Copyright in a published article

Advice for those new to the concepts of copyright
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NGA
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Copyright in a published article

Post by NGA » Wed Aug 11, 2010 2:04 pm

I am in the course of submitting an article to a trade magazine (no fee involved). The magazine concerned, while acknowledging that copyright in the submitted article remains entirely mine, states that copyright in the article in the exact form published is theirs and that I would need to seek their permission to reproduce the article in that form in future or pass on the article in that form for reproduction elsewhere. They cite
* editorial changes, including the addition of an abstract
* redrawing of figures to comply with their house style (though the material included remains as submitted), and
* use of their house style typography
as contributing to their copyright ownership in the published article.
Are they correct? If so, at what point does this derivative copyright begin to apply? If they, say, change just half a dozen words in a 3000 word article, would the reproduction of such an 'edited' article elsewhere infringe their copyright? And where does copyright reside in a redrawn figure or re-set text containing unaltered information?

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Wed Aug 11, 2010 6:05 pm

The publishers are right to say that the typographical layout they produce will attract a separate copyright (Section 8 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988) and that specific copyright exists for 25 years from the end of the calendar year in which the edition is published (whereas your copyright in the text lasts for 70 years after your death).
But on your other point, I think they would need to change your text very substantially before it could be considered a separate work for copyright purposes, and not just amend the odd word here and there. It is generally implicit that an author or journalist accepts that certain minor editorial changes will be made to his work during the publishing process, but I think it is generally accepted that the result is not a derivative work as such, and therefore full copyright in the actual text etc remains with you. The general rule is that for something to attract separate copyright it needs to be 'through the sweat of the brow' of the new author, so a translation into another language, or turning a novel into a play or screenplay would fairly be thought of as adaptions, but merely tinkering with the punctuation or syntax is insufficient. I think that even the abstract would generally not count as a separate work because, by definition, it is just a condensed form of your words, with no new original material or ideas added.
Given that the publishers have the Section 8 copyright, I don't see why they think it is necessary to claim copyright in the amended text also, especially as you are not getting paid, and tthey are the only ones who stand to make a financial gain from this transaction. I think you would be more than justified in asking to have full permission to reproduce the typographical layout version of your article for non-commercial purposes (eg to pass to colleagues in the same subject area for instance) as part of the quid pro quo for providing the article to the magazine.
Regretably there has been an unhealthy trend of late amongst newspaper and magazine publishers to 'grab' intellectual property rights from contributors in a way which falls outside the spirit of the legislation.
Make sure you get an absolute assurance that you will be credited as the author of the article.

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