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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: March 2013

11 - Copyright and other legal aspects


While copyright provides the legal underpinning for much of what journal publishing does, it is far from being the only area of law which is relevant. Contract law governs the whole range of agreements, from full-blown contracts (e.g., between a publisher and a journal’s owner, or between the publisher/owner and the Editor) to agreements with individual authors; licenses (whether for a whole country, or for an individual user), and subsidiary agreements with third parties, are contracts too. The issue of libel may arise (for example, in book reviews). Another area of law which is increasingly important, as personal records of authors, reviewers, and others are generally maintained on computer, is that of data protection.

All of these areas of the law are governed by national laws, which vary somewhat (although within the European Community they operate under the overall umbrella of European law); in this chapter we aim to bring out the main differences between US and UK/European law. Further detail of the national differences can be found at


What is copyright?

Copyright is what it says – the right to copy. It provides the copyright owner with the exclusive right to make copies, and to permit (or not to permit) others to make copies (in whatever medium) and to “communicate them to the public” – i.e., to distribute or publish them. It also covers the right of rental or lending; performing, showing, or playing the work in public; including in a collection (e.g., an anthology); and making an adaptation (e.g., a translation).

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The Handbook of Journal Publishing
  • Online ISBN: 9781139107860
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Copyright Act, 1710, 8 Anne c. 19, An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by Vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or Purchasers of Such Copies, during the Times Therein Mentioned ()
Cox, John, and Cox, Laura, 2008, Scholarly publishing practice 3, Worthing, Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers () – summarized in Morris, below
Morris, Sally, 2009, Journal authors’ rights: perception and reality, London, Publishing Research Consortium ()
Further reading
Committee on Publication Ethics ()
Copyright Society of the USA, Copyright Links ()
Jones, Hugh, and Benson, Christopher, 2011, Publishing law, 4th edn, Abingdon, Routledge
Kaufman, Roy S, 2008, Publishing forms and contracts, Oxford University Press
Leaffer, Marshall A, 2010, Understanding copyright law, 5th edn, Albany, NY, LexisNexis
Owen, Lynette, 2010, Clark’s publishing agreements, 8th edn, London, Bloomsbury Professional
SERU (Shared Electronic Resource Understanding), 2012, SERU Recommended Practice (RP-7-2012), Baltimore, MD, National Information Standards Organization ()
UNESCO collection of national copyright laws ()
Winternitz, Ingrid, 2000, Electronic publishing agreements: precedents with commentary and disks, Oxford University Press
– wide range of resources on licensing
– suite of model licenses for various different situations, compiled by John Cox