questions to ask when you learn of digitization projects

beach photographer ca. 1890 (National Media Museum, via flickr commons)

beach photographer ca. 1890 (National Media Museum, via flickr commons)

Some days you wake up and you see announcements of a new project to digitize a collection of primary source materials. Perhaps an archive that covers centuries of technological and commercial changes, perhaps a collection of newspapers that encompasses the history of African-American politics and culture, just to name a couple of purely hypothetical examples.

I don’t know any details about such agreements and neither do you, unless you happen to be one of the top-level executives at one of the holding institutions for these collections or at one of the companies doing the digitization. And because we don’t know any details, we don’t know whether such projects are great or not. But we can—and we should—ask some questions when we hear about them:

  • Who financially benefits from such agreements? It is certainly the company doing the digitization and the institution holding the documents, otherwise neither would be doing it.
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how to destroy special collections with social media

I just got back from a wonderful trip to Rare Book School to deliver a talk in their 2015 lecture series. It was the last week of their summer season in Charlottesville, the week when the Descriptive Bibliography course (aka “boot camp”) was in full swing, and the weather was in all its hot, glorious humidity. I wanted to keep things light as well as make some points I feel very strongly about: the importance of librarians and researchers using social media to help sustain special collections libraries.

Below are the slides and my notes for my July 29th talk. Since RBS records and shares the audio of their talks (go browse through past RBS lectures and listen!) I have, with their permission, also embedded the audio of my talk here so that you can listen and read along if you’d like (there are some variations between the two, though nothing substantive—I’ll leave you to decide which is the authoritative version…). § continue reading

more lessons on negotiating a contributor’s contract

So the start of Open Access Week seems like a good prompt to share with you my latest round of negotiating with a publisher for a better contributor’s contract. I’ve written about earlier versions of this exercise before, from the initial steps to its happy conclusion, but so far it’s not something that feels natural and I repeatedly hear from others that they don’t know how to go about this.

The most recent exercise involves a commercial press that does a lot of scholarly publishing and a collection of Shakespeare-related essays. The contract I was sent (one page via snail mail) asked me to assign copyright to the publisher in exchange for one copy of the finished collection, with no provision for archiving or distributing the piece for teaching purposes. Here’s the key language:  § continue reading


pre-hurricane catch-up

As part of my pre-hurricane planning, I’m pushing out a few pages that I’d put together but not announced. So…

In celebration of Open Access Week, here’s the fruit of my negotiated contributor’s contract: my book chapter on audiences for Stuart Hampton-Reeves and Bridget Escolme’s collection, Shakespeare and the Making of Theatre (Palgrave Macmillan 2012). The collection as a whole is geared towards exploring the practicalities of working with Shakespeare as a play texts intended for performance; my contribution explores how to think about the relationship between audiences and actors and what role each plays in shaping the other’s response. I talk about a couple of productions at Shakespeare’s Globe (a King Lear and an As You Like It), Toneelgroep’s amazing Roman Tragedies, and a Folger Theatre show of Measure for Measure.

And in celebration of the upcoming Modern Languages Assocation conference (where I’ll be participating in two roundtable discussions, “Convergent Histories of the Book: From Manuscript to Digital” and “How Did I Get Here? § continue reading

a new contributor’s contact!

In my last post, I discussed the contibutor’s contact I had been presented with for a chapter I have in a forthcoming collection. It was much more restrictive than I liked, including requiring that I ask them before I reuse my material in my own future publications and not allowing for any digital repository use at all. After emailing my editors and the publisher, and going through some back-and-forth, I’m happy to say that they presented an alternative contributor’s contract that I’m willing to sign!

Here are the key details in how this happened for those of you who might be contemplating this sort of negotiation:

I let my volume editors know that I intended to do this. I’m not sure they entirely understood my objections (one pointed out that he’d already put his contribution on his institutional repository; I didn’t counter that that didn’t seem permissible according to the terms we were given). § continue reading

working with a contributor’s contract

6 July update below

So, on top of everything else I’m dealing with at the moment, I just got an email requesting a super fast turn-around on a contributor’s agreement for a chapter I wrote. The book collection has already been accepted and is already in production—it’s really not clear to me how things got this far along without contributor’s agreements being worked out. But it has. So here’s my situation: this agreement sucks. It leaves the contributor with no rights. It doesn’t even let me republish my own work in, say, my own monograph without asking the publisher for permission. Here are the key details:

  • “Author grants to the Publisher for the full term of copyright and any extensions thereto, the exclusive right and licence to edit, adapt, publish, reproduce, distribute, display and store the Contribution . . . in all forms, formats and media whether now known or hereafter developed (including without limitation in print, digital and electronic form) throughout the world”
  • Author grants to the Publisher the exclusive right and licence “to translate the Contribution into other languages, create adaptations, summaries or extracts of the Contribution or other derivative works based on the Contribution”
  • “The Author shall only be entitled to republish the Contribution with the Publisher’s prior written permission which shall not be unreasonably withheld, and provided that, when reproducing the Contribution or extracts from it, the Author acknowledge and reference first publication of the Contribution in the Work.”
  • “The Author irrevocably and unconditionally waives the Author’s moral right as provided in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to the extent the Publisher reasonably deems necessary to allow the Publisher to exercise and license the rights granted to the Publisher under this Agreement.” update: This sentence is preceded by one in which the Author asserts moral rights, so it looks as if I’m not being asked to waive all my moral rights, just the ones the Publisher wants me to.
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