Profs and Students: Read Your Contracts!

I know I keep harping on this, but someone has to.

I was just asked to sign a contract for something I’m doing which defined my work as “work for hire.” This is becoming more and more common not only in publication boilerplates, but in others kinds of things professors do in the normal course of their duties, like giving talks. Often this language is buried in boilerplates written by lawyers (and thereby covering all possible circumstances and tilting the tables toward the institution offering the contract) and not something consciously reflected upon by the people issuing the contract. But it is a contract nonetheless, and the more we get used to giving away the rights to our own work, the more we cede to private hands what used to exist in the domain of fair use, the more our work can be monetized by others whose interests are not necessarily ours, and the fewer rights we have both as authors and intellectuals.

Ted Striphas has a great piece on contracts for publication which I’m mentioned before. Click here for the official but padlocked version (you can read it if your school has a subscription to the journal) or here for the free version.