Hi Jill et al,
Below is a response from our MFA Creative Writing program director, James Harms. I hope this will be helpful in clarifying student, faculty and publisher attitudes on open access for creative works.
I'll paste in below the policy in the AWP Director's Handbook, and the link to the pdf. AWP is The Associated Writing Programs, essentially the ruling body on issues pertaining to the teaching of creative writing; WVU, like nearly every creative writing program in the country (and most oveseas), is a member of AWP. As is true of any such organization, AWP doesnít ultimately enact policy, but acts in an advisory capacity. Nevertheless, one of your earlier forwards from this listserv quoted AWP as the authority on this issue (at least from the perspective of creative writers).
I have no idea what publishers Jill is referring to. The pressing issue for grad students is protecting the future publishing rights of individual pieces within a creative thesis. There is certainly a possibility that an entire thesis, as itís filed for graduation, could be submitted and accepted for publication; but the more immediate concern is for those individual stories, poems or essays that make up the theses but have yet to be accepted (individually) for publication. These pieces might be deemed ineligible by literary journals once the thesis has been electronically published to the web. Without publication of individual pieces in literary journals, it is very difficult to publish the book that contains them (thatís part of the vetting process). Many literary journals have already stated as policy that the do not consider creative work that has been published electronically in any context. I donít have a physical list of publishers and their policies; Iíve talked to individual editors, attended panel discussions of the issue at the AWP annual conference, and discussed the issue with other writers who have their own contacts and stories. I donít agree with Jill that we (creative writers) somehow should assume ďthe burden of proof.Ē Which leads to the larger point:
Her characterization of all this as some sort of urban myth reflects the real issue: weíre just not on the same page, perhaps not even in the same book, when it comes to this subject. Open access to research needs to come with limitations, a position I realize seems simply naÔve to proponents. But for some reason, the whole notion of intellectual property is pushed to the side, usually via the convenience of legalities: the university ultimately owns the rights to research produced by its faculty and students. I have no doubt that in some instances this is true (the sciences primarily), but weíre a long way from settling all this legally, and trust me, as the recent Harvard faculty vote suggests, no university is ever going to have complete authority over the publication rights of its faculty. To people who actually create intellectual property, itís an astounding position, and utterly offensive. That anyone could dictate how someone elseís intellectual property should be disseminated . . . itís just strange. And that WVU or any other university would require graduate students in creative writing to distribute their art to anyone who wants to access it (or purchase it, etc.) just defies reason, from our perspective. If it comes down to a very suspect position that somehow the university owns the rights to these creative works, well then these ETD policies (if they donít offer exemptions, which should be extended to everyone as far as Iím concerned) will lead us to the next stage: legal wrangling over intellectual property rights in the humanities and arts. But grad students in creative writing are clearly harmed by requirements that limit their future publishing possibilities. And they also clearly own the poems, stories and essays they create, and should not be required to do anything other than submit them for approval in fulfillment of program requirements. In all honesty, itís sort of insulting to require anything else, given the fact that most of them have just spent three years or more as indentured servants to the university, which now wants to take away ownership of what theyíve somehow managed to create in this time.
Anyway, sorry to go on: itís just so odd to see someone so worked up about telling my students what they must do with their intellectual property, their creations. Is it really simply a desire to hold everyone to a particular policy, or is it in face a larger philosophical argument about open access in general? Iím always amazed that so many people want open access to intellectual property, when so few actually create any intellectual property worth accessing. Why on earth should people be required to give away their creations? If I build a house, I donít hang the keys on the door and walk away.
Thanks for checking in. I appreciate the opportunity to match Jillís hysterics with my own (shared by just about every teacher of creative writing Iíve talked with, not to mention those who believe that they should have final say on what happens to their creative works). Jim
Here is the AWP policy:
AWP Policy on Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Creative writers must have control over the dissemination of their works. For
example, it is critical that writers retain *rst serial, book, and other rights for the
purpose of their works *rst seeing print in literary venues. Therefore, colleges and
universities should not mandate as a condition for graduation that creative theses or
dissertations be published or broadly disseminated in ways that preclude any student from o*ering all or any portion of publication rights, including electronic rights, to publishers. It is is absolutely critical to the success of creative writers and creative writing programs. If a college or university implements Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETDs), students should have an option to *le a traditional paper
thesis. If creative writing students are required to *le ETDs, then such ETDs should
not be made available on the World Wide Web, but instead available only to the
same communities that paper theses and dissertations have been made available to in the past, for instance by password protecting access to the creative thesis or
- James Harms, West Virginia University <[log in to unmask]>
>>> Jill Kleister <[log in to unmask]> 03/26/08 1:25 PM >>>
From Max's attached, regarding Iowa's Provost response:
"...since most publishers of creative work (poems, stories, plays, and so forth) will not publish anything that has already been made available on the internet."
I have been chasing down this bugbear for quite a while: I ask students to give me specific names of specific publishers, then I contact those publishers directly to ask for clarification. Not one of the publishers I have contacted have confirmed this. In fact, all of them have stated the opposite - theses and dissertations don't "count" as pre-publication, because they all require substantial revision before publication. Please note that I am not saying that *no* publisher exists making this claim - rather, it is my opinion that it doesn't help anyone's case, either institutions or students, to keep presenting this urban myth as a legitimate reason to embargo theses or dissertations indefinitely.
What is needed are facts, not urban myths. Only when the factual status of this claim is known can reasonable discussions be held, resulting in policy statements that genuinely balance the protection needs of the student against the institution's desire for open access to its research efforts. If the creative folks are truly that concerned, then I think the burden of proof is on them to provide names of specific publishers who have said in so many words that thesis/dissertation publishing, in and of itself, will harm chances for post-graduation publishing.
I am volunteering to be part of an initiative to put this claim to the test. It's too late for this year's conference, but perhaps the results could be presented at next year's ETD conference... any other takers out there?
J. S. Kleister
Toulouse School of Graduate Studies
University of North Texas
>>> Max Read <[log in to unmask]> 3/26/2008 11:56 AM >>>
First of all, if you're busy, please don't feel you need to wade through this. Just dump it. But if you have some time...
Our Creative Writing department has risen up in arms against ETDs with the usual argument: creative works won't be published if they're already available as a free download. UBC will withhold theses for maximum of 1 year on request, but that's not enough for them.
I've attached their concerns for those of you who need a break from real work, but they seem really excited about a solution proposed by the University of Iowa. (As far as I can tell, Iowa has proposed to discuss a solution, but will check for updates.) With all due respect, the Provost there seems to be confusing the issues of intellectual property and copyright with those of free access, and I expect our people are as well.
We'll be meeting with them to work out a solution. I understand some places allow a five-year embargo on creative writing theses; I believe others treat all theses the same regardless of discipline. We're well aware of the fact that these theses are in effect, exam documents, on which students are graded and for which they are awarded a degree, and that as such, the student isn't the only one with an interest in what happens to them. I don't think the Creative Writing people have thought about that.
I'm just wondering if anyone has recent thoughts or examples to point to about what other places are doing.
Communications & Thesis Coordinator
Student Academic Services
Faculty of Graduate Studies, UBC
Tel: 604-822-0283 Fax: 604-822-5802