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D-Lib Magazine
January/February 2007

Volume 13 Number 1/2

ISSN 1082-9873

Copyright, Publishing, and Scholarship

The "Zwolle Group" Initiative for the Advancement of Higher Education


Kenneth D. Crews
The Samuel R. Rosen Professor of Law
Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis
IUPUI Copyright Management Center

Gerard van Westrienen
SURF Foundation, The Netherlands

Red Line


I. Introduction

The relationship of copyright law to the creation and publication of scholarly works is a critical concern for the advancement of new knowledge. The owner of the copyrights in scholarly publications can often control access to the information in those publications, as well as control many uses of the articles, books, and other works. Under the laws of most countries, original journal articles and other products of scholarly research are protected by copyright law [1]. The copyrights may be owned by the authors or their employers. The copyrights are often transferred to a publisher or other party under the terms of a publication agreement. Readers and other researchers are often constrained in their ability to access and use those new works by the limitations and controls that can result from copyright protection. How faculty authors, working with their universities and publishers, make decisions about the management of the copyright can have profound consequences for the ability of researchers, students, libraries, and other users to obtain, read, disseminate, and learn from scholarly works and the information they embody. The management of the copyright can determine whether the article can become available on reasonable terms, whether through purchase, simple photocopying, uploading to a digital library, or by any other means.

In the 1990s many of the stakeholders in these developments began to witness immediate and complicated implications for research related to copyright law. These developments prompted SURF Foundation, the higher education and research partnership organization for network services and information and communications technology based in the Netherlands, to initiate an international copyright project. SURF Foundation was seeking a cooperative approach to these often contentious issues. The initiative became known as the "Zwolle Group," and it has now completed five years of developing and sharing guidance for faculty authors, publishers, librarians, and other stakeholders who are seeking to improve their management of copyright issues. The cooperation of major stakeholders as equal partners makes the Zwolle initiative unique in the world.

This article marks the end of a phase of the Zwolle Group. It provides an examination of the issues and the projects of the Zwolle Group. Nevertheless, some activities will be continued in one way or another. This article, therefore, is of interest not only for anyone wishing to take advantage of and utilize the products of the initiative, but also for persons interested in future work built upon this important endeavor.

II. Objectives of the Zwolle Group

Much of the work of the Zwolle Group has focused on the strategic choices that authors and publishers may make with respect to the management of copyrights to scholarly works. Those issues necessarily imply an important role for the universities that employ the scholarly authors, and for the libraries that are routinely the most important purchasers of academic publications. Accordingly, much of the Group's work centered on the practical application of the strategic issues as they may be described or asserted in university policies, publishing contracts, and other written documentation and instruments. This article will examine some of those projects in more detail in Section V.

To begin the initiative, the Zwolle Group adopted a mission of "working with academic authors, institutions, publishers and libraries in order to develop and promote balanced approaches to the management of rights, thereby establishing maximum access to scholarly information." That mission has two crucial aspects. First, the Zwolle Group centered its efforts on producing practical means for making good management decisions. Second, the Zwolle Group's real objective is not merely to encourage good management decisions, but rather to facilitate decisions that have the important consequence of pursuing a maximum level of access to scholarly works.

The concept of "maximum access" is tied closely to the diverse participants in the project. Other initiatives on similar issues existed before the Zwolle Group. However, most of those initiatives were developed in close association to one particular group of interested parties, whether those parties might be librarians, publishers, or other stakeholders. The Zwolle Group has been an ambitious effort to develop management principles that respect and incorporate the often diverging perspectives of the many different leading stakeholders in the scholarly communication transaction. Therefore, maximum access may not necessarily be free and unfettered access. For some authors, free access may be desirable, but that might not be the case for all authors. Moreover, many publishers have been willing and even eager to make their works freely available on the Internet, while other publishers have a need to regulate access for reasons ranging from preserving the integrity of the works to protecting the flow of revenue for the publishing business. Because of the many diverse interests at stake, the products of the Zwolle Group were often long in development and slow to emerge. When they did come to fruition, the work of the Zwolle Group reflected the perspective of many different stakeholders and their priorities. The work of the Zwolle Group also necessarily reflects some difficult compromises, as participants learned from one another and appreciated conflicting needs and expectations.

