copyright was essential according to them, due to the “financial risk assessment” involved in publishing a book. They neglected to respond to my argument that the free (!) chapter does not, in itself, pose a risk and therefore any risk is incurred by their own doing and I will not pay for it with my copyright.

So I made a counter-offer: a non-exclusive reproduction right, where I simply put the chapter in the public domain and the APA can print the chapter, make money, and I cannot make any claims on their revenue/profit, all while others are able to reuse the chapter freely and without restrictions. They did not agree after offering this three times and just now, my deadline passed for them to accept this offer.

So now I will publish this chapter elsewhere. The beauty is that I just put it online with a non-restrictive license, so they can technically still print it if they’d like despite their claim that I do not allow publication of the book chapter. But now you can read it and freely reuse it. They are simply blocking publication because they cannot publish on their terms and I want to renegotiate the apparently one-sided agreement.

Note: This matter is wholly unrelated to the recent post about a flaw in EBSOhost that inadvertently made all of APA Open Access if you had a direct link.

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