Re: Science 4 September on Copyright

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 11 Sep 1998 09:51:48 +0100

Here are some excerpts from the Science September 4 paper.
Please post your comment to the thread (q.v.):

            Science September 4 on Copyright

The following proposal to change copyright argeements and funding
practises so that authors can freely archive their work on the Web has
just appeared in Science on Sept. 4, followed by a dissenting

     INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: Who Should Own Scientific Papers?
     Bachrach et al.
     Science 1998 September 4: 1459-1460

     EDITORIAL: The Rightness of Copyright.
     Bloom, F.
     Science 1998 September 4: 1451.

For the time being, Science is allowing anyone to access both the
proposal and the dissenting Editorial by Floyd Bloom (Editor, Science)
for free (after some signup procedures) at:

Here are some highlights:

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: Who Should Own Scientific Papers?

Steven Bachrach, R. Stephen Berry, Martin Blume, Thomas von Foerster,
Alexander Fowler, Paul Ginsparg, Stephen Heller, Neil Kestner, Andrew
Odlyzko, Ann Okerson, Ron Wigington, Anne Moffat*

    "...The goals and motivations of scientists writing up their
    research are very different from those of professional authors,
    although they may be the same people in different settings. The
    scientist is concerned with sharing new findings, advancing
    research inquiry, and influencing the thinking of others. The
    benefits the scientist receives from publication are indirect;
    rarely is there direct remuneration for scientific articles.
    Indeed, scientists frequently pay page charges to publish their
    articles in journals. The world of the directly paid author is very
    different. There, the need for close protection of intellectual
    property follows directly from the need to protect income, making
    natural allies of the publisher and the professional author,
    whether a novelist or the author of a chemistry text..."

    "...The suggested policy is this: Federal agencies that fund
    research should recommend (or even require) as a condition of
    funding that the copyrights of articles or other works describing
    research that has been supported by those agencies remain with the
    author. The author, in turn, can give prospective publishers a
    wide-ranging nonexclusive license to use the work in a value-added
    publication, either in traditional or electronic form. The author
    thus retains the right to distribute informally, such as through a
    Web server for direct interaction with peers..."

    "...[Some publishers, such as] Science, the New England Journal of
    Medicine, and the Journal of the American Chemical Society, have
    adamantly opposed authors' posting of their own articles on Web
    pages or e-print servers, whereas others, such as the American
    Journal of Mathematics, the Journal of Neuroscience, Nature
    Medicine, and Physical Review, have considered such distribution
    consistent with, and even advertising for, their own journals..."

EDITORIAL The Rightness of Copyright: Floyd E. Bloom

    "...[C]opyright transfer is critical to the process of
    communicating scientific information accurately. Neither the public
    nor the scientific community benefits from the potentially
    no-holds-barred electronic dissemination capability provided by
    today's Internet tools. Much information on the Internet may be
    free, but quality information worthy of appreciation requires more
    effort than most scientists could muster, even if able...."

Questions for Reflection [SH]:

(1) Is this a logical or even a practical argument for copyright

(2) Is the only choice really that between free papers, with no quality
control, versus quality-controlled papers in exchange for copyright
transfer and S/SL/PPV?

    "...A paper submitted to Science will undergo extensive review and,
    upon acceptance, extensive revision for clarity, accuracy, and
    solidity. A paper published in Science will be seen throughout the
    world by our 160,000 paid subscribers and perhaps two or three
    times more readers as issues are shared. More than 30,000 readers
    will be alerted to the new reports within hours of the appearance
    each week of Science Online...."

(3) How many journals reach 160K subscribers (or even 1/100 % of that)?

(4) Free posting on the Web can reach all 160K (and 100 times that).

(5) Science magazine is a hybrid trade/refereed journal. It publishes
refereed articles, contributed for free, plus commissioned and paid
articles by staff writers and others, for fee. Hence it is in most
relevant requests not representative of the vast refereed literature of
which it (and a few other journals like it, such as Nature) constitutes
a minuscule portion.

    "...This degree of investment in the scientific publication process
    requires the assignment of copyright. This allows the society
    publisher to provide a stewardship over the paper, to protect it
    from misuse by those who would otherwise be free to plagiarize or
    alter it, and to expand the distribution of information products
    for the benefit of the society.

(6) Do we need this degree of investment? Is it worth the consequences
(S/SL/PPV, fire-walls)?

(7) What is "stewardship"?

(8) What do copyright ASSIGNMENT (to the publisher) and S/SL/PPV have
to do with protection from plagiarism or alteration? (Doesn't copyright
simpliciter provide that?)

    "...Permissions are granted freely to the originating authors for
    their own uses. Science holds the copyright of its authors because
    of our belief that we materially improve and protect the product we
    create together...."

(9) What if the "own use" is the provision of one's work to others,
through free public archiving on the Web?

(10) Would payment for the cost of the improvements not be sufficient,
without the need for copyright assignment, S/SL/PPV and firewalls?

[Again, this should all be considered in conjunction with the fact that
Science magazine is far from representative of refereed journals, for
the reasons noted above.]

Stevan Harnad
Professor of Cognitive Science
Department of Electronics and phone: +44 1703 592582
Computer Science fax: +44 1703 593281
University of Southampton
Highfield, Southampton
Received on Tue Aug 25 1998 - 19:17:43 BST

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