Copyright at Engineering Conferences

Three of my papers got accepted to BMD 2013 (two oral presentations and one poster). I'm very elated about this as I only got a poster presentation at the first BMD conference in 2010 and I will finally get to talk about my dissertation work in front of my peers. My intention was to submit papers that are reflections/enhancements of work presented in my dissertation. The paper titles are:

  • Identification of manual control employed during bicycling (poster)
  • A review of steer torque measurement in bicycles and motorcycles (oral presentation)
  • Identification of the open loop dynamics of a bicycle-rider system under manual control (oral presentation)

I thought the most interesting paper would be the manual control identification, but it was selected as a poster. Maybe this was random since I submitted so many papers.

I released the abstracts for the conference and my dissertation under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License for ease of reuse and all the source code that generates the dissertation is released under BSD style licenses.

The BMD organizers have teamed up with the Japanese Society of Automotive Engineers to help publish the proceedings of the conference, but JSAE requires that you sign the copyright over to them. The first BMD in 2010, on the other hand, just published the conference proceedings themselves electronically under no copyright transfer agreements, which I found to be a fantastic idea.

When I submitted my abstracts I expressed a desire to retain the copyright but got no response, except the standard paper acceptance letter. So I emailed the organizers specifically about this issue and got this response:

Thanks for your message concerning about the copyright transfer. First of all, the BMD2013 abstract review is a peer review, and we need a copyright transfer form from the author to publish the full paper. If you submit the same full paper to other conference, it's a dual submission which is ethically illegal.

Moreover, we would like to let you know that after the copyright of your full paper is transformed to JSAE, you have the right to put your paper on your homepage so that everybody can download. You may also use your figures, graphs or sentences on your other papers. You may not use the same paper to submit to other conferences which is ethically illegal.

As you might know, since we are going to select several good full papers to recommend to a IAVSD Journal, it's a very good chance to submit full paper to BMD 2013. If that paper is selected, you can just modify some formats and add some, you can submit very similar paper to a journal.

If you do not wish to transfer the copyright of your full paper, there are several options below.

  1. Present all of your three papers as Panel. If you select this option, you have to submit camera ready copy of revised camera ready copy of two pages abstract, but you do not have to send copyright transfer form, since you are not going to submit full papers.
  2. Withdraw your oral presentations
  3. Present one for poster and two for oral by transfer copyright to JSAE for two papers.

Since your paper titles "Identification of Manual Control ...." is selected as poster, there is no problem for copyright problem. You have submitted two others, one is "Identification of the Open Loop Dynamics..." and other is "A review of steer torque measurement... " . We would like to know which of them you would like not to transfer your copyright?

Anyway, we have already setup a provisional program, and we are going to send them to ISC member soon, and it's already on our web page. We will change the program after we will receive your final decision about this issue.

Some thoughts:

  1. What does copyright have to do with peer reviewing? Does this mean that the publisher needs copyright to the work to allow other researchers to read it and provide suggestions for improvement? Or that the publisher needs copyright to modify the work? Neither of these are true.
  2. I never told the organizers that I was interested in submitting the same paper to multiple conferences, but I find it funny that this is such an "ethically illegal" violation. Seems to me that if I do some science that is good, then ideally it should be disseminated as widely as possible. Presenting the same topic at multiple conferences should be encouraged not deemed as something unethical and definitely not something that is illegal.
  3. The first option about a panel is the only one that is actually favorable to me in turns of being able to participate conference and to retain my copyright.

I sent this response to the organizers:

Thank you for the response and the options. Before I choose one of your options I'd like to propose another option to see if you all and JSAE would be interested as I believe it is the most favorable option for all parties involved.

Ideally I'd like to submit three full papers to the BMD conference for peer review and publishing in the conference proceedings, but I'd like to retain the copyright. I'm happy to release the papers under the Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0 ( This legally binding license allows for sharing (copying, distributing, and transmission), remixing, and commercial use of the works and thus JSAE will have all of the legal right to publish and do what they will with my papers, including selling access to their final published form.

I'd also like to note that I have no intention of submitting these papers to other conferences. But my intention is to submit the papers to BMD so that I can share the work in person with the BMD community. After the conference, I plan to submit these papers to an open access journal of my choosing for publishing. If I don't retain the copyright to these papers, then it will legally prevent me from publishing in my journal of choosing. I do not plan to submit to The International Association for Vehicle System Dynamics, regardless if my paper is chosen as exceptional, because they do not have a suitable Open Access publishing model for me.

I hope this 4th option can work out as it seems like the obvious best choice for everyone.