Publishing Land Mines

Some good, smart people have already noted the troubling nature of a certain journal publisher’s attitude towards intellectual property, as well as the troubling nature of said publisher’s business practices. It’s rather more difficult to describe as merely “troubling” the fact that said publisher is involved in connected (via parent company Reed Elsevier; see comments below) to the international arms trade.

It might be worth thinking about the ten million land mines and eight thousand amputee children in Angola before submitting that article to Computers and Composition.

Publishing Land Mines

16 thoughts on “Publishing Land Mines

  • September 10, 2005 at 12:07 am


    For accuracy’s sake, when bringing up intellectual property issues and Elsevier, you should also note that Computers and Composition Online, the online journal you linked to in this post, is licensed using a Creative Commons “Some Rights Reserved” license. If you follow the link under the Creative Commons logo, it details that it is an Attribution, Share-Alike, Non-Commercial Deed. CCO actively supports the open source in academia movement. For those who may not notice the CC logo, our Submissions page also states our policy and why. I know you’re in the midst of your dissertation right now, but if you do have something you’re working on that would be a good fit for say, our “Theory into Practice” section, know that if it is accepted, it would be published using an intellectual property agreement that most academics who are “open source aware” would be comfortable with.

    Lanette Cadle
    Senior Editor
    Computers and Composition Online

  • September 10, 2005 at 11:39 am

    This has been posted to TechRhet and is being met with silence. *shakes head*

  • September 10, 2005 at 1:09 pm

    Ugh. These *are* the same two companies. Thanks for the heads up. I won’t be submitting to C&C until they change publishers.

  • September 11, 2005 at 8:24 pm

    Understood and acknowledged, Lanette. However, following my link shows, quite prominently on the front page of the C&C online site, “Computers and Composition: An International Journal,” with Gail and Cindy’s name beneath, and then the Elsevier logo. As the C&C Online site now stands, visitors will always see the Elsevier logo before seeing the Creative Commons logo. If CCO does, indeed, actively support the open source in academia movement, one way to indicate that support might be to feature the Creative Commons logo at least as prominently, if not more so, than the Elsevier corporate mark. And as you know, it’s in no way inaccurate to say that Elsevier has steadfastly refused to allow Computers and Composition writers a Creative Commons license.

    For clarification’s sake, I’ll happily point readers to Computers and Composition’s Elsevier site, but if you’re suggesting that I was inaccurately conflating the two journals, I’ll also point out that the C&C Elsevier site notes that “Further information about the journal can also be found at awebsite [sic] maintained by the editors,” with a link to the CCO site.

    However, the main point of my post was about Elsevier and arms trafficking. I hate to say it, but I’m afraid the fact that the Elsevier logo is so prominent in so many places on the site makes me not very inclined to submit anything.

  • September 13, 2005 at 7:24 am

    I am writing in response to the message recently posted regarding Elsevier. The views of our customers, and of the scientific community as a whole, are extremely important to us and require a response.

    Firstly I should explain that Elsevier (publisher of Computers and Composition) is one of the four divisions of Reed Elsevier. Reed Elsevier’s Reed Business division, which is run entirely independently of Elsevier, also owns Spearhead Exhibitions (the company which runs, amongst other things, the defence exibitions). The publisher of Computers and Composition is therefore not owner (nor has control over) Spearhead (or Reed Elsevier).

    I have received other queries and am passing everything up through the company so that those in Reed Elsevier are aware of the discussions currently taking place.

    Below is some information on Spearhead and *Reed Elsevier*, its owner:

    . Reed Exhibitions, part of Reed Business, is the world’s leading organiser of trade and consumer exhibitions with a portfolio of over 430 events in 32 countries around the world

    . Reed Exhibitions portfolio is extremely diverse, covering building and construction, electronics, entertainment, food and hospitality, jewellery, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, publishing, aerospace and defence, transport and logistics, and travel

    . The Reed Exhibitions group includes an exhibition company called Spearhead, which runs a portfolio of oil and gas, marine science, helicopter and defence exhibitions. Spearhead runs DSEi, a defence exhibition, which is organised in association with the UK MOD and supported by the defence industry trade associations – these include the Defence Manufacturer’s Association, Society of British Aerospace Companies, the British Naval Equipment Association and Intellect.

    . The aerospace and defence portfolio of shows accounts for 1.5% of RBI’s revenues, and less than 0.5% of the total revenue of Reed Elsevier.

    . Reed Elsevier believes that every country has the right to self-defence, as enshrined in Article 51 of the UN Charter. Defence exhibitions provide nations with the opportunity to protect themselves, and peacekeepers with the tools to do their jobs: not all nations have the industrial infrastructure to produce their own equipment.

