Safeguarding ‘The Precious’: Counsel on Law Journal Publication Agreements in Digital Times

36 Pages Posted: 9 Sep 2010 Last revised: 8 Mar 2016

See all articles by Michael N. Widener

Michael N. Widener

Bonnett, Fairbourn, Friedman & Balint; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Date Written: September 8, 2010


This paper at publication was unique in summarizing the state of U.S. law journal publication agreements and advising authors how to protect their property while affording the journal sufficient rights in the author’s work to obtain needed revenue from proprietary publishers and aggregators. The text contains common-sense approaches to understanding basic copyright law pertaining to academic scholarly writings, the movement toward open access to scholarship, and their respective impacts on legal scholarship licensing practices. This paper serves four purposes. It introduces the new legal scholar to evaluating and revising the publication agreement from a pragmatist’s perspective. It further informs student editors how publication agreements accomplish a journal’s objectives given the current status of copyright law on electronic reproduction of compiled written works. This paper suggests future trends in the “representation” of scholarly writings and how they will be retrieved by and delivered to future consumers, and the likely implications of those trends for future publication agreements between scholars and journals. A form of publication contract, which proposes forward-looking text in view of the noted technology trends in content delivery, is included. Last, this paper proposes advice on how practitioners, law students and legal scholars may strategize about contract drafting and negotiation, using the publication agreement as an illustration.

Keywords: law journals, legal scholarship, scholarly publication, authors, journal aggregators, law reviews, content delivery, ssrn, bepress, Westlaw, Lexis Nexis, academic press, academic scholarship

JEL Classification: K11, K12

Suggested Citation

Widener, Michael N., Safeguarding ‘The Precious’: Counsel on Law Journal Publication Agreements in Digital Times (September 8, 2010). 28 John Marshall Journal of Computer & Information Law. 217 (Winter 2010). Available at SSRN:

Michael N. Widener (Contact Author)

Bonnett, Fairbourn, Friedman & Balint ( email )

2325 East Camelback Road
Suite 300
Phoenix, AZ 85016
United States

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University ( email )

Prescott, AZ 86301
United States

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