Q&A: Writing professors’ rights: Can the university claim the rights to your publication?

Q: Writing professors’ rights: Can the university claim the rights to your publication/royalties based on your employment at the time of writing the manuscript?”

A: Brenda Ulrich, Partner, Archstone Law Group PC:

“It’s an interesting issue. Under standard employment law the employer owns anything created by the employee in the scope of their employment. And certainly writing and publishing scholarly work is considered to be in the scope of a professor’s job duties. However, within academia there is what is often called the “academic tradition,” namely, that professors and academics own their own scholarship. Most universities will defer to the academic tradition and don’t try to claim ownership of the books and articles their faculty members write – and many state this policy outright in their faculty handbook or other policies. As a practical matter, it also just makes sense: if a faculty member departs for another university, everyone assumes their scholarship and publications will go with them since they will be continuing to build on that work at the new institution.

The place where I’ve seen the issue get murky or divisive is around things like course or teaching materials – both online and in class – which arguably have aspects of both scholarship and straight teaching obligations built into them. Course materials also might receive a lot more support and investment from the university itself – especially for online courses –  such that the university feels it has more of a vested interested and right to use or license them later. In these circumstances I strongly recommend putting some sort of written agreement in place between the university and the instructor so everyone understands ownership and use rights going in.”

Busy TAA People: Dave Dillon awarded Open Textbook Award

Blueprint for Success in College and CareerDave DillonTAA member Dave Dillon has been awarded the Open Textbook Award for Excellence by the Open Education Consortium for his textbook, Blueprint for Success in College and Career. The book is designed to show how to be successful in college and career preparation, and focuses on study skills, time management, career exploration, health, and financial literacy.

The Open Textbook Award for Excellence is presented to high-quality innovative teaching and learning materials openly available online for everyone to use, reuse, revise, remix and redistribute.

The award is selected by the OE Awards Committee to recognize truly exceptional work in Open Education. “We applaud your dedication to openness, access, high quality and innovation shown by your work and vision,” said Marcela Morales, Director of Community Relations for the Open Education Consortium. [Read more…]

Analog contracts in a digital world

Shaking hands over a signed contractCollege level textbooks and their publishers have been in the news a lot lately, with all of the major higher education publishers emphasizing a shift to a digital first market strategy. The vast majority of publishing agreements for established textbooks were written in a world where print books were the dominating market offering. As the world shifts, there are certain contractual provisions to be mindful of when evaluating one’s royalty statements and in negotiations over amendments.

In reality, print sales still dominate, but publishers are trying to move away from the model, and the future of higher education materials is uncertain. [Read more…]

President’s Message: The shifting landscape of textbook publishing

Laura FrostAs many of us return to campus for the fall semester, it may be time for both textbook and academic authors to take a look at what our institutions are doing regarding textbook purchases and costs. Is your campus offering Cengage Unlimited or signing up for Pearson’s Inclusive Access? With Pearson’s recent announcement this past July that it will also be “moving from ownership to subscription based access models”, several of the major publishers have now committed to digitally transforming their businesses into something more akin to Netflix than what authors have been used to (DVD purchases).

It only takes a few hours of internet research to discover that the publishing industry is only doing what consumers want—lower textbook prices—and hoping that the investment will be worth it in the long run. After losing out to rentals, piracy, and OER models, publishers are lining up to recollect on their own investments. But where does this leave their authors? [Read more…]

Free Download – Textbook Award-Winning Insight

Textbook Award Winning InsightSeveral winners of the 2019 TAA Textbook Awards shared insight into the writing and publishing of their award-winning textbooks, which we have compiled into this free ebook download, “Textbook Award-Winning Insight”. Topics include:

  • Deciding to write and getting the interest of a publisher
  • Boosting writing confidence, scheduling writing time, software
  • Pedagogy and marketing involvement
  • What they wish they had known before they started, writing advice
  • Key to textbook longevity, preparing for the next edition

Download

View TAA’s entire library of ebooks

Nominations for the 2020 Textbook Awards now open

2017 TAA Textbook AwardsNominations for the 2020 Textbook Excellence Award (“Texty”), McGuffey Longevity Award (“McGuffey”), and Most Promising New Textbook Award, will be open September 1 to November 1.

For more than 20 years, TAA has supported textbook and academic authors through these highly-recognized awards, given annually to emerging and veteran published authors in eight subject categories. [Read more…]

MindTap and Cengage Unlimited under fire from two new class action lawsuits

On August 12, 2019 the law firm of Susman Godfrey LLC filed a class action lawsuit against Cengage Learning on behalf of Douglas Bernstein and four other authors. Three days later, a similar suit was filed by Slarskey LLC on behalf of Grafton H. Hull.

Both cases reflect elements of a 2018 lawsuit against Cengage Learning by authors David Knox and Caroline Schacht, which was handled by Slarskey’s firm. At issue in all of these cases are Cengage’s emerging publishing practices and royalty calculations associated with its digital MindTap platform and the Cengage Unlimited subscription service. [Read more…]

Pearson announces move to digital-first

Pearson, one of the world’s largest educational publishers, recently announced that all of its U.S. higher ed titles will be released in digital-first format. The announcement comes as Pearson takes steps to regain profitability in a market that has become increasingly price sensitive.

For Pearson, digital-first is a departure from the traditional publishing model in which final drafts are handed off to a compositor who lays out pages that are then sent to be printed. Once a print edition is produced, a second production process swings into gear to create a digital book, either by outputting to PDF format or by transforming text and media into a digital format that is uploaded to a cloud-based learning platform. [Read more…]

2019 Textbook award-winning insight (Part 5): Key to textbook longevity, preparing for the next edition

TAA Textbook AwardsA few weeks ago, we reached out to winners of the 2019 TAA Textbook Awards and asked them to answer some questions about their textbook writing. We had so many great responses we decided to create a six-part series to share them. The first installment focused on why they decided to write their textbook, and how they got started. The second installment focused on what they do to boost their confidence as a writer, how they fit writing time into their schedule, and what software they use. The third installment focused on which pedagogical elements in their textbook they are most proud of, and what involvement they have had in marketing their book. The fourth installment focused on what they wish they had known before they started, and advice for other authors.

This fifth, and final, installment in the five-part series focuses on the more veteran authors, who share the key to their textbook’s longevity, what they have learned over the years, and their approach to preparing for a new edition. [Read more…]

2019 Textbook award-winning insight (Part 4): What they wish they had known before they started, writing advice

TAA Textbook AwardsA few weeks ago, we reached out to winners of the 2019 TAA Textbook Awards and asked them to answer some questions about their textbook writing. We had so many great responses we decided to create a five-part series to share them. The first installment focused on why they decided to write their textbook, and how they got started. The second installment focused on what they do to boost their confidence as a writer, how they fit writing time into their schedule, and what software they use. The third installment focused on which pedagogical elements in their textbook they are most proud of, and what involvement they have had in marketing their book.

This fourth installment in the five-part series focuses on what they wish they had known before they started, and advice for other authors. [Read more…]