III. Inception of the Zwolle Group

The Zwolle Group and its many projects were launched at a conference held in the medieval town of Zwolle, the Netherlands, in June 2001. Officials of SURF had been struggling with the copyright issues, mainly in a national setting, for many years. Early in 2001, they took the initiative to organize and underwrite an international conference on copyright issues, inviting participants from many parts of the world who had demonstrated a strong interest or expertise in the subject [2].

Titled "Working Conference on Copyright and Universities," the first Zwolle conference framed the issues broadly and generally for an audience of approximately forty participants from several European countries, the U.S.A., and Australia [3]. The agenda effectively and clearly focused on framing the issues of copyright management at colleges and universities, with the objective of promoting the creation and dissemination of scholarly works. A cooperative approach characterized the Zwolle conferences. Writing about the second conference, one participant noted: "Indeed it became clear that one of the main causes of friction between librarians, academics and publishers is a lack of understanding of what publishers actually do. The conference was an excellent opportunity to be part of the scholarly communication debate in an atmosphere of positive collaboration" [4]

One of the important outcomes of the first Zwolle conference was the formation of a steering committee to address the issues in ensuing years. That steering committee became the Zwolle Group. The first Zwolle conference adjourned with an outlook toward reconvening periodically, and the Zwolle Group was charged with the responsibility for undertaking projects that advanced the ambitions articulated during the conference and planning the ensuing meetings in Zwolle. The Zwolle Group held its own meetings at least annually since June of 2001. The Group has met in cities such as Utrecht, London, Barcelona, Glasgow, and Prague, hosted at each location by a member of the Group. Membership has changed over the years (members are listed in Appendix A to this article).

Most important, membership has attempted to reflect the diversity of stakeholders. As a result of the extraordinary and ambitious objective of the Zwolle Group to reflect diverse views, gatherings of the Zwolle Group routinely have been part working meeting and part debate session. Sometimes librarians would struggle with publishers, and on other occasions, a faculty member would debate with another faculty member over the proper approach to issues and projects. These differences of opinion may on many occasions have slowed progress of the Zwolle Group, but they were also an inevitable byproduct of seeking to accommodate diverse views.

IV. The Zwolle Principles

The energies of the Zwolle Group were largely focused on two pursuits: Specific projects that could prove useful to anyone interested in the management of copyright issues in higher education, and the organization and conduct of additional Zwolle conferences to advance the Group's work. Before commencing any such pursuits, however, the Zwolle Group needed to prepare fundamental guidance for itself in the form of a set of guiding principles. That endeavor produced a document that became known as the "Zwolle Principles." Building on a broad statement of objective, the principles were first steps toward implementing the ideals of the Zwolle Group:

The Zwolle Group Objective:

To assist stakeholders – including authors, publishers, librarians, universities and the public – to achieve maximum access to scholarship without compromising quality or academic freedom and without denying aspects of costs and rewards involved.

The Zwolle Principles:

  1. Achievement of this objective requires the optimal management of copyright in scholarly works to secure clear allocation of rights that balance the interests of all stakeholders.
  2. Optimal management may be achieved through thoughtful development and implementation of policies, contracts, and other tools, as well as processes and educational programs, (collectively "Copyright Management") that articulate the allocation of rights and responsibilities with respect to scholarly works.
  3. Appropriate Copyright Management and the interests of various stakeholders will vary according to numerous factors, including the nature of the work; for example, computer programs, journal articles, databases and multimedia instructional works may require different treatment.
  4. In the development of Copyright Management, the primary focus should be on the allocation to various stakeholders of specific rights.
  5. Copyright Management should strive to respect the interests of all stakeholders involved in the use and management of scholarly works; those interests may at times diverge, but will in many cases coincide.
  6. All stakeholders in the management of the copyright in scholarly works have an interest in attaining the highest standards of quality, maximising current and future access, and ensuring preservation; stakeholders should work together on an international basis to best achieve these common goals and to develop a mutually supportive community of interest.
  7. All stakeholders should actively promote an understanding of the important implications of copyright management of scholarly work and encourage engagement with the development and implementation of Copyright Management tools to achieve the overarching objective.

