ATG Article of the Week: Dispute Over Who Will Publish an Academic Journal Goes to Court

by | Mar 21, 2014 | 0 comments

Dispute Over Who Will Publish an Academic Journal Goes to Court is a recent piece by Jennifer Howard appearing in the Chronicle of Higher Education that has caused a stir on some listservs recently.  Unfortunately, it is behind a paywall but since most of you probably subscribe to the Chronicle we wanted to bring it to your attention.

The article details a court battle between the Social Science History Association and Duke University Press.  As Ms. Howard succinctly describes it “in June 2012, the association told Duke it wanted to end their longstanding agreement for the press to publish the group’s journal, Social Science History. Duke balked, and in the spring of 2013 the association sued the university for copyright infringement in federal court in North Carolina. Now the fight has even spilled over into the trademark realm, with Duke separately contesting a move by the association to trademark both its name and the name of its journal.”

What troubles many about this case is that this is a scholarly society suing a scholarly press.  As Ms. Howard notes “associations and publishers wrangle over contract terms all the time, but it’s almost unheard of for those disagreements to wind up in court, according to journal editors and publishers.”

Regardless, issues of content and brand ownership, publishing rights, and contract language all come into play. However, the dispute may also be reflective of the financial realities currently confronting scholarly publishing.  In short, the Social Science History Association wants to test the value of its journal on the open market while Duke is trying to preserve what is a profitable arrangement for the press.  One has to wonder if this is an omen of disputes to come.

It appears in the March 21, 2014 issue of the Chronicle on page A10

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