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I have a question about publishing. If I publish a paper in a journal that does not specify any type of license used, and I am never asked to transfer the copyright.

Apart from this, the journal defines itself as "open" and there is no copyright notice of any kind in the journal's articles.

I think that I could retain all the rights without restrictions. What do you think about this?

  • Note that copyright law is variable around the world. It might be implied that you give them a limited license in order to publish, but whether it has further implications can vary. – Buffy Jun 30 at 12:45
  • Is a limited license to publish similar to when a paper is published on ArXiv with a non-exclusive license? In that case, the author also retain the copyright. – Teresa Jun 30 at 12:55
  • I think ArXiv is specific about what rights you grant. A limited license can mean a lot of things, but most places it is improper to publish the work of others without at least a license of some sort. "Improper" might mean illegal, but it varies. And the law, if it applies, is probably civil, not criminal, law. But no stated license is problematic, see what Anonymous Physicist writes here. The law varies but the journal probably needs your formal acceptance of terms in order to publish: license or copyright transfer. Dangerous otherwise. – Buffy Jun 30 at 13:00
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    But even if there is no license, there is a written consent (via email) that the author wants to publish his article in the journal. Therefore, the author's permission is granted. But that would be the only thing the author accepts: giving permission to publish the article. – Teresa Jun 30 at 13:11
  • Don't make assumptions. The bigger question is whether readers also get any license to the material. Depending on the law you may be giving up more than you want to. – Buffy Jun 30 at 14:01
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I think that I could retain all the rights without restrictions. What do you think about this?

Seems plausible, but read the journal's terms of service, since you may be digitally bound by some terms, and maybe just send them an email to ask.

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    The journal does not contain terms of service, only very short paragraphs about the journal's scope. Considering this, if I continue to publish my paper in that journal, I think that in the absence of copyright transfer agreement or any specific license, I could remain as the copyright owner. And then, if I'm right, I could share my paper under the CC-BY license later, and allow people to create derivative works. On the contrary, if I ask them in writing via email, they can establish other terms. – Teresa Jun 30 at 10:12
  • @Teresa They can't establish terms retrospectively, unless you agree. They could establish terms moving forwards. You seem to think emailing them will notify them of an omission. I don't think that's the case - they'll have surely considered the need for a copyright waiver already. Without emailing them, you won't know if you are the copyright owner, so sharing your paper under a CC-BY license could mean you've violated the terms of some agreement. (Are you sure they have no terms of service? They're surely required now, if only to satisfy emerging privacy laws.) – user2768 Jun 30 at 15:00
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    The journal is a very simple journal. There is no license specified, no CTA, no terms of service. It only has an ISSN. But I understand it is not the best place to publish my paper. My question was more curiosity focused on the copyright issue. – Teresa Jun 30 at 20:23
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What we "think" about it is of little consequence. The laws around copyright vary over the world. I think you are being a bit blasé about it. You need some explicit statement of any license you grant. If the publisher makes assumptions and does things you don't approve of with your work you may have little recourse other than a lawsuit that will probably cost you money. As Anonymous Physicist suggests, you shouldn't deal with such people as they are probably not reputable.

If they aren't willing to be explicit prior to publication and ask you to actually sign a clear agreement, then it is a giant red flag.

The risk is yours and yours alone. You may be fine, but no one here can provide any assurance of that. Talk to an IP lawyer to get knowledge of the local laws that will apply.

My worry is, if you give them an implied but not stated license, whether they can pass that license on to others. And, again, if they assume that, then it is a lawsuit that would be necessary to stop it. What "I think" is that you are stepping into a minefield. Don't do so blindfolded.

If you are associated with a university, they may have IP lawyers with whom you can consult.

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  • Thank you for your good reply. My question is only about the copyright issue of a publishing option. Of course, there are other possibilities on the table. And indeed, the laws are different around the world. But, if it were an American journal, I think publishing without a license would allow the author to retain the copyright. – Teresa Jun 30 at 14:53
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    Talk to a lawyer, not random people on the internet. You are hoping for the best, not planning for it. You seem to want assurance for an already decided on position rather than advice. No one here has any authority to give you such assurance. – Buffy Jun 30 at 15:04
  • If they aren't willing to be explicit prior to publication and ask you to actually sign a clear agreement, then it is a giant red flag. Social media is explicit with clear agreement, at least, legally. But, social media users are typically oblivious to what they've signed up to. Unfortunately, there's little they can do. The law needs revising. – user2768 Jun 30 at 15:04
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    From practical perspective the idea of engaging an IP lawyer for an issue like this seems ridiculous. – Arno Jun 30 at 15:19
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    @Arno, not if the university provides the service. – Buffy Jun 30 at 15:20
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Do not publish without a contract. The absence of a contract casts serious doubt on the competence of the journal. You do not want your work to appear in a journal that gets shut down because they did not have their paperwork correct. No quality open access journal would neglect to have a license.

If the question is "Will you retain your rights?" My answer is that this is a situation which should never occur, so you shouldn't find out.

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  • Good advice, if not actually an answer to the question. – Buffy Jun 30 at 12:42
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    I appreciate your advice and I think you are right about the competence of the journal. But, leaving that aside, and focusing on the copyright issue, if there is no license specified, I think I would retain the copyright. And if there are no terms of service (unlike in the forums) and no copyright transfer agreement. Could there be something that means losing my article's rights? – Teresa Jun 30 at 12:49
  • This is not a good place to get legal advice. – Anonymous Physicist Jul 1 at 0:57
  • @Buffy Fair enough. This is a situation where "don't have this problem" is the best solution. – Anonymous Physicist Jul 1 at 0:58

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