    . Exhibitions such as DSEi assist in ensuring there is a licensed, regulated and open market to serve bona fide individuals and reputable companies in the defence business. They serve a legitimate purpose in bringing together industry and governments in a controlled environment where scrutiny is applied not just by the organisers, but, as in the case of DSEi, by the host government.

    . Reed Exhibitions monitors its exhibitions carefully; it operates a very strict policy regarding both the participants and the products allowed

    . All exhibitors at DSEi have to comply with the following Acts of Parliament: The UK Export Control Act 2002, the Trade in Goods (Control) Order 2003 and the Trade in Controlled Goods (Embargoed Destinations) Order 2004. All defence equipment, which is displayed at DSEi, must comply with UK, EU and UN law and international undertakings. Show management makes sure that all exhibitors are made well aware of their obligations and are asked to withdraw if they do not comply with them

    .In all of Reed Elsevier’s commercial undertakings the company adheres rigorously to its Code of Ethics and Business Conduct, and ensure it is implemented to the highest standards.

    To repeat the above, Reed Elsevier is Elsevier’s parent company. Reed Elsevier, not Elsevier, owns Spearhead. Elsevier (publisher of Computers and Composition) does not have links with Spearhead other than through the parent company.

    I do understand your concerns and hope that future comments will refer to the parent company, Reed Elsevier, and it’s company Spearhead, rather than being incorrectly directed at Elsevier and its journal, Computers and Composition.

    I would also like to post a reply to the above discussions on intellectual property. There have been important changes in our policy of late that offer greater freedom to authors.

    With kind regards


    Sarah Oates, Publishing Editor Language & Linguistics, Elsevier Ltd

  • September 13, 2005 at 7:56 am

    In response to the discussions above on the Creative Commons Licence, please find below a statement of the author retained rights when publishing in an Elsevier journal. Those that wish to compare the policy with other publishers are likely to find that this is a liberal policy by comparison.

    Upon the few occasions that Elsevier has been asked to use a Creative Commons licence, Elsevier has been unable to confirm with the author exactly what it is that they wish to do that the below policy does not allow.

    In particular, it might be useful to note bullet points 1-3. What our statement actually says is that you can distribute copies via email (bullet point 1) for personal use by colleagues. It also says that you can post the final version of your article (i.e. the *final* version of your article that you send to us to be typeset, updated if you so wish to reflect changes made by editing and peer review) to your personal or institutional website or server (bullet point 3).

    Please find below a copy of the author rights statement, also available at:


    The following rights are retained and permitted by authors without the need to obtain specific permission from Elsevier:

    · The right to make copies of the article for their own personal use, including for their own classroom teaching use.
    · The right to make copies and distribute copies (including through e-mail) of the article to research colleagues, for the personal use by such colleagues (but not commercially or systematically, e.g., via an e-mail list or list serve).
    · The right to post a preprint version of the article on Internet websites including electronic preprint servers, and to retain indefinitely such version on such servers or sites.
    · The right to post a revised personal version of the text of the final article (to reflect changes made in the peer review and editing process) on the author’s personal or institutional website or server, with a link to the journal homepage (on
    · The right to present the article at a meeting or conference and to distribute copies of such paper or article to the delegates attending the meeting.
    · For the author’s employer, if the article is a ‘work for hire’, made within the scope of the author’s employment, the right to use all or part of the information in (any version of) the article for other intra-company use (e.g., training).
    · Patent and trademark rights and rights to any process or procedure described in the article.
    · The right to include the article in full or in part in a thesis or dissertation (provided that this is not to be published commercially).
    · The right to use the article or any part thereof in a printed compilation of works of the author, such as collected writings or lecture notes (subsequent to publication of the article in the journal).
    · The right to prepare other derivative works, to extend the article into book-length form, or to otherwise re-use portions or excerpts in other works, with full acknowledgement of its original publication in the journal.

    Kind regards


    Elsevier Ltd

  • September 13, 2005 at 11:18 am

    Thank you, Sarah. I’ve corrected the language of my original post from “involved in” to “connected (via parent company Reed Elsevier […]) to.”

    I’m curious: can you tell me how recent are the changes in intellectual property policy that you reference? More specifically, were those changes made subsequent to this discussion five months ago?

    I must admit I’m also curious that you chose to respond here — at a weblog with a very small readership — rather than to the post at the much more widely-read Crooked Timber.

    Thanks for the response.

  • September 13, 2005 at 11:53 am

    Thanks for responding, Sarah, but I second Mike in thinking it would be a good idea to copy/paste your response to Crooked Timber.

