Re: Legal ways around copyright for one's own giveaway texts

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2000 17:51:07 +0000

On Tue, 22 Feb 2000, Marvin Margoshes wrote:

> > From: Charles Oppenheim <>
> >
> > 1 author posts unrefereed preprint on web site
> >
> > 2 author submits same at a later date (maybe five minutes later!) to
> > a refereed journal
> >
> > 3 if/when accepted, author makes amendments to the article
> > in the light of the referees' and editor's comments
> >
> > 4 author signs copyright assignment form of publisher and hand on
> > heart confirms that this article has not appeared anywhere before
> >
> > 5 author then posts note onto preprint, pointing out the sorts of
> > areas where corrections might need to be made by a reader to
> > improve the text
> >
> > then the author has done nothing wrong, has broken no law, and has not
> > signed a contract (s)he should not have signed.
> It seems to me that step 4 can be illegal.

Can we have some other opinions on this (preferably professional legal

I can think of one ostensively awkward special case:

Suppose 3 is IDENTICAL to 1: The referees recommend no changes
whatsoever, and the editor accepts as-is.

But then it all comes down to what "appeared anywhere before" means.

If preprints are circulated to colleagues (on paper) before submission,
they have in a sense "appeared" somewhere, but no one would regard that
as illegal. Clearly what's meant is PUBLISHED before, and published not
just in the trivial sense that a hand-written text circulated to a few
people is publication, but published in the same sense that the journal
is about to publish it.

Could we hear some informed legal opinion about whether PRIOR
self-archiving on the Web counts as prior publication in the precise
sense that one affirms in a copyright agreement stating that "it has
not previously been published"?

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

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Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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