Digital Culture Legal Issues Library Issues Master's Paper

Perils of Strong Copyright, continued

The last 24 hours have been quite interesting! The feedback has been roaring in…99% positive, with a few corrections and questions sent my way. One gentleman from Canada pointed out my misuse of the term “schizophrenic” on page 8, which I appreciate. I was looking for something more along the lines of “hypocritically” and may have unintentionally misused the term.

I did receive one response from someone associated with the ALA, specifically Knowledge Quest (KQWeb, to be precise). Laura Pearle, the associate editor of KQWeb said:

“I read with interest your comments about Open Access and ALA. As Associate Editor for KQWeb, I am aware of their policies and it appears to me that you have misrepresented the ALA’s position. In your appendix you have copies of the two copyright agreements ALA offers. One does assign to ALA all rights. The other, however, only assigns limited rights (that of first publication) and the rest remain with the author. It is the author’s choice, not ALA’s, which agreement is signed….

…You might want to re-read the agreements and rework your thesis on the basis of that rereading. ”

I must say that I do not believe that I have misrepresented the ALA’s position (indeed, I think I have described that they don’t currently know their position, since they say one thing, and behave differently). As far as Knowledge Quest specifically, perhaps I was confused by the following passage on the “Instructions for Authors” portion of the KQ website , where it states:


A manuscript published in the journal is subject to copyright by the American Library Association for the American Association of School Librarians. Additional information about copyright policies is available from the ALA Office of Rights and Permission.”

That seemed a reasonably clear statement. If there is the opportunity for authors to retain copyright, perhaps this statement should be altered to reflect that.

By griffey

Jason Griffey is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at NISO, where he works to identify new areas of the information ecosystem where standards expertise is useful and needed. Prior to joining NISO in 2019, Jason ran his own technology consulting company for libraries, has been both an Affiliate at metaLAB and a Fellow and Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and was an academic librarian in roles ranging from reference and instruction to Head of IT at the University of TN at Chattanooga.

Jason has written extensively on technology and libraries, including multiple books and a series of full-periodical issues on technology topics, most recently AI & Machine Learning in Libraries and Library Spaces and Smart Buildings: Technology, Metrics, and Iterative Design from 2018. His newest book, co-authored with Jeffery Pomerantz, will be published by MIT Press in 2024.

He has spoken internationally on topics such as artificial intelligence & machine learning, the future of technology and libraries, decentralization and the Blockchain, privacy, copyright, and intellectual property. A full list of his publications and presentations can be found on his CV.
He is one of eight winners of the Knight Foundation News Challenge for Libraries for the Measure the Future project (, an open hardware project designed to provide actionable use metrics for library spaces. He is also the creator and director of The LibraryBox Project (, an open source portable digital file distribution system.

Jason can be stalked obsessively online, and spends his free time with his daughter Eliza, reading, obsessing over gadgets, and preparing for the inevitable zombie uprising.

4 replies on “Perils of Strong Copyright, continued”

I’m curious: before you trash(ed) ALA’s policies, did you
a) ask your thesis advisors how they were treated when (if) publishing with ALA, and/or
b) contact the ALA Publishing office for any clarifications?

Since one of the realities of our profession is to evaluate the veracity of the information we find, I’m wondering why you see professional journals as the bad guys. . . esp. in academia, where ‘publish or perish’ still does not accept the open Web as an authoritative publishing venue.

I do not believe that I “trashed” anyone, nor was my paper any attempt at such. I simply pointed out the public face that the ALA seems to be presenting on both sides of the coin, and asked why it was that they see in conflict.

In that I was relying on the “public” face of the ALA, I relied on the statements presented on the websites for Authors (as seen in the Appendix).

I absolutely do not believe, nor do I believe that I painted, “professional journals” as the “bad guys.” I simply pointed out what I see as an inconsistency within the profession.

As a matter of fact, the next thing I plan to work on will be an examination of why it is that the “open web” is not sufficient for tenure review, and the culture of scholarship that has become entrenched in this belief. I see it as short-sightedness on the part of academia.

Perils of Strong Copyright, published on the web under a Creative Commons license, certainly seems to be generating “scholarly” comments and concerns.

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