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Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Perhaps my title is a bit inflammatory but I'll leave it up there until we provoke some response from the powers that be at our friendly neighborhood SSRN headquarters.

Below, I'm sharing a lightly redacted thread from Cyberprof concerning SSRN's terms of use. (The redactions just go to the names: if the owners of these words wish to be identified, I'll happily add them.)

FYI - Apparently SSRN's terms of service now include a nonexclusive
license to edit and translate articles posted there, among other
assorted privileges. I wasn't notified of the change (which happened
last year) and I didn't find it today after a cursory examination of
SSRN's website.



-----Original Message-----
From: [email protected]
[mailto:[email protected]
Sent: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 3:55 PM
To: [email protected]
Cc: [email protected]
Subject: [CyberProf] SSRN discretionary terms of us

 Thanks, XXX! The terms "edit" and "translate" are not acceptable to
me. The former, granting a right to edit, could effectuate a stealth
waiver of the moral right of integrity. I could tell horror stories
about editing done without giving authors the chance to check and veto
the edits. The latter, granting a right to translate -- well, there's an

old Italian proverb: Traduttore, traditore! Translator, traitor! I've my

doubts about being bound by terms I didn't see on submission. So when
did the SSRN slip these weasel words -- "edit" and "translate" -- into
the mix? XXX

On 10/19/2010 11:58 AM, [email protected] wrote:
> Subject:
> Re: [CyberProf] FW: SSRN Announces Forthcoming "Purchase Bound Hard
> Copy" option for Free PDF documents in SSRN eLibrary
> From:
> "XXX"
> Date:
> Tue, 19 Oct 2010 14:58:10 -0400
> To:<[email protected]>
> An enterprising member of my faculty just found this. It seems we've
> been had. Perhaps I will now take all my content down; it's available
> on my own site anyway and this pisses me off. - XXX
> But check out the Terms of Use, last updated 5/20/2009, with a link
> from the authors page. Not limited to electronic reproduction:
> License to SSEP
> Users grant SSEP a limited, non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty free,
> revocable license to all contributed content to perform the Services.
> By posting or contributing content using these Services, you are
> granting SSEP a non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, and worldwide
> license to use your content in connection with the operation of the
> Services, including, without limitation, the license rights to copy,
> distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce,
> edit, translate and reformat your digital and non-digital content,
> and/or to incorporate it into a collective work.
> . . . .
> Modifications
> SSEP reserves the right to change, at any time, at our sole
> discretion, the Terms under which these Services are offered. You are
> responsible for regularly reviewing these Terms. Your continued use of

> the Services constitutes your agreement to all such Terms.


Posted by Administrators on October 19, 2010 at 05:14 PM in Blogging, Information and Technology | Permalink


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I use a Creative Commons Attribution license oneverything I can. It allows for translations and derivative works without my approval. I'm untroubled by this.

Posted by: James Grimmelmann | Oct 24, 2010 12:35:38 AM

@Greg, if true of bePRESS, then a pox on their house too to the extent it allows them substantial claims to edit/translate without prior authorization.

I read Bernie Black's reasonable response to this thread on cyberprof via a colleague and I hope he posts something like it here in the comments. That said, I don't really care about the print and bind option with an opt out, but what I care about is the idea that edits and translations could be done without prior approval. I also think an opt in is probably better than an opt out in this respect and the way to do it, if ssrn really can't sell sufficient ads to cover expenses, is to create a "SSRN plus" feature that would tie certain ssrn features (god-forbid the counters of downloads) to those who allow their works to be print and bound, or something like that...the print and bound papers should also be req'd to say prominently, "this is not necessarily a final draft", blah blah.

Posted by: Dan Markel | Oct 20, 2010 8:33:14 AM

SSRN sounds like they are providing an opt-out. Still, this seems a bit over-reaching on their part. I always envisioned SSRN's goal as the provision of a services that allow researchers to share work for commenting purposes.

I do understand, in theory, the broadness of the licensing terms. Folks have been known to try and stretch copyright law in efforts to find infringements beyond original licenses. Therefore, organizations like SSRN should seek as broad a license as possible to shield them from potential claims.

I only worry about this as it regards to my publications, not my works in progress. I lean more to the Creative Commons and don't view Copyright, as currently enforced, as a sound policy. Even so, I don't want to incidentally infringe licenses already in place.

Posted by: John W. Nelson | Oct 20, 2010 8:11:00 AM

I have my own concern.


Posted by: Jason Czarnezki | Oct 19, 2010 10:36:47 PM

The larger context for this is easy to miss, as it's buried in one of the quoted subject lines. SSRN plans to launch a print-on-demand service that will provide bound copies for a fee. The news of this led some professors to question whether SSRN could legally do this, which led, in turn, to a group reading of the terms of service.

Posted by: James Grimmelmann | Oct 19, 2010 10:09:34 PM

The BePress Selected Works TOS is similar:

Bepress does not claim ownership of Content you submit or make available for inclusion on the Service. However, with respect to Content you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Service, you grant bepress the worldwide, perpetual, royalty-free and non-exclusive license(s) to use, distribute for use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on the Service.


Posted by: Greg McNeal | Oct 19, 2010 5:49:10 PM

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