Re: Open Archiving: What are researchers willing to do?

From: (wrong string) édon <guedon_at_LITTCO.UMONTREAL.CA>
Date: Wed, 17 Nov 1999 07:51:49 -0500

In times of transition, laws sometimes become obsolete and fetishizing
such laws has never been very helpful. If my memory serves me right,
English law long kept the requirement that any car going through a city
had to be preceded by a man on foot wearing a red flag to warn the
population. That law, again if my memory serves me right, was finally
removed from the books in the 60's, having been openly flaunted by
everybody for decades.

It seem that we are facing a similar situation here with regard to the
handling of copyright in the area of scholarly publishing. As Stevan
Harnad rightly points out, the intellectual property at stakes is the
individuals' own, not somebody else's . As a rule, they have not sold
it, but given it away and it increasingly looks foolish, exactly as the
man with the red flag looks foolish. The real nature of scientific
papers is becoming increasingly clear to a growing number of people
and its commodity status is being increasingly questioned.

Laws that appear foolish are dangerous laws because they cannot be
obeyed and, as a result, they threaten the whole legal structure. Yet.
we do need a solid legal structure and there is no reason to weaken our
legal structure through blind obedience to stupid laws or unjust laws.

In short, we are quickly moving to the brink of a wholesale
re-evaluation of how copyright should be handled in the case of
scholarly publishing and it may be that the law will have to be
modified in the process. Scientific authors are interested in moral
rights (to use a continental terminology), not financial or commercial

Jean-Claude Guédon

Le Tue, 16 Nov 1999, Marvin a écrit :
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Stevan Harnad <>
> Sent: Tuesday, November 16, 1999 12:31 PM
> Subject: Re: Open Archiving: What are researchers willing to do?
> > On Tue, 16 Nov 1999, Marvin Margoshes wrote:
> >
> > tw> From: Thomas J. Walker <tjw_at_GNV.IFAS.UFL.EDU>
> > tw> To find out what those attending my two most recent talks were willing
> to
> > tw> do to promote free access, I asked in a questionnaire if they would...
> > tw> (3) post their old articles on their home pages without permissions
> from
> > tw> copyright-holding publishers? [80% would]
> > >
> > mm> Interesting that 80% said that they will break the law.
> > mm> Is ignorance of the law or something else behind this?
> >
> > I think it is the very opposite of ignorance that is behind this.
> >
> > It is an awakening to what is actually at stake here for research and
> > researchers, and how fundamentally different the copyright function is
> > for the fee/royalty-based literature, for which it was intended, as
> > opposed to the give-away literature that is at issue here: the refereed
> > journal literature.
> <snip>
> Very interesting! It appears that to a large group of intelligent, educated
> persons, the letter and spirit of the law simply don't matter. Or do they
> think that copyright law leaves them the right to the material that they
> signed away?
> You base your argument on a distinction; does copyright law make that
> distinction? Not to my knowledge, but I'm willing to learn.
Jean-Claude Guédon    Département de littérature comparée
Université de Montréal CP 6128, Succursale « Centre-ville »
Montréal, Qc H3C 3J7 Canada
Tél. 1-514-343-6208
Fax  1.514-343-2211
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Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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