Posted by: jonkatz | July 28, 2010

Signing away rights to ACM

After submitting the proceedings version of a paper for ACM CCCS, I was asked to electronically agree to the usual transfer of copyright for the paper to ACM. But in addition, I was required to agree to the following:

I hereby grant permission for ACM to record and/or transcribe and
reproduce my presentation and likeness in the conference publication
and as part of the ACM Digital Library and to distribute the same for
sale in complete or partial form as part of an ACM product on CD-ROM,
DVD, webcast, USB device, streaming video or any other media format
now or hereafter known.

I understand that my presentation will not be sold separately as a
stand-alone product without my direct consent. Accordingly, I further
grant permission for ACM to include my name, likeness, presentation
and comments and any biographical material submitted by me in
connection with the conference and/or publication, whether used in
excerpts or in full, for distribution described above and for any
associated advertising or exhibition.

This really annoyed me. Just to be clear, I don’t object to having the my presentation recorded and put on-line for people to watch. What I do mind is the idea that ACM can take the videotape of my presentation and do whatever it wants with it! Moreover, I dislike the fact that this waiver is required for publication in the proceedings, since I can imagine there might be speakers who, for whatever reason, do not want their presentation videotaped. (In fact, I won’t even be giving the presentation so, really, it was not up to me to sign this release.) Finally, I did not see this requirement stated clearly at the time of submission.

Has anyone else noticed this, and/or tried to fight it?



  1. These rights-grabs by conferences and journals are extremely irritating — this one primarily because there appears to be no opt-out (or at least they are not making one very easy to find). Aren’t these professional societies supposed to exist to serve their membership?

    The supposed explanation for signing away all copyright to these orgs/journals, rather than just liberal publication and reproduction rights (which would be in exact accordance with the purpose of publishing), is that it is “for your own protection.” What a joke.

  2. IEEE also had a similar form for FOCS this year.

  3. Could you not tell them that they have an option of including your paper in the proceedings without you granting them all these permissions, or if they want they may not include the paper in the proceedings?

    I don’t think this will affect much of the audience provided your paper is available online. Who relies finding a paper in proceedings these days anyway 🙂

  4. I was similarly frustrated. At FOCS 2009 they didn’t even bother asking, as far as I can tell. I was told that they asked the session chairs for the rights, why they have permission to give them is a little beyond me. However, it was not clear to me that you needed to check that box to have your publication printed. Is that really the case? If so, then I agree it needs to be made prominent in the CFP.

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