Kohn and Lange (2018)
|Kohn and Lange (2018)|
|Title:||Confused about Copyright? Assessing Researchers’ Comprehension of Copyright Transfer Agreements|
|Author(s):||Alexandra Kohn, Jessica Lange|
|Citation:||Kohn, A. And Lange, J. (2018) Confused about Copyright? Assessing Researchers’ Comprehension of Copyright Transfer Agreements. Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication, 6 (General issue)|
|Key Related Studies:|
|About the Data|
|Data Description:||The data consists of a survey with 122 full responses. Participants were drawn from authors listed on the Scorpus database, who were then asked (alongside basic demographic questions including: discipline of participant and experience in publishing) to read anonymised publisher copyright transfer agreements. Participants were split into two groups, each with a different agreement. Following a series of questions on the content of the copyright transfer agreement, the researchers checked for comprehension using an answer key. Thereafter, the researchers checked for any correlation between the comprehension scores of participants against the demographic information provided.|
|Data Type:||Primary data|
|Secondary Data Sources:|
|Data Collection Methods:|
|Data Analysis Methods:|
|Cross Country Study?:||No|
|Government or policy study?:||No|
|Time Period(s) of Collection:||
"INTRODUCTION Academic authors’ confusion about copyright and publisher policy is often cited as a challenge to their effective sharing of their own published research, from having a chilling effect on self-archiving in institutional and subject repositories, to leading to the posting of versions of articles on social networking sites in contravention of publisher policy and beyond. This study seeks to determine the extent to which authors understand the terms of these policies as expressed in publishers’ copyright transfer agreements (CTAs), taking into account such factors as the authors’ disciplines and publishing experience, as well as the wording and structure of these agreements. METHODS We distributed an online survey experiment to corresponding authors of academic research articles indexed in the Scopus database. Participants were randomly assigned to read one of two copyright transfer agreements and were subsequently asked to answer a series of questions about these agreements to determine their level of comprehension. The survey was sent to 3,154 participants, with 122 responding, representing a 4% response rate. Basic demographic information as well as information about participants’ previous publishing experience was also collected. We analyzed the survey data using Ordinary Least Squared (OLS) regressions and probit regressions. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION Participants demonstrated a low rate of understanding of the terms of the CTAs they were asked to read. Participants averaged a score of 33% on the survey, indicating a low comprehension level of author rights. This figure did not vary significantly, regardless of the respondents’ discipline, time in academia, level of experience with publishing, or whether or not they had published previously with the publisher whose CTA they were administered. Results also indicated that participants did equally poorly on the survey regardless of which of the two CTAs they received. However, academic authors do appear to have a greater chance of understanding a CTA when a specific activity is explicitly outlined in the text of the agreement."
Main Results of the Study
On average, only 34% of authors were able to understand the terms of copyright transfer agreements, with no statistically significant difference between the comprehension of different agreements. This is not impacted by a participant’s seniority (e.g. how much experience they have in publishing) or discipline (e.g. hard sciences or arts and humanities), thus suggesting no learning effect. Some terms are more intuitive and understandable than others, with participants in the first group more able to correctly answer questions in regards course management systems, republishing policies, and reuse of data. The authors suspect this clause-by-clause comprehension is related to the corresponding explicit wording in an agreement.
The study also finds that in cases where the correct answer to clause interpretation is “unclear” that authors instead are more likely to assume that permission is granted (60-75%). Opposite this is a tendency (>50%) to assume that republishing of an article in an edited book is not permitted, even if the copyright transfer agreement specifically allows this.
Policy Implications as Stated By Author
Given the overall low-comprehension of copyright transfer agreements, the study recommends that a parsing tool is created to translate the complex language of these agreements into more understandable terms. Otherwise, drafters of copyright transfer agreements should be encouraged to state explicitly what they permit or do not permit. More generally, copyright education should be distributed widely, particularly given that there were no significant correlations between a participant’s seniority and experience and their reading comprehension.