Proposed change in copyright transfer practice

Una Smith una at phy.duke.edu
Wed Sep 23 10:15:59 EST 1992


Samuel Scheiner wrote [some parts deleted]:

>Given that most scientific papers rarely get cited, why does
>anyone think that publishers are gaining anything by retaining
>copyright?  ...

I can give you a real-life example.

For a Spring 1991 course on tropical ecology at Duke University,
John Terborgh assembled a packet of research papers, including several
of his own articles.  He had Kinko's, a chain of photocopy shops, do
the copying and binding, and sent his students to the Kinko's shop
to buy the resulting "custom textbook".  According to the first page
of the 500 page 1991 edition, Kinko's charges were very reasonable:

	copying		$23.83
	binding		 $1.35
	total w/tax	$26.44

Then Kinko's got sued by a group of publishers of scientific journals,
and the following year John Terborgh was required to write to the
publisher of every single paper he wanted to use in his book, asking
for permission to reproduce a set number of copies of each article.
Some publishers gave permission, some required a fee of several dollars
per copy, and some did not reply in time.  Kinko's refused to photocopy
any articles for which a permission letter was not obtained, and added
the publishers' royalty charges to the price of the 1992 textbook, also
about 500 pages long.  Kinko's also added a charge for the paperwork
they had to do to keep track of the royalties due each publisher.
The result;  John could not use his first choice paper in some cases,
and the publisher of one of his own articles had one of the highest
royalty charges of the batch.  Here's the breakdown of the 1992 price:  

	copying		$29.44
	binding		 $1.50
	royalties	$21.75
	handling	 $6.14
	total w/tax	$62.36

The Kinko's course packs were great while they lasted:  very up to date,
focussed, and tailored to the course.  The students were very positive
about the 1991 version;  quite a few said they would keep the book for
their own reference files (this was a graduate/senior level course), 
and about a dozen copies of the book were sold/sent to friends in Latin
America.  The cost of the 1992 version had the students very upset;
about a third managed to find a copy of the 1991 version.  The folks at
Kinko's anticipated that the price would deter many students from buying
the 1992 version, so they only made one copy at a time, on order and
after collecting a deposit, which also infuriated the students.  It is
unlikely that John Terborgh will use a course pack next year.  Too bad.

-- 

	Una Smith			Biology Department
					Yale University
	una at doliolum.biology.yale.edu	New Haven, CT  06511  USA



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