    Also, I applaud the changes to your intellectual property policy, but I want to point out some of the affordances of Creative Commons. You said, “Upon the few occasions that Elsevier has been asked to use a Creative Commons licence, Elsevier has been unable to confirm with the author exactly what it is that they wish to do that the below policy does not allow.” As I understand it, Elsevier’s policy doesn’t allow other people to make derivative works of articles published in Elsevier’s journals. Many people who advocate for Creative Commons and open access publishing believe that others should be permitted to create derivative works of academic articles. For example, I could write an article (“My Article”), and if it were CC-licensed to allow derivative works, Mike here could create an audio recording of it, thus increasing its accessibility, or he could build upon it to create a “My Article Version 2.0,” or he could even get creative and put on a production of “My Article, The Musical.” The last one isn’t likely, but the point is that others are free to build upon my content.

    All this can be done while still specifying that the content must never be used for commercial purposes (except by Elsevier).

  • September 13, 2005 at 12:35 pm

    Mike and Clancy, I’m at a point where I realize that I vaguely nod when I hear the phrases “Creative Commons,” and “open publishing .” I’d like to know more about each term. Can you point me to a place that would define them succinctly? Thanks.

  • September 13, 2005 at 3:26 pm

    Joanna, the Creative Commons Web site is at For a really good general introduction to the issues at stake, this Lawrence Lessig presentation that Clancy pointed me to is well worth taking the time to watch and listen to, but you’ll want to do it somewhere with a fast connection and sound. The wikipedia article on copyleft goes into considerable and very useful depth, but the article on open publishing is unfortunately less helpful. I’m sure Clancy can recommend other, better sources.

  • September 13, 2005 at 5:40 pm

    Clancy wrote, “This has been posted to TechRhet and is being met with silence. *shakes head*”

    Isn’t it sad that TechRhet will vehemenently argue about global political issues that they can have little impact on but are unwilling to address a political issue where they can have direct influence?

  • September 13, 2005 at 6:55 pm


    I sympathize with your position. Elsevier is facing a difficult future. Having said that I expect that your corporation will soon be facing a steady boycott. I’d suggest at this juncture that It may be in your organizations lont-term interests to recommend that your company be sold off from Reed.

    While I think most will acknowledge that Article 51 makes ethical sense, the objections to Reed Exhibitions move beyond 51. Your parent company’s subsidiary has a recent and documented history of sending out formal invitations to countries whose standing military has horridus human rights records — specifically countries such as Angola, Nigeria, and Colombia and several others — all of which were formally invited to the 2003 DSEi by not the British Government, but Spearhead.

    While I sympathize with you that your company shares no real operational connection to Reed Exhibitions, the profits that both companies generate are unfortunaely benefitting the same parent corporation. It’s unfortunate for all current Reed operations that your parent company has made conflicting sets of business decisions in its expansion of its two subsidiary companies: one in academic publishing, the other in arms exports. They may have to make a choice between these two industries in the not-too-distant future.

  • September 13, 2005 at 9:25 pm

    Jim: extremely well said, particularly your third paragraph. And Jim’s point, Sarah, demonstrates that the profits Elsevier harvests from the labor of academics, in their flow to parent corporation Reed Elsevier, implicate academics who publish with Elsevier in Reed Elsevier’s facilitation of the international arms trade — which, as Jim points out in his second paragraph, seems rather less defensible than the corporate talking points you offer make it out to be. Jim, can I ask you to cross-post your comment to the Kairosnews discussion, as well?

    And Charlie, I agree, but I’ll also note that it’s unfortunately not uncommon. In my dissertation work, I’ve noticed in our disciplinary literature an eagerness to rhetorically construct economic inequality as an essentially unchangeable phenomenon, in order to get off the hook in terms of actually having to go out and make some change. Easier to bemoan the impossibility of change than to actually go out and work for possible change.

  • September 14, 2005 at 4:50 am

    I am now writing to let you know that I will pass all of your comments on regarding Spearhead to the Communications Director at Reed Elsevier.

    I will keep you informed.

    With kind regards


  • September 30, 2005 at 12:20 am

    Must correct myself here: I said, “As I understand it, Elsevier’s policy doesn’t allow other people to make derivative works of articles published in Elsevier’s journals.” Um, duh. I should have looked at the LAST BULLET POINT: “The right to prepare other derivative works, to extend the article into book-length form, or to otherwise re-use portions or excerpts in other works, with full acknowledgement of its original publication in the journal.” Sorry about that, Sarah. I revisited this post, looked at the agreement again, and caught it this time. How embarrassing…

    I notice there’s not a specification that the derivative works are noncommercial. So basically the content could be used like the GPL and copyleft.


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