The principles were a steady reminder of the objective and ideals of the Zwolle Group. They figured prominently in all of the meetings and projects. The next section of this article will summarize the Group's major projects and accomplishments, which were directed towards implementing these Zwolle Principles. According to an active member of the project: "To be effective, the fine words in the Principles need to be applied in the wording of university copyright policies and of agreements between authors and publishers" [5].

V. Projects of the Zwolle Group

The most important work of the Zwolle Group can be gathered into three classes: (A) resources to implement the Zwolle Principles; (B) a comparison on international copyright laws; and (C) information and communications tools and resources that spread more widely the work of the Zwolle Group.

A. Implementation of the Zwolle Principles

A1: The "Interest of Stakeholders Chart" is an effort to define many of the most significant interests, held by various stakeholders, in the creation and dissemination of scholarly works created at the university [6]. The effort to identify stakeholders and their interests is a crucial step toward the development of policies or agreements that seek to assure to the stakeholders the ability to use and manage the works in fulfillment of their most important interests. Stakeholders identified are: authors, institutions, funding sources, publishers, users, libraries, and the general public. Analysis of the various interests reveals that many of them are not conflicting and can be served if copyrights are properly managed.

A2: An important aspect in implementing the Zwolle Principles is examining the relationship between the author and the publisher. The Zwolle Group formulated a list of key issues for copyright agreements with publishers [7]. It is a checklist of points to consider when entering into, or advising faculty on, the terms of agreements for the publication of journal articles and other scholarly works. This guidance also has been helpful to publishers, as they strive for agreements that might best address the interests of all stakeholders. Indeed, one major publisher of academic journals quickly became the first publisher to support the Zwolle Principles [8].

A3: In furtherance of the Zwolle Principles, the Group identified various scenarios to illustrate diverse approaches to copyright ownership evident in agreements between publishers and authors [9]. Each approach contains a different allocation of rights and illustrates a different way of balancing the interests of authors, publishers and – in one scenario – the interests of an employer.

A4: One of the most elaborate projects is a "Copyright Toolbox," developed with research funding from SURF and JISC (the Joint Information Systems Committee, based in the U.K.) [10]. The Toolbox is a simple guide for authors and publishers seeking to develop creative and beneficial agreements for publication of scholarly works. In addition to direct and clear explanations of relevant principles, the toolbox offers a trove of contract provisions and options. Users of the toolbox should be able to better understand the implications of their agreements and find ideas and specific language to negotiate and develop balanced approaches to managing scholarly works [11].

A5: Besides the implementation of the Zwolle Principles in the relationship between authors and publishers, the Zwolle Group also looked into the relationship between the author and his or her employer. Critical to good management of copyrights in scholarly works is the development of a balanced and well-considered university policy. Under the law of many countries, copyrights may belong to the faculty authors, or the copyrights may belong to the university that employs the authors. University policies are an opportunity for institutions and their faculty members to make explicit statements about rights of ownership and even to devise more creative approaches that share the rights among the interested parties [12]. The Zwolle Group has produced a wealth of materials that explain the issues and provide examples for innovative policymaking:

  • An outline of the most important issues for university policies [13].
  • A survey of provisions, terms, and phrases from several university copyright policies, demonstrating how certain policies can further the goals of the Zwolle Principles [14].
  • A report titled "Ownership and Rights of Use of Works Created at the University: A Survey of American Copyright Policies" [15]. This document analyzes and organizes excerpts from selected university copyright policies for the purpose of comparing choices made by different universities to manage issues of copyright ownership and rights of use.

