Re: Copyright FAQ for refereed journal authors

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 14 Oct 1999 18:02:17 +0100

On Thu, 14 Oct 1999, Richard Stallman wrote:

> The term "self-archiving" is not well-defined, but one natural meaning
> includes only as putting the paper on *your own* web server.
> That is not sufficient. Mirror sites are vital to make material
> accessible, and to prevent it from being lost.
> In order to have mirror sites, you need to permit mirror sites, which
> means you need to insist on keeping the rights to permit mirror sites.

Please let us not get lost in needless and self-paralyzing legalisms. The
right to publicly self-archive one's own papers on the Web means the
right to publicly self-archive one's own papers on the Web. That's the
right to Write them in the Sky, for everyone, everywhere, to read in

The recent attempt by some publishers to formulate a terminological
distinction between "personal servers" and "public servers" in their
copyright-agreement language is simply LOGICALLY (hence legally)
untenable, because all servers that are on the Web (and not blocked by
a firewall) are public.

Caching and backup and mirroring, like network interconnectivity and
interaccessibility, are simply part of the NATURE of a global digital
network -- or rather of the non-firewalled portion of it, which is
again what is meant (on any construal) by "public."

So I stand by the contention that formally reserving in one's copyright
agreement solely the legal right to PUBLICLY archive a paper on the Web
already covers all those other options; they go with the territory.

So stop worrying about it. These worries are just the Procrustean
legacy of trying to fit a radically new medium into the concepts
and language of an old one. They just don't fit. There is simply no way
to reforumulate some of the old physical and legal categories in the
new medium. They are like worries about grazing rights for an
automobile, or hearer's fees for CB Radio messages.

A "nonpublic personal Web server" is a contradiction in terms -- if the
server is indeed on the Web at all. (And no, we don't need to add to
our copyright agreements the legal right to plug the server into the
wall-outlet either, for either ethernet or AC current!)

Here's another angle on it: The etymological connection between
"public" and "publication" is not coincidental. But paper publication
did not mean that the text was publicly accessible to one and all: It was
accessible only to those who paid for the access (and while the paper
supplies lasted). That was all well and good -- for the non-give-away

But for the give-away literature there is now a way to make it public
(over and above publishing it in a refereed journal) that is not
restricted to those who have paid for access (apart from access to the
Web itself, which is growing healthily and will soon be global, so
PLEASE let's not raise THAT red herring too!).

That way is public self-archiving on the Web, and that is the precise
(and sole) right that the authors of refereed journal articles need to
assert in their copyright agreements.

(No, there's no need to stipulate "firewall-free" in your copyright
agreement either; that too is already covered by "public." Nor "the
right to download"; that also comes with the territory whenever you
make a Web connection with a public URL. And for anyone inclined to
raise the "preservation" red herring at this predictable
point -- the "Library of Alexandria Catastrophe" and all that,
please instead see:

I'm sure I still haven't managed to cover all the spurious bases (but
as you see, we've heard them all, over and over!), yet maybe this will
help keep some of us on course for a while...

For sensible, logically coherent copyright language -- a model
for the copyright agreement for the PostGutenberg Era of refereed
journal publishing, see the American Physical Society's statement:

(And again, digitized bytes are just that: don't cry or hold out for
page facsimiles; let them go if the publisher wants to hold onto them,
and just rejig the bits into another HTML/XML format in your publicly
self-archived draft. Pages are going the way of horse-grazing anyway.)

Stevan Harnad
Professor of Cognitive Science
Department of Electronics and phone: +44 23-80 592-582
Computer Science fax: +44 23-80 592-865
University of Southampton
Highfield, Southampton
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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