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

From: Ian Ross <>
Date: Fri, 19 Nov 1999 10:16:03 +0000

sh> after striking out those passages (which lately include attempts to
sh> make incoherent distinctions between permitted archiving on a "personal
sh> server" and forbidden archiving on a "public server" -- absurd because
sh> all "personal servers" on the Web are public! These distinctions are
sh> based on paper publishing categories that simply have no counterpart on
sh> the Web; hence the mootness of the older agreements).

Although I have been following this debate with great interest over the
last few years, I rarely comment. I was intrigued, however, at the
distinction between "public" servers and "private" servers attempted by
commercial publishers. It's easy to see what they mean - "Nature" or
Medline are "public sites" ie places one would go to seek out literature
that one was hitherto unaware of, while my Departmental home page is a
"private" site and one would perhaps only find my paper there if one knew
it was there to begin with, or if one stumbled across it fortuitously.

The trouble is, as you point out, it's a very tenuous distinction. I would
love to know how they would view a paper which was archived (physically) on
a "private" server, but which was pointed to by a link on an abstract
residing on a "public" server. The reader would of course, neither know
nor care where the document in fact resided, as long as there was a
hyperlinked trail from the public site. Does this mean that "privately"
archived papers are illegal if they are referenced by a hyperlink from the
existing "public" literature? And how would one know or enforce it? What
if one publishes the hyperlink to one's "private" site in the abstract of
the "public" version? Or if one's article is indirectly hyperlinked
(deliberately or unwittingly) by an intermediate paper? Would one ban
hyperlinked references in published papers just in case they led to an
"illegally archived" paper? What about papers in the future which exist
not as discrete documents but as database entries in a number of parts
(possible distributed across servers) which are assembled "on-the-fly" in
different forms for different users? The situation rapidly becomes

Of course there could well be technological solutions to the situation,
given a unified effort on the part of commercial publishers. Take, for
example, the copy-protection/piracy battle over the last 2 decades, or the
current MP3 controversy. It would have been naive to say 20 years ago "but
files can easily be copied, so protection of software is impossible". And
on the Web, one can never say "never"!

Dr Ian L. Ross PhD
Centre for Molecular and Cellular Biology
The University of Queensland
Ph 61-7-3878-8618 or 61-7-3665-4447
fax 61-7-3878-8663 or 61-7-3665-4388
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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