A6: A most recent product pursuing implementation of the Zwolle Principles is a paper examining Open Access [16]. The paper concludes that good rights management procedures are as important for open access content as they are for purchased content. The paper examines the issues and interests at stake in the management of copyrights, with a view toward facilitating open access, particularly the availability of scholarly works through institutional repositories. The purpose of the procedures is not to hinder the legitimate use of the open access content but to protect the legitimate interests of stakeholders. Licences and clear copyright and other rights statements are the key tools in the implementation of the Zwolle Principles in relation to open access content.

B. Comparative Study of Copyright Law

B1: A second major Zwolle Group activity has been a detailed exploration of various copyright laws in the world and their relationship to creating and publishing scholarly works. The study resulted in a report, "Comparative Analysis of International Copyright Law Applicable to University Scholarship" [17]. Much of the work of the Zwolle Group is rooted in a reasoned and sometimes creative application of copyright law. To make informed decisions, a foundation of basic copyright knowledge is essential. This project, prepared by Professor Kenneth D. Crews, of the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis, and Jacque Ramos, a recent graduate of the school, summarizes and organizes basic principles of copyright law of particular relevance to the Zwolle Group. In addition to specifying the laws on individual aspects of copyright, the project currently encompasses the laws of more than a dozen countries, and it will be expanded regularly. Users can quickly gain insight about not only the laws of a home country, but the laws of other countries where the author, publisher, user, or other individual may be located.

C. Communication and information exchange

C1: Zwolle Website. Perhaps the single most important project of the Zwolle Group has been its elaborate website, developed and hosted by SURF [18]. The website includes many of the projects and papers detailed in this article, and it is the one place where users from any part of the world can learn about the Group and find useful materials prepared by the Group for the benefit of any interested party.

C2: ZwollE-Zine Newsletters. As the Zwolle Group was taking shape and quickly launching initiatives during 2003 and 2004, SURF sponsored a periodic online newsletter, "ZwollE-Zine," that captured news and developments and summarized numerous activities of the Group. The newsletter is archived on the website, and each issue is a detailed look at a highly active endeavor [19].

C3: Papers, Publications, and Proceedings. Articles, papers, and other documentation of the work of the Zwolle Group are more extensive than can be accounted for in this article [20]. The Zwolle website, described above, provides access to many papers and studies inspired by the work of the Group [21], along with various examples of agreements with publishers [22] and university copyright policies from several countries. The website also includes articles [23] and other helpful resources as universities and other organizations operate in this field [24]. The aim was not to lobby stakeholders to adopt particular forms of copyright policies and agreements, but instead to improve copyright management and copyright relationships by making available examples of "good practice." Many of the documents have been discussed at the Zwolle conferences and have been endorsed by the Zwolle Group. Furthermore, the website hosts a variety of interesting papers that were presented at the Zwolle conferences [25].

VI. The Future of the Zwolle Group

The life and work of the Zwolle Group is now at a time of critical change, but the projects of the Group are ready for wide dissemination and utilization. The central mission of the Zwolle Group has been to "promote balanced approaches" to the management of copyright. To that end, the Group has made available, for public use, documents, background papers, and other projects that can help decision makers address their needs and promote maximum access to scholarship. While the projects of the Zwolle Group are now widely available, the work of the Group must now inevitably change.

This article marks the completion of five years of the work of the Zwolle Group, and it marks the end of the original support from SURF, later supplemented by JISC. None of the Group's work would have been possible without the enterprising and generous support from those two organizations. Barring additional external funds, the Zwolle Group held its last meeting in May 2006; the Zwolle project in its current form is now completed.

To promote the work of the Zwolle Group, SURF has developed a new and comprehensive website as one of its lasting contributions. Although the website may not be further updated in any significant manner, the site will continue to be a useful tool and have an ongoing function of disseminating the results of the Zwolle initiative, as a reference tool for anyone interested in advancing a creative and constructive understanding of copyright and scholarly work.

Some projects of the Zwolle Group will have future life. For example, the comparative chart of national copyright laws will need regular updating. Moreover, the spirit and initiatives of the Zwolle Group are being carried forward in additional conferences and workshops. Currently in the planning stages is the prospect of a "Zwolle" conference to be held in Eastern Europe, likely in Prague. The work of the Zwolle Group has been important not only for redefining existing policies and procedures, but also for formulating new systems in parts of the world that are rapidly integrating their work with established channels of scholarly communication.

