Copyright, Publishing and the Zwolle Group

Added by Michael Jubb on 25 January 2007 16:57

An article in the latest D-Lib magazine provides a history of the activities of the Zwolle Group, which was established in 2001 as a partnership between librarians and publishers. Representatives come mainly from the Netherlands, the UK and the US, there is representation also from Australia, the Czech Republic, Israel and Spain. JISC and SURF (its Netherlands counterpart) have been prominent among the organisations supporting the Group, and SURF hosts its website. Publisher involvement has been through the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP), the Emerald Group, and the American Physical Society.

The Group has an ambitious mission, to develop and promote balanced approaches to rights management, with the aim of establishing maximum access to scholarly information. And early on it adopted a central objective and a series of principles to inform its work:


To assist stakeholders ? including authors, publishers, librarians, universities and the public ? to achieve maximum access to scholarship without compromising quality or academic freedom and without denying aspects of costs and rewards involved.

The Zwolle Principles:

  1. Achievement of this objective requires the optimal management of copyright in scholarly works to secure clear allocation of rights that balance the interests of all stakeholders.
  2. Optimal management may be achieved through thoughtful development and implementation of policies, contracts, and other tools, as well as processes and educational programs, (collectively “Copyright Management”) that articulate the allocation of rights and responsibilities with respect to scholarly works.
  3. Appropriate Copyright Management and the interests of various stakeholders will vary according to numerous factors, including the nature of the work; for example, computer programs, journal articles, databases and multimedia instructional works may require different treatment.
  4. In the development of Copyright Management, the primary focus should be on the allocation to various stakeholders of specific rights.
  5. Copyright Management should strive to respect the interests of all stakeholders involved in the use and management of scholarly works; those interests may at times diverge, but will in many cases coincide.
  6. All stakeholders in the management of the copyright in scholarly works have an interest in attaining the highest standards of quality, maximising current and future access, and ensuring preservation; stakeholders should work together on an international basis to best achieve these common goals and to develop a mutually supportive community of interest.
  7. All stakeholders should actively promote an understanding of the important implications of copyright management of scholarly work and encourage engagement with the development and implementation of Copyright Management tools to achieve the overarching objective.

 Much of the work of the group has centred around copyright, and producing guidelines and a toolbox for authors and publishers seeking to develop new kinds of agreements for the publication of scholarly works; and there has been a major comparative analysis of copyright law as it affects scholarly publication in twelve different countries.

Five years down the line, some valuable resources have been created. But it is not clear exactly where the project will go from here. Copyright remains a key issue in the continuing discussions and debates around the future of the scholarly communications process, and the changing roles of the key groups of players in that process. It seems unlikely that the last word has been said on these issues. But what further work needs to be done?

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