What permissions are needed to reproduce a scholarly paper?

In the course of my research, I have tracked down a geotechnical report put out by the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The Urban Affairs Library here in Toronto has a copy in their non-circulating reference collection, and I do not expect to have a problem photocopying it for myself.

However, I may want to include it in a package I distribute to potential customers.

My question: what permissions or licenses do I need to distribute this paper?

I presume that I have to contact the University of Wisconsin; do universities typically charge for allowing such reproduction? If so, is it expensive? I had the vague impression that reports and information resulting from publically-sponsored research in the US was either non-copyrighted or free to use; am I wrong?

The folks at JSTOR and other such companies that distribute journal papers via the internet (and charge for it) wouldn’t be happy, I’m sure. I have no idea what is required in reproducing scientific papers as part of a commercial enterprise, but suggest that you contact the journal for information. I do know that you have to get permission to duplicate graphs and the like from journals, unless you redraw them yourself and give credit.

I just looked at JSTOR’s website, and they mention that many publishers offer reproductions, either through their own facilities or through JSTOR. It looks like most JSTOR-subscribing institutions in Canada are universities (no big surprise); I was hoping to see the Toronto Public Liobrary there. They offer a lot of things that smallers libraries don’t.

Thanks, I’m definitely going to contact the University. I just wanted to know how typical paying is. (I’ve neve done this sort of thing in a university context.)

Is there a copyright notice near the title page? If there is, that ought to answer the OP, wouldn’t it?

Well, I went down to the library last night and got my paws on the thing. It turns out to be a book of seven or eight papers. I photocopied the three that I wanted. I’m not sure that they’re appropriate for the distribution I have in mind, but I’ll contact the university anyways.

I wouldn’t think so. Every creation carries with it a copyright unless explicitly voided. This post is copywritten by me; that’s why the Reader has a clause in the ToA that they have permission to reproduce my work.

“Copyrighted,” not “copywritten” (though it’s that, too).

You know, that word is weird as hell. Explain to me.

I have a copyright on my book.
I have copyrighted my book.
My book is copywritten?

Where the hell did “write” come from?

p.s. your post is an illegal derivative of my material and I demand twelve billion dollars in compensation.

From your fevered imagination. “Copywritten” is never used by anyone who knows anything about copyright law. Even “copyrighted” (the correct form) is avoided, because it carries with it some connotations that are in conflict with the Berne Convention. Preferred forms include “protected under copyright law” or “subject to copyright restrictions.”

OP: You need the permission of anyone who holds copyright interest in the work. That may include the original author and the publisher of the journal. The only way for you to know is to start contacting people and asking them.

It is very common for owners of such works to charge licensing fees for making copies, especially for commercial use (your use of “customers” implies to me that you are contemplating a commercial use). Many publishers, however, grant licenses without fees for educational and other non-commercial uses. Again, the only way for you to know is to ask the copyright owner.


The copyright notice only identifies the copyright holder. It doesn’t answer the OP’s question as to whose permission is needed and how much, if anything, he’ll be required to pay. The only way he can find that out is to ask the copyright holder.

Just like you can’t google something, you merely perform a web search powered by Google search engine? Come on now, there’s legal language and there’s normal language.

Do you consider it “normal language” when someone confuses “their/there/they’re” or “its/it’s”?

“Copywritten” means something and it’s not the same thing as “copyrighted.”

George writes copy.
George is a copy writer.
This text was copywritten by George.

This book is protected under copyright law.
This book is copyrighted.

Is that clearer?

Ahh, I get it now.

Getting back to the OP, I would start by contacting the authors. I know that I retained the copyright to several of my own papers published by commercial journals. That didn’t stop them from putting their own copyright notice on the first page. And the fact that I did transfer copyright on my earlier papers (until I caught on) didn’t stop me from posting them on my web site when I could find them, e.g. on JSTOR. Doubtless I am violating their copyright, but let them sue me for lost profits. Scholarly publication is very poorly served by copyright laws. At the very least, out-of-print publications ought to be freely publishable. And in nearly all cases the commercial value disappears as soon as the journal has served its subscriptions list. But will the bastards allow free copying?

Let me make it clear. My interests are best served by distribution as wide as possible. The publishers don’t care about that.

I’m surprised they even published your paper if you didn’t sign the copyright transfer form. At the least, how could they prove they had permission to print it? Did your copyright go on the paper?

My stuff gets published in non-profit journals, but they still try to recover their costs by databases of papers they charge for access to. I think that an author has permission to “publish” a paper on his or her own website, though I don’t know about commercial publishers. The conference I’m involved with publishes our proceedings on the web six months to a year after the conference, with permission.

In looking for stuff outside the normal journals, I have often found alternate sources rather than JSTOR. Do commercial journals really prevent free use of an author’s own paper by the author?

chmod a+r ought to do it…