The mission of the Zwolle Group may anticipate "balanced" approaches, but the ultimate mission is to promote the creation and maximum dissemination of scholarship. Each stakeholder in the sequence, from researcher and author to publisher and purchaser, may find among the work of the Zwolle Group many resources of value and utility. Each stakeholder – from faculty member to librarian or publisher – can also find an opportunity to improve the process of discovering new knowledge and sharing the products of scholarly work on terms that encourage the spread of knowledge and that respect the interests of other players in the chain of communication. The projects of the Zwolle Group can facilitate those good pursuits.


1. In recent years a variety of other initiatives, including the open access movement, have emerged in response to the copyright issues. Frederick J. Friend, "Who protects the un-protected?" INDICARE Monitor, Vol. 1 (29 October 2004) (see: <>).

2. For a general discussion of the origins of the Zwolle project, see Frederick J. Friend, "Zwolle's contribution to good copyright relationships," Serials: The Journal for the Serials Community, Vol. 17 (July 2004): 196-199.

3. <>.

4. Judith Harvey, "What does Zwolle stand for?," Learned Publishing, Vol. 16 (2003): 290-292.

5. Frederick J. Friend, "Zwolle's contribution to good copyright relationships," Serials: The Journal for the Serials Community, Vol. 17 (July 2004): 197.

6. <>.

7. <

8. Jenny Pickles, "Scholarship friendly copyright policies: A publisher's perspective," Managing Information, Vol. 11 (September 2004): 44-50.

9. <

10. See: < This project is an example of Zwolle Group activities being taken up by various stakeholder communities.

11. Since initial launch of the "toolkit," SURF and JISC expanded on the project by developing a proposed license agreement between authors and journal publishers. See: <>.

12. Julia Blixrud, "Balancing Stakeholder Interests in Scholarship-Friendly Copyright Practices," ARL Newsletter, No. 237 (December 2004) (see: <>).

13. <>.

14. <>.

15. <>.

16. <>.

17. <>.

18. See: <>.

19. <>.

20. Appendix B includes summaries of the three international "Zwolle Conferences," where readers can find links to the website hosting many of the conference papers.

21. See: <>.

22. <

23. <

24. <>.

25. <>.

Appendix A: Members of the Zwolle Group

Membership in the Zwolle Group has varied through the years, but the Group has striven to include a representation of diverse perspectives on the relevant issues. Members through the five years since inception of the Group have included the following individuals:

  • Chris Bailey, Director of Library Services, University of Glasgow, UK
  • Kenneth Crews, Director, Copyright Management Center, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, USA
  • Pat Crocker, Head of Collections and Services, Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), UK
  • Nick Evans, Member Services Manager, Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP), UK
  • Frederick Friend, Honorary Director Scholarly Communication, University College London, Consultant to JISC and the Open Society Institute, UK
  • Judith Harvey, Editorial and Production Director, Emerald Group Publishing, UK
  • Barbara Hicks, Associate Publisher, The American Physical Society (APS), USA
  • Sally Morris, Chief Executive, Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP), UK
  • Wilma Mossink, Legal Advisor, SURF Foundation, NL
  • Ann Monotti, Associate Professor, Monash University, Australia
  • Jenny Pickles, Head of Business Development, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, UK
  • Patricia Riera Barsallo, Chief of Documentation Services, Library of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain
  • Martin Svoboda, Library Director, State Technical Library, Czech Republic
  • Gerard van Westrienen, Assistant Manager Platform ICT and Research, SURF Foundation, NL
  • Eric Zimmerman, Grants Coordinator, the Research Authority at Bar-Ilan University, Israel

Appendix B: The Zwolle Conferences

Beginning with the initiation of the Zwolle project in 2001, SURF Foundation has hosted three major international conferences, each held in Zwolle, the Netherlands, bringing together a large and diverse group of participants. At each conference, participation was by invitation only, and SURF strove to reach varying perspectives on the issues. The following summary of the conferences touches only some of the highlights of each meeting. The Zwolle Group website includes much more detail about each event and the papers and presentations. See: <>.

