IEEE Decides That Its Own Profits Are More Important Than Sharing Knowledge

from the sad-state-of-affairs dept

A year ago, we wrote about IEEE’s somewhat ridiculous and aggressive policies towards republishing research it publishes. Apparently, it’s getting even worse. An anonymous reader sent over Matt Blaze’s story about how IEEE has made their policies even more draconian by forbidding authors from sharing the “final” versions of their papers anywhere on the web. Many academics post such papers to their own websites, or in some cases, to other aggregators or collections. This helps spread important knowledge and information — which is the point of academia. But, as Blaze notes, IEEE and ACM — who both should know better — are being quite aggressive in trying to hold back such information sharing, unless they get paid for it. This is a shame, and reflects poorly on two very important organizations in the tech world. Blaze has decided to protest these moves:

Enough is enough. A few years ago, I stopped renewing my ACM and IEEE memberships in protest, but that now seems an inadequate gesture. These once great organizations, which exist, remember, to promote the exchange and advancement of scientific knowledge, have taken a terribly wrong turn in putting their own profits over science. The directors and publication board members of societies that adopt such policies have allowed a tunnel vision of purpose to sell out the interests of their members. To hell with them.

So from now on, I’m adopting my own copyright policies. In a perfect world, I’d simply refuse to publish in IEEE or ACM venues, but that stance is complicated by my obligations to my student co-authors, who need a wide range of publishing options if they are to succeed in their budding careers. So instead, I will no longer serve as a program chair, program committee member, editorial board member, referee or reviewer for any conference or journal that does not make its papers freely available on the web or at least allow authors to do so themselves.

It would certainly be nice if others followed his lead.

Filed Under: , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “IEEE Decides That Its Own Profits Are More Important Than Sharing Knowledge”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Douglas Carnall (profile) says:

the enemies of science need not fear this lily liver

Matt Blaze’s criticisms of such “learned”* societies is entirely correct, but in continuing to publish with such regressive publications he is sadly, still part of the problem.

He pleads that his students’ careers may suffer if he refuses to publish with the paywallers, but ignores the millions of scholars worldwide who would benefit from the free dissemination of information. I don’t know which open access journals would be most appropriate in his specialty field, but almost certainly they exist, and he should back his cogent criticisms by actually publishing in them, thus setting a good example for his students.

*”learned” necessarily apostrophised because of the absence of evidence of learning

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: the enemies of science need not fear this lily liver

Unfortunately, he is right in worrying that he still needs to support publishing in these journals. Academia typically works such that professors get points (either literal or figurative) for their research based on the reputation of the publishing journal. Until such a time that the open source journals establish their reputation there is a significant disincentive to publish in them.

Lewis Baumstark (profile) says:


ACM does not have such a policy. In fact, it’s the opposite. From their copyright assignment form for authors:

“Each of the Employer/Author(s) retains the following rights:

4. The right to post author-prepared versions of the Work covered by the ACM copyright in a personal collection on their own home page, on a publicly accessible server of their employer and in a repository legally mandated by the agency funding the research on which the Work is based.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Years ago, when the web was new, I had a link on my site leading to the IEEE membership enrollment page, however the IEEE would not let me use their logo icon as an adjunct to that link.
I replaced the icon with another saying “Omitted IEEE Logo” and the sentence: “Permission to use the Logo representing the IEEE, which is a registered trademark of the IEEE, has been withheld.”
I know for a certainty that this ill-considered move on their part deprived them of at least 7 new memberships, and it has been 15 years since I, a previously faithful member, subscribed.
I didn’t ask to claim it as my own, I intended to give attribution, and the link was a favorable one. How shortsighted were those lawyers?

Donny (profile) says:

This is the problem:

“that stance is complicated by my obligations to my student co-authors, who need a wide range of publishing options if they are to succeed in their budding careers”

If his (or rather, his students) main concern is their careers, why should they expect their publishers or organisations to be any different?

Principles. Success. No struggles. – Choose two.

Anonymous Coward says:

The IEEE has had a longstanding policy that the assignment of copyright to it was a condition precedent for an article to be published in its journal.

Most persons and organizations submitting papers for possible publication simply acceded to the condition, which, of course, by itself would forclose publication in any form elswhere.

The truth be known,however, the policy was vulnerable to the very, very few who pushed back and said “no”. Their papers still were published and life went on without the sky falling. This was my standard response on behalf of a Fortune 50 client, and not once did the IEEE refuse to accept the alternate arrangement.

If authors or organizations are simply acquiescing to the IEEE demand, then they are either desperate or being ill served by their legal counsel.

