Journal Copyright Gossip

William Stein


Why This Page Exists
Directory of Free Math Journals (submit your papers to these journals!!)
How to Submit New Entries
The Mathematics ArXiv also has a copyright page (external link).
Wilfrid Hodges has a copyright page (external link).

Why This Page Exists

A friend of mine submitted a paper to a well-known mathematics journal, let us call it Journal X. He was, in due course, sent a copyright form to sign. This copyright form, contrary to other forms he had signed recently for other journals, denied him the right to put the paper on his web page if Journal X decided to publish it. He was not happy with this, and got in touch with Journal X, saying that he was going to cross some bits of the copyright form out, and asking whether this was OK. He heard nothing for two months, despite sending another email asking them for clarification, and then got a brief email from Journal X saying

Dear Sir,

Why would you like to publish with an academic publishing house if you expose your article to super distribution through your website?

After a small amount of further debate, where he was told to try and see things from the "point of view of a publisher's enterprise", he decided to withdraw the paper from submission, and submit it elsewhere. As mentioned before, this process took over two months, and had he known that this was going to be Journal X's stance on the issue then he would not have submitted the paper to Journal X in the first place.

There was, however, a happy ending to my friend's story. On telling his story to some of the editors he knew, he started off some kind of small "internal enquiry", which ended up with him getting several emails from the editor-in-chief of Journal X, and also a very apologetic personal email from the mathematics publishing editor of the publishing company. The gist of these emails was that the legal department had been rather heavy-handed, and that it certainly would be possible to submit a paper to Journal X and also to keep a copy on his web page. Hence he felt that Journal X treated him rather well, even though the circumstances ended up with him not publishing his paper there.

This website has been created as an attempt to prevent other people from falling into similar traps.

-- William Stein