One of the things I always attempt to do with my scholarly work is to ensure that I keep the copyright in my name. This gives me the maximum freedom in how I choose to use and distribute my work in the future. Law reviews have a welter of different policies with regard to copyright that sometimes vary from year to year and from author to author. After negotiating, I have been able to secure copyright in my work with most journals, with just a few exceptions. Having knowledge about a journal’s past copyright practices can be very helpful. I know of at least one author who was told by a law review that it was against their policy to give him copyright. This was false, since the law review had given me copyright in my piece in the very same issue. Once he told them about the discrepancy, the journal editors quickly changed their position and gave him copyright.
To help bring more clarity to the confusing and contradictory world of law review copyright experiences, Michael Froomkin has developed a wiki to track the copyright policies of various law reviews. He describes the project as follows:
The purpose of this website is for legal academics and others to share our copyright experiences with law journals and other legal publishers. As academics, we have an interest in ensuring the widest dissemination of our work. Historically, Law Journals have tended to use standard-form copyright agreements that reqire a copyright assignment, and have tended to impose unreasonable restrictions on our rights to share and re-use our own work.
This is starting to change. Increasingly, law journals, are adopting reasonable policies, or at least are open to negotiation. Due to the transitory nature of student-run law journal staffs, some staffs are actually unaware of their own past practices.
On the pages linked from here, legal writers describe their copyright experiences and law journals describe their policies. The information is as good or bad as what you contribute to it.
Hat tip: Paul Caron