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A Lesson for Law Reviews, and for Authors:

A friend of mine and I were e-mailing about various offers he had pending for a law review article he'd written, and in passing he mentioned this:

[One of the journals] forbid[s] web publication of their articles, which is an absolute deal-breaker . . . .

I was pleased to hear him say that, and I think more authors should take this view. We want more readers, and these days Web publication is critical to getting more readers. And I think law journals should take the same view, despite some possible (and I suspect quite minor) financial loss they'd get by not offering WESTLAW, LEXIS, and HeinOnline exclusivity.

Fortunately, he reported that the journal ultimately relented, "and sent me an e-mail offering to allow web publication. I've found that law reviews tend to offer very extreme form contracts, but are always willing to make reasonable concessions." That's quite right (except I'd say "almost always" rather than "always").

Proud Generation Y Slacker:
Isn't the modern trend for the journals themselves to put their issues online in their entirety? What is this, the dark ages?
7.14.2005 6:49pm
Greg (www):
Lessig has made an interesting decision related to law review articles and his position on ownership of published content here:

It has taken me too long to resolve myself about this, and it was too late in the process of this article to insist on something different. But from this moment on, I am committed to the Open Access pledge:

I will not agree to publish in any academic journal that does not permit me the freedoms of at least a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license.
7.14.2005 8:13pm
Keith Hilzendeger (mail):
Yes, it may be the Dark Ages for a long time. Allow me to explain.

So one of Eugene's friends got an offer from a law journal that doesn't allow web publication. This means either (1) the journal doesn't want the author providing a copy of the article anywhere they don't approve, or (2) they don't have the means to publish their journal on-line. If the former, the journal is just mean, and Eugene's friend is entirely justified in going to another journal. But many journals don't have the means to publish on-line because of budgetary constraints and administrative interference.

I served as articles editor of the law journal published at a respectable school in the southwest. Our operating costs were subsidized entirely by the university, which meant that we were subject to the law school's supervision when it came to web publishing. All our messages - even our call for submissions - had to be approved by an administrator whose office isn't even in the same building as our faculty advisor's. What little autonomous control over our web site we had was taken away when the law school redesigned its web site and forced us to make our web site have the same look and feel of theirs. We had other battles to fight, and we fought them instead of attempting to keep control of our web site. In the end, we still don't have the means to allow people free access to the articles printed in our journal over the internet.

It might have been nice to have that - we would have had another carrot to offer potential authors. And I would not have objected if an author felt strongly about publishing his piece on his or her own web site, as long as the piece gave proper attribution. But when it comes to nontraditional perks such as web publication, authors should realize that not all publications operate completely autonomous from their host schools. There might be some hidden strings pulling the marionette that is the law journal editor you're negotiating with.
7.14.2005 8:38pm