Tuesday, July 19, 2016

SSRN and Copyright

Jason Mazzone

This week SSRN removed from public view two of my papers with the following note in the comments attached to the files:

We have recently reviewed this submission to SSRN. Unfortunately, our staff erred when allowing the PDF to this submission to be viewed. It appears that you do not retain copyright to the paper, and the PDF has been removed from public view. Please provide us with the copyright holder's written permission to post. Alternatively, you may replace this version with a working paper or preprint version, if you so desire. Questions and/or written permissions may be emailed to, or call 1-877-SSRNHELP (877-777-6435 toll free) or 1-585-442-8170 outside the US.

Under the Copyright Act, of course, a copyright in a work belongs, unless transferred, to the author of the work. 17 U.S.C. s 201. It is far from clear how SSRN determines an author has not retained copyright in a posted paper. It is also not clear why SSRN, as a repository of scholarly works (and without having received a DMCA takedown notice), would have decided it makes sense to be in the business of removing papers unless the author can prove copyright ownership hasn't been assigned. Nonetheless, if SSRN wants to watch out for the interests of copyright owners there is surely a simple mechanism: a check box, upon submission, in which the author affirms the right to post the paper to SSRN. Random and unannounced takedowns curable only by written permission from non-existent assignees are not sensible from anybody's perspective.

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