Rolf H Weber

A pioneering open access legal journal


What is it?

The Journal of Intellectual Property, Information Technology and E-Commerce Law (JIPITEC) launched in March 2010 and aims to provide a forum for in-depth legal analysis of intellectual property matters in the internet age, with the main focus on European law.

The peer-reviewed journal is fully open access – its articles may be downloaded and used everywhere and without fees – and the intention is to develop a platform that allows authors and users to work more closely together than is the case in classical law reviews. It is mainly English language but also publishes articles in French and German.

How is it a success?

It is clearly still very early days for JIPITEC but, in a field dominated by traditional scholarly publishing (and traditional attitudes towards publishing), JIPITEC is quickly starting to build reputation as a journal to be taken seriously.

Open access journals currently face an uphill struggle in the field of law, as one of the journal’s editors, Professor Thomas Dreier, explains.

Professor Thomas Dreier

“In Germany, at least, scholarly legal publishing is characterised by the fact that the publishing process follows an economic model, ie the author gets paid by the publisher for publication. Now, the sums may not be fabulous (some 25 to 50 euro per printed page or case note), but they are a ‘nice thing to have’. The more serious issue is, of course, that legal open access journals are a rather new phenomenon and hence still have to build up reputation. Therefore, most young academics, and also many of the established legal scholars, tend to opt for the more traditional printed journals.”

JIPITEC is seeking to challenge these attitudes with an emphasis on the benefits of open access publishing. As Professor Dreier puts it, “We tried to highlight both the ‘hip’-factor (ie it being a ‘must’ to publish open access), and the immediate worldwide accessibility.”

The accessibility argument is certainly one that has an impact on Rolf H Weber, professor for civil, commercial and European law at the University of Zurich Law School. Professor Weber published a paper, Internet Service Provider Liability – a Swiss Perspective, in JIPITEC last year, and another paper, The Right to Be Forgotten: More Than a Pandora’s Box, in 2011.

He chose to publish open access in JIPITEC for the simple reason that “the likelihood is much higher that my articles are read and quoted. They can be found more easily by other people working in the same field.”

Professor Weber was happy with the JIPITEC experience, confirming Professor Dreier’s claim that, while persuading legal scholars to take up open access can be a struggle, “the ones who published in JIPITEC loved it. We provide peer-review (double blind), standardised layout and a reliable internet presence.”

All of these aspects make JIPITEC, and open access publishing in general, an “attractive” proposition to scholars such as Professor Weber. “I am not only counting citations. This would be too narrow-minded. There is a higher chance that other people in the community will become aware of my work. It has the consequence that I am invited to conferences. It has the consequence that I am contacted on a cross-border basis, contacted with invitations to participate in research projects at other universities because they have become aware that I am working in a similar professional field. This is how it is a success in the broader sense. The more open access journals are used, the more likely it will be that the articles published in such kinds of journals will be the basis for international contacts.”

However, it’s not all smooth sailing for the JIPITEC crew and Professor Dreier remains concerned about financing for the project. JIPITEC receives a small amount of start-up funding from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) but even though the costs of electronic publishing are much less than traditional print costs, they are not zero and Professor Dreier is keen to explore ways in which to open up new income sources. However, he has ruled out one common open access business model.

“At one point the editors considered adopting an author-pays model, but decided against it, because that would probably be the death-blow to the enterprise,” says Professor Dreier

Meanwhile, Professor Weber is optimistic for the future of open access legal scholarly publishing.

“I cannot say yet that these journals have a ‘triple A’ rating but that’s not possible because most of them are young, if not to say very young, and how can a journal like JIPITEC have the same reputation as, say, Harvard Law Review, existing since the 19th century? I think it is somehow unfair to compare the rating of very newly established open access journals with traditional printed journals even if they have an electronic version. The rating must be lower – that’s a consequence of a historic situation – but I am convinced that the ratings of these new open access journals are going to increase with the younger generation,” he argues.

Author, Germany, International, Journal, Journals, Switzerland, Users, Visibility


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