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

From: Steve Koonin <> <harnad_at_COGSCI.SOTON.AC.UK>
Date: Mon, 21 Sep 1998 10:15:08 -0400

[Posted for Steve Koonin with permission]

Date: Sat, 19 Sep 1998 07:08:00 -0700
To: Stevan Harnad <>,
         Ira Fuchs <>
From: Steve Koonin <>
Subject: Re: Important question for Steve Koonin and Ira Fuchs
Cc: Joseph Ransdell <>


My answer to your question is a resounding "Of course!."

The strawman proposal that kicked off the Caltech debate was to simply
modify the current submission/review/acceptance/publication process by
substituting for the publisher's copyright form an Institute copyright
assignment document that granted the publisher limited rights and retained
_jointly_ for the author and the Institute rights to post, use for
education/research, disseminate not-for-profit, etc.

The driving issue for me (as I believe it has been for you and many others
I've talked with) has not been _university control_ of the scholarly
record, but rather the prevention of _publisher control_ of the scholarly
record and the preservation of that record as a common good, freely
accessible. I would be happy to see copyright reside solely with the
individual scholars, but then there is the associated nuisance of
responding to requests for reproduction rights, etc.
There never was (nor will there ever be, at least at Caltech) any
suggestion of supression of publication. And none of the Caltech faculty
have raised this concern (or at least, I haven't heard it). While the
faculty and administration here certainly don't always see eye-to-eye on
everything around here, I would expect that there's far too much mutual
respect and commitment to academic freedom for that level of paranoia to

Steven E. Koonin
Vice President and Provost/Professor of Theoretical Physics
California Institute of Technology
e-mail: Phone: (626) 395-6336
Web: FAX: (626) 795-1898
Snail mail: Caltech 206-31, Pasadena, CA 91125

jr> [Harnad's] closing suggestion that the university's co-ownership be only
jr> formalized in the publication agreement/licensing itself (i.e., at
jr> point of publication), and that the author's right to archive publicly
jr> in perpetuo be a permanent component of all such agreements/licenses
jr> sounds fine except that it is not clear why a university would want to
jr> cooperate in copyright which had such a proviso in it, effectively
jr> nullifying their control, and it seems very unlikely to me that many
jr> administrations would in fact agree to such a simple relinquishment of
jr> the power normally associated with copyright.

sh> Let this question be put explicitly to the proponents of
sh> scholar/university co-ownership of copyright (for refereed journal
sh> articles), beginning with Professor Koonin of Cal Tech and Professor
sh> Ira Fuchs of Princeton, who likewise attended the 1997 Conference on
sh> Scholarly Communication at Cal Tech organised by Koonin and
sh> attended by the Provosts from the major US Universities:

sh> Would you cooperate in copyright which had such a proviso in it?

Date: Sat, 19 Sep 1998 13:06:21 +0100 (BST)
From: Stevan Harnad <>
To: Steve Koonin <>,
    Ira Fuchs <>
cc: Joseph Ransdell <>

sh> Dear Steve and Ira:

sh> You could be a great help in clarifying an important question
sh> raised in the current debate in the Chronicle of Higher Education
sh> and the American Scientist about both Steve's proposal and the
sh> Science September 4 proposal (Bachrach et al., including Marty Blume)
sh> about copyright.

sh> The question is: would the Koonin proposal be met by an agreement that
sh> formalized author/university co-ownership of a (refereed journal) paper
sh> only at the point of making the limited copyright transfer agreement with
sh> the publisher, i.e., at point of publication, and in every case
sh> explicitly guaranteeing the author's right to publicly archive the
sh> paper for free (e.g., in the Los Alamos Physics Archive,,
sh> and the author's institutional server)?

sh> The reason for specifying that the argeement is made at point of
sh> publication, and for the guarantee of the author's public archiving
sh> rights, is to answer worries such as those of Professor Randsell who
sh> infers (I think wrongly) that the objective of the copyright proposal
sh> might be to suppress publication in some cases, rather than to promote
sh> it.

sh> Best wishes,

sh> Stevan Harnad

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

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:45:27 GMT