Protect scholarly integrity - reject waivers of authors' moral rights

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Some publishers are offering contracts that ask authors to agree to waive their legal right to protect the integrity of their written work. This would allow publishers to change texts and mislead readers about the authorship of the words they are reading. 

Authors who compose published works have certain legal rights, known as moral rights, including the right to be recognised as the authors of their own writing, and the right to the integrity of their work. That means a publisher cannot substantially change an author's writing without their consent.This is important to all authors, and in academia scholars' reputations are largely determined by how people judge their written works. No author should find their writing has been modified without their knowledge, with the potential for misrepresentation of the factual claims, opinions, viewpoints, evaluations, etc., that they actually made in the text submitted to a publisher. 

Recently, some academic publishers, including Oxford University Press (OUP), have been asking authors to waive this legal protection. OUP are offering contracts to authors that allow the possibility of published work (in on-line reference works, for example) being changed (in any way the publisher sees fit, at any time) without the author's consent or knowledge, and without making it clear to readers that the author's own text has been modified by someone else. OUP ask authors offered these contracts to sign a waiver of their moral right to integrity. That is, authors are asked to sign away their legal right and become contractually bound not to seek legal redress should they feel their work has been changed in a damaging way. 

Those signing this petition consider that

• the law provides protection for authors for good reason, and there is no reasonable rationale for publishers to ask authors to sign away their legal rights;

• reputable publishers have no reason to ask to be able to make changes to scholarly works without the knowledge and consent of the named authors

• responsible publishers should have procedures for addressing any perceived need to modify published works that respect authors' moral rights

• authors should choose to publish their work with publishers who recognise and assert authors' moral rights, and refuse to sign contracts that seek to curtail these legal protections.

Readers should have confidence that published texts appearing under the name of particular authors were actually prepared by those authors and have not been modified by someone else. Authors should have the confidence that publishers will work with them to address any issues where they consider text needs to be amended, rather than risking the integrity of the work by making their own changes without consultation.   

Academic publishers seek to commission recognised experts to write articles for them, as they believe the authority of a scholarly expert is of value to their publishing programme (and business). The names of experts are used to demonstrate the authority of the work: it is therefore dishonest for publishers to then change the work so that readers are potentially misled about authorship. 

We call upon OUP and other publishing houses to remove legal waivers of this kind from contracts that they offer authors, and to respect authors' moral rights. 



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