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MLA and AAA Author Agreements Revisited (Plus Improvements to the AAA Agreement)

This note is an update to yesterday’s post regarding comments made comparing the author agreement used by the American Anthropological Association to the newly changed agreement announced by the Modern Language Association.

In a comment on the original AAA blog post, MLA Executive Director Rosemary Feal confirmed that under the new MLA agreement authors retain their original copyright and are not asked to transfer it to the association in order to be published in its journals.

In a later comment to that AAA blog post and in a follow up posting, Joslyn Osten of the AAA staff confirmed that the AAA author agreement does transfer copyright in accepted works from the author to the association

These confirmations indicate that my observation that the two agreements were distinctive (in a way that I judge to to significant) is accurate.

Along the way, I was pleased to discover something new (to me) about the AAA author agreement. As a former AAA editor, I spent a good bit of time with the author agreements in use during that period (2005-2009). The agreement in use during most of this period is the agreement that has been celebrated as SHERPA/RoMEO green. A key concern that I have had about that agreement was that it did not clarify for potential authors what form (post-print, publisher version, etc.) was allowed to circulate outside the official publications channels. In the new AAA blog post, a link is given to the current AAA author agreement and this document is different from earlier versions in this regard (the relevant language is quoted in the post itself, as well). Clarifying language has been added to item three under the heading “Author’s Rights.” The older version of the author agreement is presently available from the SHERPA/RoMEO website (look up American Anthropological Association to find it). Comparing the recent to the current agreement shows that what was previously called an “article” (in the contexts of retained author rights) is now described as either a “post-print” (a term of art now clearly defined in the agreement) or (quite generously) “uncorrected page proofs”. Allowing authors to circulate “uncorrected page proofs” along the green OA path represents a significant step above and beyond the minimum threshold required to qualify as a green OA publisher. (Post-print is the threshold for green OA. For further information, consult the SHERPA/RoMEO database, particularly its section on “RoMEO Colours.”

I commend the AAA on these improvements to its author agreement. As an observer of such things, I would have been satisfied with the clarification embodied in the move from “article” to “post-print”. That the association has agreed to allow uncorrected page proofs to circulate represents a noteworthy additional step. (I am sure that this shift to include “uncorrected page proofs” is not totally new, its just new to my awareness. It seems likely that it has happened in the past six months given that the change was not discussed at the time of the 2011 AAA meetings at which I spoke on the subject of green OA in the AAA. Allowing the circulation of uncorrected page proofs has its pros and (significant) cons, of course, but, be they what they may, this is what many AAA authors are doing anyway and this shift thus effectively “decriminalizes” a widespread practice among association members.

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