19th April

response to "requests from third parties to reproduce, reprint, or translate an article" in accordance with international copyright law, so "encouraging the dissemination of knowledge". Every academic would welcome the "dissemination of knowledge" but such platitudes mask other interests. The result is that the publisher benefits from any extra revenue produced from reproduction or re-use; the author is entitled to nothing.

Unlike commercial publishing, the scientific, technical and medical market (STM) is low risk and stable. The Anglo-Dutch publishing giant Reed Elsevier is the global market leader for STM publications with 1,700 primary research and review journals. Its best known textbook is Gray's Anatomy and the company specialises in medicine, nursing and education journals and reference texts. The company's annual turnover is over £5 billion. At first glance the academic sector seems like a financial graveyard. Yet, on closer inspection there are considerable financial benefits. The prices for academic journals can remain relatively high because university libraries are willing to pay for essential journals in perpetuity.

Similarly, key professional textbooks in the fields of medicine and law can hold a high price because they contain 'must have information' and students simply have to buy them. This is why publishers are increasingly pressing academic authors to write textbooks. Meanwhile, we are all clamouring to publish original work in journals with high 'impact factors' because of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and this fits well with


the publishing status quo. Editorial boards are swamped with submissions and publishers not only get the copy for free but they may also benefit from owning its copyright.

The truth is, academics don't expect to get paid for their writing. Indeed, I am not sure that we even see ourselves as writers in the broader sense of the term. We are expected to pore over the keyboard for love, enlightenment or something less profane than cold cash. Yet academic publishing is inherently unfair. Academic authors are not just expected to write for nothing, we are also subsidising the profits of publishers by doing so. We have to find ways of placing pressure on publishers to change. Perhaps this can only start when we try harder to hold onto the copyright for our work. Otherwise we will be condemned to mine away with little pay or recompense at the frontiers of knowledge.

More information about the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society can be found at

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20 April