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News update, copyright guidance

Now that we are past the SIGIR camera-ready deadline, I posted a call for submissions to IRlist.  We now have two submissions, and I hope we can post them next week.

I was asked by a potential author about copyright conflicts.  I corresponded with ACM and received the following guidance.  When you have a paper accepted to an ACM conference, you assign copyright to the ACM and retain some rights.  Those rights are detailed here.  I quote part of it here:

Under the ACM copyright transfer agreement, the original copyright holder retains:  …

  • the right to reuse any portion of the work, without fee, in future works of the author’s own, including books, lectures and presentations in all media, provided that the ACM citation and notice of the Copyright are included
  • the right to revise the work (See §2.4 Definitive Versions and Revisions), …

Authors may post works on public repositories before acceptance but must incorporate the ACM copyright notice upon transfer of copyright.
After acceptance, authors may post the work on public repositories only with the explicit permission of ACM.

I am not a lawyer, and for definitive opinions you should contact the ACM.  To me, it seems that you should either (a) post your paper as submitted to arxiv.org before you receive your reviews (say, the day before notification, so blinding remains effective), then update with your reviewer revisions and the ACM copyright notice after your acceptance, (b) revise the work after acceptance, perhaps by including further experiments that didn’t fit in the original paper, or (c) get permission from ACM to put the accepted paper in arxiv.org.

Another option is not to transfer copyright to the ACM.  I personally don’t do this, because I think as a US Gov’t employee my work isn’t under copyright, so I have none to assign; the ACM has a special permission form for us Gov’t types because of this.  The all-around better solution for everyone is the CC license that arxiv.org uses, where you keep copyright but grant liberal usage.  I’m not sure what would happen if we all decided to dicker the copyright assignment form with ACM… maybe good things, maybe not.

The ACM of course is not the only collector of copyrights, but it’s the one I’ve covered here.  I recommend reading things before you sign them, and if you don’t agree, argue.

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  1. May 3, 2010 at 8:08 am

    As the SIGIR’09 publication chair, I found that the ACM does not tolerate modifications to its copyright policy.

    If you intend to modify the agreement, I would suggest you do this far in advance of all publication deadlines or you will risk your paper being withdrawn. (A single author vs. the ACM does not really stand a chance. They hold the final say unless you work for the U.S. government.)

  2. May 3, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Another concern is that arxiv.org is rather draconian about enforcing copyright, and will reject papers with the ACM copyright note in the bottom left of the paper.

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