Lessons in Transformational Use: The Copyright Permissions Request

In the interest of sharing my academic research and publishing experience as a form of Scholarly Communications advice, I’m appending below the full text of my email to Brill’s copyright office today asking for copyright permissions for a major transformational use of a small portion of a monograph to which Brill holds copyright. I look forward to their response and may opt to post updates here.

Dear Brill Copyright Office,

I am writing to request gratis permission for my transformational use for expressly non-commercial, academic purposes of a small portion Dieter’s Roth 2015 monograph, The Text of Marcion’s Gospel. Please find attached a short data paper now in the second round of review (with only minor revisions requested) with the Journal of Open Humanities Data (JOHD), as well as the relevant datasets. I anticipate that the paper and datasets will be fully peer-reviewed and approved within the next week or two.

For context, please also find attached a recently published data paper and datasets based on Harnack’s public domain work, as well as another data paper and related datasets based on the public domain works of August Hahn and Theodor Zahn that is currently under review.

As you will see from an evaluation of these files together, all of them reflect radical, thoroughgoing transformations and normalizations of the texts of the reconstructions of the Gospel of Marcion so that they comprise single, unambiguous running texts that are both human-readable and machine-readable, and thus useable for Computational Linguistics, Natural Language Processing, and the progress of science more generally.

As such, the datasets are clearly not substitutions for Roth’s monograph but instead transformational supplements to it. Thus they should have no adverse commercial impact on sales, usage, or citations. Quite the contrary, they should spur greater sales, usage, and citations of that monograph, both in print and digital formats. The proportion of Roth’s work transformed is very small, only 4169 words out of a total of 203637 words for the monograph or 2.05%. The content is a radical transformation of only 40.2% of the 10380 words found specifically in chapter 9 (pages 412-436) of the monograph. JOHD is expressly an open-access journal that is funded through Article Processing Charges, thus no revenues will be generated from the publication of the short data paper and accompanying datasets.

While I have provisionally archived our datasets based on Roth’s work under highly restricted terms in Harvard Dataverse under the JOHD repository during the peer-review process, I am certainly open to Brill hosting these datasets in the Brill Figshare open access repository as the canonical location listed in the published short data paper with JOHD. I am more than happy for this work to drive more web traffic to Brill’s websites and publications in general. I am also happy to assign a Creative Commons license to the datasets that corresponds to Brill’s preference (e.g., non-commercial, no derivatives).

Given the JOHD review process is nearly complete and their publication workflow will start soon, I ask that you please respond no later than November 5.

Best wishes,



Update 2021-11-10: with gratitude I report that on 2021-11-05 Dr. Roth and Brill Publishers agreed to the open distribution of these transformational, normalized datasets under a CC-BY-NC-ND license.