Monday, January 16, 2012

Copyright and Open Access

[Links updated 2018]

Never sign away the copyright of your own writings.  Instead, grant the publisher a license that gives them what they want, and assigns to you the rights that you want.  Here are such licenses, in several languages:
For background on the Zwolle principles, see here:
and see also the SURF initiative, on Copyright Management for Scholarship:

[Added 2018:]


  1. Hi Dominik

    Elisa Freschi recommended your blog - I'm struggling with this issue right now. I have a paper that I think would interest people, but I want people outside of University libraries to read it as well! My latest draft is on

    For example the Indo-Iranian Journal (Brill) require authors to sign over over copyright or pay them EUR 800 to provide open access. (As if they're ever make EUR 800 from a single essay!). It would be nice to get published in a prestigious journal but I don't feel like selling my soul to Brill.

    What would be good is a list of Indology journals which are prepared to accept compromise on signing over copyright.


    1. I don't know a list of Indological OA journals. The biggest list is at

      I did an OA article for a Brill journal a while back, and they charged 400 euros. It various from journal to journal, even with houses such as

      In the cases where there has been an article processing fee, as you are facing with Brill, I have always been able to get the fee paid by my employer or grant awarding body. Can you do that? If not, apply to the journal for a fee-waiver. If your article has been peer-reviewed and accepted by the editors for publication, then they should be on your side too, and encourage Brill to waive the fee. If you do not have a funding body behind you, you should in general ask for a fee-waiver. (See

      Another approach is to offer Brill a license from the copyright toolbox (above). I did that with Brill for a chapter that I have coming out in a book they're doing. They sent me a copyright transfer form to sign. I wrote back saying no, but I'll give you a publishing license. They promptly sent me a publishing license form that I felt able to sign. They already had such forms, all printed up. So they know all about this. If you can't get a waiver, try asking to sign a license instead of a copyright transfer. But still look closely at what you are sent.

      Finally, with some journals in the past, I have simply not signed the copyright-transfer form they sent me. They never got back to me about it. In another case, I just sent a license instead, without comment, and they silently accepted it.

      I hope these comments may help.

  2. Thanks. That's helpful.

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