Re: Chron. High. Ed. 18 September on Cal Tech & Copyright

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_COGSCI.SOTON.AC.UK>
Date: Thu, 17 Sep 1998 12:20:27 -0400

I submitted the following reply to Stevan Harnad's response to the
Colloquy at the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Professor Harnad suggests that although

     "the idea of joint ownership of research reports by the author and
     the author's institution needs to be analyzed in detail, ... it is
     not obvious that it would diminish the rights or conflict with the
     needs of the authors of refereed-journal papers."

But it surely would do so if the institution decided, via its
administrators or trustees, that it didn't want its intellectual
property given away by bein= g made freely available on-line, either in
an archive like that at Los Alamos or on any other website, including
its own.

In an era in which the control of institutions of higher learning and
research is largely in the hands of people who believe that the acme of
wisdom is attained in the maxim that "there is no such thing as a free
lunch", it is surprising to find Professor Harnad saying that "where
there is no question of seeking royalty or fee for the text, one's
university can only be an ally, one would think." I can only say that
the thought would never have occurred to me, and that there is surely
some reason to think rather that the coming years are likely to see
much contention and perhaps even litigation between faculty and their
institutions as administrators attempt to gain control of internet
communication which they perceive as affecting their institutional
interests and of which they may or may not perceive the real value. Why
let oneself in for the dangers in such a dependent arrangement, unless
one is compelled to do so? In any case, I still cannot see how this
sort of pact with university administration can be said to be "being
pursued implicitly by all researchers who submit their preprints and
reprints to the Los Alamos Physics Preprint Archive".

I should add that my point has nothing to do with royalty or fee-based
writing or any of that, and that the distinction between refereed and
unrefereed publication does not seem to me to have any special bearing
on this. The point I am trying to make could perhaps be otherwise put
by saying that any pact with one's university that, in effect, gives
them a power of constraint on publication of one's work -- and conjoint
copyright would surely do that unless extraordinary precautions were
taken in the legal formulation of it -- is just another Faustian pact,
not be entered into unless necessary, just as in the case of Faustian
pacts with publishers.

Joseph Ransdell
Received on Tue Aug 25 1998 - 19:17:43 BST

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