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

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2000 10:43:22 +0000

On Mon, 13 Mar 2000, Alan Story wrote:

> 1. It may well be that "securing paper copies for teachers
> and students is not the focus of this Forum." Fine. But if
> those who have initiated this list and support the
> self-archiving proposal ( and I think, as well, that it has
> a number of merits....) wish self archiving to have a
> practical future outside the confines of this list, I think
> that you do need to provide some answers to the type of
> questions that I and others have asked.

Alan, all researchers want their give-away refereed research to be
available free for educational purposes too. And that will definitely be
a spin-off of the open archiving initiative. But at this point, when
there are still so many confusions and conflicts-of-interest, and the
status quo is still firmly entrenched, it is extremely important to
sort out the immediate, relevant, justifiable and implementable DRIVERS
of this transition. Otherwise it will be wrapped into vaguer and more
general "information democracy" views -- with which most of us also
happen to sympathize, but which are up against much sterner market
forces than the self-archiving initiative for the the give-away
research literature faces today.

So, please, let us not talk here about paper and xeroxing costs and
copyright-clearance fees for xeroxing, and about books, and about access
to computers for students and the third world, etc. That simply is not
our remit. Our remit is the refereed research literature. (And this
American Scientist Forum encompasses not just the subscribers to this
list, but all researchers, scientists and scholars alike.) Our immediate
objective is to make that refereed research literature available, free
for all, online. We have direct, research-based interests and
justification for this move. It is highly desirable in the interests of
the conduct and progress of the research itself, which it the reason we
are publishing it in the first place.

Spin-offs -- such as remedying the library serials crisis, reducing
educational costs, enfranchising the third world -- are all extremely
welcome, but they would not in themselves directly justify what we are
trying to do. To see this, just try to translate this into the terms of
the NON-giveaway literature (paper journals, textbooks, monographs,
educational materials, including multimedia). The critical factor is
that the material must be a GIVEAWAY from the author's standpoint, and
there must be a way of covering essential costs. Apart from the
refereed journal literature online, little else meets this criterion
(in general: there is always a "vanity press" lure for beginners and
self-promoters, and self-funded altruists, but in general, non-giveaway
authors are out to make a buck).

Nor would the rationale for freeing the refereed literature be sound if
it were based on educational rather than research considerations. If
research were well-served by toll-gated access, few researchers could be
persuaded to bother with self-archiving for educational purposes
(because so little of the refereed journal literature is ever relevant
to educational uses!).

So print-on-paper, educational materials, and books are simply not the
focus of this Forum, and what it is trying to do: although the benign
implications are there, and real, they are not ALLIES in the cause right
now, but distractors, and, to a certain extent, actually at odds with our
otherwise very clear-cut direct rationale.

> In other
> words, what I assume to be central to the self-archiving
> proposal is the creation of a non-tollgated public
> domain of academic writing...or, in property terms,making
> such material, in part, common property (though
> reserving and preserving the important right of
> attribution, the right to include where this material came
> from....or who created it and how it became common
> property.)

Only one category of academic writing is involved here: The refereed
journal literature (and its pre-refereeing precursor preprints). This
"domain" already exists, and needs only to be FREED (online). It has no
kindred domains (with the exception of some esoteric no-market
monographs and a few author-saints; nothing whatever is gained by
conflating it with the vanity press).

To free it, authors need only one thing: The right to archive it openly
on the Web. All paper-sales rights, for example, can safely be transferred to
the publisher, as before (but noting, of course, that, human nature
being what it is, this eventually dooms paper sales). No need for a new
"public domain" literature; and the Web is already in place. And
intellectual rights -- what I called copyright protection from
theft-of-authorship -- remain in place; it is only protection form
theft-of-text that these giveaway authors renounce (by open archiving

> 2. So the first question is, who makes up this "all"? From
> my reading of list, I take it your first priority is online
> access by researchers,those who produce for archives and
> those who wish to use archives in their own research.
> (call them Group A) Again fine. But what about others? That
> is, teachers who want to use such material for teaching
> purposes, students, those who want to make paper copies,
> those without personal online access, those in GROUP A who
> are also teachers(call them Group B). Unless A can convince
> B that this proposal is a good one, that is, also in their
> interest, and unite A &B to oppose the opponents of
> self-archiving (and your forum has contained plenty of
> details on these "baddies"), this proposal will have a
> short shelf life and never catch on,I suggest, beyond A.

A would probably be much better off if B stayed out of it for now!

A's case for freeing the refereed literature is extremely strong, and A
has the advantage of being its AUTHOR too. The case for B (especially in
paper) is much weaker, it involves more fundamental conflicts of
interest, and injecting it simply weakens and beclouds A's case. Yet,
once A's direct case has prevailed, B too will be the beneficiary.

So let B stay out of it for now.

> 3. In this regard, C. Green statement that "soon we'll
> simply expect students" to have "hand-held devices that
> access the web remotely e.g. from the classroom" is
> interesting. I ask: who will pay for them? individuals? the
> state (that is, taxpayers)? And where? In affluent 1st
> world countries? In poorer 3rd world countries? This is a
> question this list needs to address, I think.

Don't you see that if the researcher's case -- for freeing his giveaway
research reports for the use of the fellow-researchers everywhere for
whom he wrote it, and for the sake of the progress of the research
itself -- is conflated with the question of who pays for hand-held
devices in the classroom then the optimal and inevitable outcome will
be delayed till doomsday? The fact is that the researcher's case for
freeing his own research reports is NOT contingent IN ANY WAY on who
pays for hand-held classroom devices, and whether or not they ought to
be free. Not should it be.

> And if you
> don't and do not take into account the trends in higher
> education finance in the UK, the US and elsewhere, you
> face the danger of creating a further "information rich"
> / " information poor" divide.

Nothing of the sort. Freeing the research literature online now will have
all the spinoff effects you desire, including the (secondary) DRIVING of
demand for and provision of the means to access it (for teachers, students,
3rd world). Indeed, just the online freeing of the research literature
will be an enormous boon for the disenfranchised 3rd world researcher
right now: The current serials and foreign-currency crisis is a MUCH
more restrictive filter on 3rd-world researcher access to the research
literature than the current limited 3rd-world hardware and networking
equipment-level for online access!

> I assume, in other words,
> that you actually do want to create an information
> democracy and not reproduce the current and unjust
> market-based and property-based (that is, private property
> based) system in information.

I happen to be a socialist; but the research self-archiving movement,
its rationale and its objectives, have absolutely nothing to do with
that. We do not need to take on capitalism in order to achieve those
face-valid objectives!

> And although hard copy is
> already on the decline, it still will be around for
> some time I suggest and in some places, for much
> longer than others.

Completely irrelevant. I wish here to disavow any involvement in
attempts to get around hard-copy restrictions (lowering cost of
serials, reducing or eliminating photo-copying and paper rights costs).
My case is infinitely stronger than any of these, and should not be
weighed down by them. Besides, indirectly, it will remedy them all

> It will be a very long time before
> university students in Zimbabwe (Group B) have hand-held
> web access devices. Will Group A simply be
> researcher + the richest students in 1st world countries?
> So such access issues must be examined.

As I said, free online access for everyone now will already be a Godsend
to Zimbabwe researchers, even with their current limited online access
hardware, compared to their current toll-gated paper access. And it will
provide one of the best rationales for upgrading those access resources,
once they offer these new intellectual riches free for all.

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

NOTE: A complete archive of this ongoing discussion of providing free
access to the refereed journal literature is available at the American
Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00):

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

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