Is that Permitted? A Conversation with Joe Appel, Esq., NEJM Group
October 11, 2018
Articles from the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) have been used to try to sell everything from rotisserie ovens to anti-aging products to bogus cures for cancer. One of the best defenses against these misuses is copyright law: it’s the backbone of the NEJM publishing model and critical to protecting the integrity of NEJM content. NEJM LibraryHub sat down with Joe Appel, senior legal counsel at the Massachusetts Medical Society/NEJM Group, to talk about the NEJM approach to copyright and some advice about how librarians should answer questions about what is and isn’t allowed when it comes to reusing NEJM content.
Q: Can you give us a sense of the general NEJM philosophy regarding the reuse of its content by authors and subscribers?
JA: NEJM is mission-driven, so we’re looking to have NEJM content disseminated widely to inform physicians and help them provide the best possible care for their patients. All our research articles are accessible for free six months after they’re published. If the research has important public health implications, it’s often free immediately upon publication. But even though an article can be accessed for free, it is still subject to copyright protections which limit reuse.
Q: But obviously the door isn’t wide open. What kinds of rights do authors have?
As a rule, NEJM acquires copyright to the articles, images, and videos it publishes. At the same time, to assist authors, NEJM also grants back to them a number of important rights to their article. We determined which rights were most important by tracking the most common requests from authors. For example, authors have the right to:
- Provide copies to colleagues for educational use
- Include portions of the article, such as figures and tables, in book chapters or other educational materials they write
- Include a copy or portions in their thesis or dissertation
- Include a copy in a collection of their writing
- Provide copies to students in classes they teach that have no commercial ties
- Deposit a copy into their academic institution’s online repository six months after initial publication
Q: What are the reuse rights of subscribers, including librarians?
JA: Our subscription agreements expressly provide details on what users and librarians may do with published NEJM content. Some of the more popular uses that we are asked about, and allow, include:
- Giving an individual article to someone outside of the licensed institution for uses that are described as educational or informational, but not commercial
- Fulfilling requests for Interlibrary Loan, by digital transmission, to a non-commercial library
- Linking to or posting select articles and/or videos in a secured online environment for teaching or instruction within the institution
The current license agreement indicates that content may be shared for scholarly and research use. We have been asked about expanding this language to include uses that reflect those more commonly encountered by our hospital subscribers. If you would like to share additional examples for consideration that better represent your frequently requested uses, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Are commercial entities allowed to reuse NEJM content for educational purposes?
JA: We do allow commercial entities to reuse NEJM content in their educational materials, but those uses must be cleared through our permissions department by emailing email@example.com.
Q: Does NEJM allow text and data mining of its content?
JA: NEJM supports the use of its content in academic and non-commercial text and data mining projects. When we receive requests, we review them and often ask for additional information about the way NEJM Group content would be used, how the content would be delivered, whether the project would be using internal resources or a third party, and the volume of content needed for the desired project. In addition, we are exploring ways to make using our content for text and data projects easier.
Q: What about translations of NEJM articles? Is that allowed?
JA: NEJM is very concerned about the quality of translations in order to preserve the integrity of NEJM content. NEJM articles undergo rigorous peer review and are carefully edited to convey an often complex and precise meaning. Accuracy, completeness, and precision of language can easily be lost in translation. Therefore, creating translations of NEJM articles is a right that must be licensed and undertaken through one of our authorized translators.
Requests to reuse content found on NEJM.org should be directed to Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. Click on the © symbol to the left of any article to initiate your request. Specific text and data mining questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.