Zwolle I: June 2001

The conference of 7-8 June 2001 launched the entire Zwolle venture and was convened as a "Working Conference on Copyright and Universities." The event was organized and hosted by IWI, Innovation of Scientific Information Supply, a program of SURF Foundation. Approximately forty participants from around the world examined the subject of copyright and universities. Participants represented diverse stakeholders, including representatives of libraries, university bodies, publishers, authors, and governmental ministries.

The conference was intended as a true working conference. Underscoring the importance of the subject for the highest levels of university administration, the conference was chaired by Dr. Sijbolt Noorda, president of the University of Amsterdam. Professor Bernt Hugenholtz, of the Institute for Information Law from the University of Amsterdam addressed relevant national and international developments and framed the subject for discussion. Subsequent presentations put the issues in the context of individual national laws. Speakers included Dr. Ralph Weedon of the University of Strathclyde, Dr. Leanne Wiseman of Queensland University, Wilma Mossink of the Open University of the Netherlands, and Dr. John Vaughn of the Association of American Universities.

Additional presentations examined the details of university policymaking and the possibilities for innovative contractual relations between authors and publishers. Most important, the conference was a working meeting. The participants were invited to discuss the issues, and they shared a wide range of views and ideas. They also endorsed the creation of a steering committee to take up the tasks emerging from the discussion. That steering committee became the Zwolle Group.

Zwolle II: December 2002

A major goal of the second conference, on 6-7 December 2002, was to review and discuss the work of the Zwolle Group. Titled "Copyright and Universities: From Principles to Practices," the conference immediately demonstrated that interest in the issues was growing. Almost sixty individuals attended, reflecting an especially strong and new interest among publishers, librarians, and representatives from Eastern Europe. The conference agenda was long and intense, and participants reviewed and critiqued several projects of the Zwolle Group. At the end of the conference, participants had explored the Zwolle Principles in detail, suggested several revisions, and approved a final version as a foundational document for the project. Zwolle II also gave shape to a study of stakeholder interests, and to projects that would eventually evolve into helpful guidance for university policies and publisher agreements. The conference gave important direction and motivation for the work of the Zwolle Group.

Zwolle III: February 2004

The third Zwolle conference was held on 13-14 February 2004 under the heading, "Optimal Management of Copyright: Making it Happen." By the time of this conference, the Surf Foundation was joined by JISC as a partner on Zwolle projects. JISC is the Joint Information Systems Committee, and it supports further and higher education in the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in the UK. The work of the Zwolle Group had by this time taken firm shape, and the Group was prepared to release for discussion a variety of projects. Keynote speakers included Ann S. Okerson, Associate University Librarian, Yale University; Professor Bernt Hugenholtz, University of Amsterdam; and Dr. David E. Shulenburger, Provost of the University of Kansas. Dr. Shulenburger shared his experiences with an innovative university policy addressing contracts between authors and publishers, and the ability of the university to retain rights to use and share the scholarly works through the institutional digital library (See: <>).

Several members of the Zwolle Group delivered some of the Group's work product. Professor Kenneth D. Crews, Indiana University, delivered the results of a study of university policies on copyright ownership and scholarly publication. Frederick J. Friend, Honorary Director Scholarly Communication, University College London, working with Wilma Mossink of the Open University, presented a "Copyright Toolkit" to help guide the drafting of better publishing agreements. Jenny Pickles, Emerald Group Publishing, presented an innovative approach to contracts that Emerald has deployed for its scholarly journals. The conference ended with a clear realization that existing financial support for the Zwolle project was nearing an end. The Zwolle Group members used the conference to gather suggestions for improving the projects and preparing them for sharing and implementing by any person or organization interested in the productive management of copyright in scholarly works.

Copyright © 2007 Kenneth D. Crews and Gerard van Westrienen

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