Davey (profile) says:

Yep. This is a serious problem

My professional society (and its journal)has the same boilerplate regarding copyright assignment in its agreement to publish. In one case, I published a paper that was part of a Federal contract, and they had to waive copyright. My second paper was fully covered by copyright assignment.

In practice, my society really doesn’t want authors posting copies of their papers prior to official release. They are, however, unofficially liberal about letting authors post copies.

As an aside, what really bugs me on the ‘Net is Google’s ability to crawl publishers like Elsevier, show a really good hit, and then let me discover that I need to pay $19 to download a PDF copy. What BS – I refuse to do that. I’ll copy the citation and get the article free via my public library’s network.

Russ K (profile) says:

As a long standing member (26 years) the IEEE has had long and animated discussions about this policy over the years. You are right that the revenue generation by each society’s journal is a driving force. Thier concern is that the value of the continuing access via “IEEE Xplore Digital Library” is reduced and subscription fees would be lost.

The comment in #8 & 9 above is significant. The value provided in publishing in a respected journal for those in academia is useful for career advancement. Push back can move “standard” policies wher the concern is expressed. “Value” is discussed here often and each writer needs to determine if the IEEE is providing that value adequate in support of their interests.

Am I disappointed in the IEEE position – yes. But I also don’t write papeers and as such it doesn’t directly impact me in my professional career. The stake holders sould be the ones to comment and object.

BTW on comment #5, the IEEE Brand is viewed as very important by HQ. There is a long document available on line and they specifically indlcate that all brand images are copyrighted and the IEEE controls the usage. Search for “Brand” on the IEEE site if you are interessted.

Anonymous Coward says:

IEEE rights policies

I believe most of this discussion may be based on inaccurate facts. As layed out in the IEEE rights policies published at
IEEE distinguishes between an accepted manuscript, which is “a version which has been revised by the author to incorporate review suggestions, and which has been accepted by IEEE for publication” and the final published version, which is “the reviewed and accepted article, with copy-editing, proofreading and formatting added by IEEE.” It states in the policy that it is fine for authors to post a copy of the accepted manuscript on their or their institution’s web site, as long as the author also posts a copyright notice and link to IEEExplore. The only thing they are restricting an author from posting is the published version that is on IEEExplore, which typically has header/footer material added by IEEE.

Allan says:

Just got my March Spectrum (seems to be getting thinner) in the mail yesterday along with The Institute. There was an article in there titled “Five-Point Plan to Address Open Access”. An interesting discussion on how to make available to the “public” this information. One option:

As part of IEEE’s experiment with open-access publishing models, the IEEE Board of Directors in August endorsed a so-called author-pays option. IEEE says that option will test the viability of the approach in supporting publishing costs. Authors of accepted manuscripts will be able to choose later this year to pay a processing fee of US $3000 per article so their work is available free of charge to all when it’s published in the IEEE Xplore digital library.

That is a lot of money to post something online especially when a lot of volunteers do the work (ie write, review, edit, peer-review, etc)

David says:

Not knowing the policies

When I started reading the post, I thought it was incorrect information. I finished reading the post and comments, then went to research. Both #4 and #16 comments are correct according to the respective websites. An author can repost his/her original work on a personal page, institution or orginization page as long as they reference ACM or IEEE. Like #16 said, what you cannot publish is the final paper. This is because it has edits, headers, footers and the such that do not belong to the author. I would suggest this author along with others who do not know the policies to reread them and if you cannot understand them have a lawyer look over it with you.

John says:

are they just recouping costs or is it more than this?

As an academic who publishes with the IEEE I have to say I have not reached a definitive conclusion on this issue yet — but it has been troubling me for sometime given the massive amounts of money paid not just by members but also by public universities for memberships and library subscriptions, etc.

I think one point that is important, and has been mentioned by a number of posters, is that there are costs associated with the IEEE publication process that the IEEE itself incurs e.g. copy editing, distribution through IEEE Explore, etc. So if the IEEE is to be a viable organisation it must have some way of ensuring that these costs are recouped.

I do think the notion of a non-profit organisation that promotes the advancement of technology (which is what the IEEE deems itself to be) is important. However, from the comments here and from Blaze’s original article people obviously believe that the IEEE is not adhering to this part of their identity.

If this is true then it is a real shame since this is where the integrity of all their activity (i.e. publication, standardisation, meetings/conferences, etc.) comes from. If on the other hand it is false then they obviously need to make a strong and transparent argument to correct this misconception.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...