Tuesday, September 14, 2004

More on the SBL Seminar Papers

Following on from my posting on the SBL Seminar Papers On-line, Jim Davila comments on Copyright Confusion on Paleojudaica. In addition to Jim's remarks, a couple of things strike me here: the major departure from the tradition of the SBL Seminar Papers, which have often been cited and quoted in other publications, and the lack of necessity for the rider. If scholars simply want to put work in progress on-line, then the SBL Seminar Papers does not strike me as the obvious or best place to do it. They can self-publish on their own web site, they can circulate to colleagues and friends and members of the seminar group in question, and they can publish temporarily on the individual section's web site (many SBL groups now have their own web site). In other words, the presence of the fresh, especially emphasised rider downgrades the importance of the SBL Seminar Papers, making them no more than temporarily published works in progress. Is there an implied distinction working here between proper publication = print and temporary, work in progress = web? Is this the end of an era?

Update (23.32): Matthew Collins sends a helpful clarificatory email:
First, thanks for the mention - hopefully more folks will visit the site.
Second, my original intent in putting the rider on the papers, however, was not one of claiming copyright or any such thing (you'll notice I don't say they are copyrighted, only that one should ask permission). Rather it was to reinforce the idea of scholarly courtesy in recognizing the provisional nature (both in print and online) of the Seminar Papers as a publication. We have had this approach to the Seminar Papers since its inception. I have seen (and heard) quotations of papers printed in the Seminar Papers used to argue that scholar X holds a particular point of view - when in fact in the final version of the paper published elsewhere, scholar X either takes a very different view or doesn't address the perspective quoted. The Seminar Papers has always been a provisional publication designed to stimulate scholarly interchange at the meeting through the circulation of papers in advance of the meeting. The fact that these papers were bound in a nice volume and sold made many assume they were finished and copyrighted products. If you look at the print versions of the past, you will note the only copyright claimed is for the printed collected volume. Authors still retained all copyrights and publication rights.
And Stephen Carlson anticipates some of these comments in a useful posting on Hypotyposeis.

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