Q: We discovered a copyright agreement breach after publishing our research paper. What action should we take?

Detailed Question -

I used an evaluation measure created overseas for a clinical study to investigate the effect of a medical treatment. Upon use of this evaluation measure, an agreement for usage was required, so I directly communicated with the creator of the measure, and paid some money and signed an agreement. After my study for investigating the effect was published, the creator of the measure told me that my usage of the measure was in breach of the agreement. When I checked the agreement, surely, I did some violation against the agreement. Specifically, 1) the 1-year agreement was exceeded by 2 months , 2) wording about copyright protection for the measure was not described in Result section and Acknowledgements, 3) designated references were not completely cited. To solve this violation, 2 options were shown from the creator side. One is that we invite the creators from overseas and arrange the lecture about how to use the measure for all the institutions involved in our study (+ 1.3 million yen). The other is that we ask the journal where our paper was published to revise the paper (+ 1.7 million yen).

In this situation, what action should we take?

1 Answer to this question

Copyright violations are very serious concerns in the publication industry and should be handled carefully. As far as I can understand, since you used the program two months after your copyright agreement expired, the copyright owner’s concerns are completely genuine.

In my opinion, you have to opt for either of the choices that you have. Not adhering to this can lead to serious consequences including retraction of your publication by the journal as well as legal action. These can in turn be much more expensive than the options that you currently have. If you think your colleagues are not fully aware of the copyright process and would benefit from the lecture, please arrange for this. In this way, you will be benefiting a lot of other people as well. In my opinion, the latter option for revising your manuscript, might be a mandatory requirement, depending on the journal guidelines.

Please take this matter very seriously and take a wise action after discussing with colleagues or senior consultants as soon as possible.


Related reading:

Does distribution of published articles amount to violation of copyright policy of the publisher?

Can I sign the copyright transfer form after receiving a publication date from the journal?

Unintentional copyright infringement by an author: A case study