• Enter search term(s):


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.



Recent Posts

Academic parasitism on activists must change.

Date: April 20, 2011

A Boston-area university instructor contacted me to seek permission to distribute copies of my (very old) article, The Transfeminist Manifesto. As you can see on my “readings” page, I have instituted a licensing fee policy: anyone who wishes to redistribute my article must pay $0.10 per page per copy (because there’s no middleman, my fee is lower than $0.12 that copy shops charge for copyright clearance), or give me a good reason for me to waive the fee.

The instructor wrote that she was hoping that I would waive the fee because she would be “using it in the classroom.” I understand that many people consider this a good reason, as education is given a special moral position in our society, but I did not feel it was. Below is my response to her.

* * * * *

Hi *****,

I am sending you a printer-ready PDF file, because my purpose for instituting the licensing fee is not to prevent someone from using my article. I am granting you the permission to print and distribute copies of the article in the class, though not the PDF file itself. This file also includes a “bonus” that explains some of the backgrounds of the Manifesto.

That said, “using it in the classroom” at an institution like ***** is exactly the situation for which the licensing fee is intended. I would challenge your assumption that liberal arts education at an elite private university might somehow deserve to be subsidized by this activist and author whose income is a fraction of the tuition necessary to attend *****.

I would question further: Do students get textbooks for free because it’s for use in the classroom? Are the chairs and other equipment donated to ***** for free because they are for use in the classroom? And of course, do instructors teach the class for free? The answers are obviously “no”–why, then, are materials published and made available online by activists any different?

As you might have gathered by now, I don’t request licensing fees just because I need the money. I do so because I want members of academic institutions to consider these questions and try to build a more respectful toward and mutually beneficial relationship with activists whose work is studied. Scholars and students often rely on countless hours of uncompensated access to activists and their work for information, source material, interviews, etc. to further their careers or degrees, and yet act as if they are actually doing them a favor by paying attention to the issues. It needs to change.

As I said in the beginning, I am already granting you the permission to use the article in your classroom. But if you feel like paying (or having students pay) for licensing, please make (and encourage your students to make) donations, in lieu of the fees to: The Network/La Red in Boston.

(By the way–the article is also available, sans the “bonus”, in the anthology Catching a wave: reclaiming feminism for the 21st century. You would still have to comply with the copyright law, but you can have students find my article in libraries that way. If anyone had to pay fees for copyright clearance, I prefer that the money go toward The Network/La Red instead of some copy shop).


Emi Koyama

* * * * * (End of email)

In this case, I decided to give her the permission to use the material for free, but only after she is forced to read the above (and hopefully it made her think); I have waived fees in other instances, for example when an isolated trans student contacts me from a small college in the Midwest because she wants to educate her classmates about trans issues in a class presentation.

That’s an example of what I’d consider a good reason for me to waive the fee, because what she is trying to do is a form of activism and it matches what I wrote the article for in the first place. Teachers sometimes think of “exposing students to new ideas” as a form of activism too, but it’s also their job and I expect to be treated professionally in that context–unless of course there are other factors.


  1. If you intended to censor out any mention of the university in question, (what I assume is) the name is still visible at one place:

    [[[I would question further: Do students get textbooks for free because it’s for use in the classroom? Are the chairs and other equipment donated to [-here-] for free]]]

    Or I might have misunderstood.

    In any case, I love your blog. Reading through the posts right now.

    Comment by toenails — May 15, 2011 @ 7:38 am

  2. Edited to remove the name of the school. Thanks!

    Comment by emigrl — May 15, 2011 @ 10:44 am

  3. […] Academic parasitism on activists must change | Eminism […]

    Pingback by Resources and Advice on Being an Ally ~SEX WORKERS OUTREACH PROJECT~ — July 8, 2016 @ 4:02 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply