Refusing to give away copyright as an act of civil resistance

Before I start, let me make one thing clear: I live and breathe Open Access, and I always have, and always will, make all of my work available as OA.

But. Even though I have studied OA and I know without a doubt that Latin America has the right model for OA: a model that is “managed in cooperative and inclusive models by the scholarly community,” I still sometimes publish in subscription journals. I have once even received an Open Access Irony Award! (Never mind that, like all my work, there was a Green OA version available immediately upon acceptance).

But there is another thing I always do whenever I have an article accepted to a non-OA publisher: I resist signing the copyright agreement. I think of it as an act of civil resistance. It is an action intended to challenge the policies in place and the dominant narrative of commercial publishers.

Now, I realize that asking to retain your copyright is not as revolutionary as avoiding these venues altogether and, I admit, may not be as powerful a statement. However, if every author put up resistance before signing the agreement, we would have our voices heard. Resisting carries no risk on the author’s part, and even if the author eventually signs, the statement will have been made.

Today my approach was successful for the first time (after one failure and one partial success). After three escalations: from Guest Editor to Editor-in-chief, then to the Content Editor, and finally to the Rights Executive, The Emerald Publishing Groups agreed to let me retain my copyright.

If you must submit to non-OA publishers, I ask that you follow my lead.



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