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Law, Liability, and Grey Literature: Resolving Issues of Law and Compliance

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Law, Liability, and Grey Literature: Resolving Issues of Law and Compliance
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Grey literature faces a number of unique challenges when facing issues of liability and compliance with local, national, and international law. Conference and symposium proceedings, white papers, reports, newsletters, and other forms of grey literature often do not have the same legal support as journals, monographs, and other, more formal publications. This can create problems of compliance and liability. Grey publications often include works authored, edited, translated, compiled, or otherwise modified by many people affiliated with multiple institutions, sometimes in several countries. In the process of producing and distributing grey literature, its producers may be confused about, or even unaware of, legal issues such as copyright ownership, authors’ and editors’ rights, official affiliation, licensing, and distribution. As a result, grey publications may often be at odds with local, national, and international laws and regulations. This in turn may have the unfortunate and unintended consequence of making the producers of grey literature legally liable for damages. This paper proposes a model for identifying potential legal problems, obtaining proper legal counsel, and limiting liability for authors, editors, and distributors of grey literature. Like other publications, grey literature exists within multiple systems of law and regulation. These systems may include institutional policies and regulations, laws at every level, and the formal and informal networks of researchers, authors, editors, distributors, and others affiliated with grey publications. This paper presents a model based on systems theory to approach the problem. The model offers practical means by which producers of grey literature can identify and address these issues before they become problems, and thus minimize noncompliance and avoid liability. The resources necessary for implementing this model are usually minimal. The primary expense may be the use of human resources affiliated with sponsoring institutions. This may include administrators, legal counsel, and other personnel not directly involved with the production of grey literature. Other resources, such as Creative Commons licenses, are available at no cost. The model presents a means of identifying and budgeting for costs that are unavoidable. The result of implementing the model will be publication of grey literature that is in compliance with local, national, and international law, as well as with institutional policies and regulations. This will minimize or eliminate liability for violation of such laws and regulations by researchers.