Re: For Whom the Gate Tolls?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sun, 11 Feb 2001 19:26:07 +0000

On Sun, 11 Feb 2001, Jim Till wrote:

> In his article 'For Whom the Gate Tolls?' (at:
> Stevan Harnad wrote: " is the much larger and more
> representative non-give-away literature that has always been
> the model for copyright law and copyright concerns. But
> copyright protection from theft-of-authorship (plagiarism),
> which is essential for both give-away and non-give-away
> authors, has nothing at all to do with copyright protection
> from theft-of-text (piracy), which non-give-away authors want
> but give-away authors do not want."
> I didn't see any mention of patents in Stevan's article. One concern
> that has been expressed to me recently about open self-archiving of
> preprints (e.g. in biomedical fields relevant to biotechnology), is
> that it should only to be done *after* patent protection has been
> sought.

Jim Till's well-intentioned point unfortunately raises a red herring
(one that's raised over and over again, so worth laying to rest here).

The point is related not only to the give-away/non-give-away
distinction that that paper repeatedly stress must be made (otherwise
none of this will make sense); it is also related to the
self-archiving/self-publishing distinction, as well as the
preprint/postprint distinction:

A good way to ward off this sort of red herring is to keep it in mind
that, in the first instance, it is REFEREED, PUBLISHED ARTICLES that
the self-archiving initiative is aimed at freeing. (It is not about
self-publishing; and it is not particularly about unrefereed
preprints either! Those are just an optional bonus.).

Is there a "patent" problem for refereed journal articles? of course
not! If the author has decided to publish them, that's the end of it.
If the author is not publishing them: Nolo contendere!

Patented findings are of course non-give-away. Authors who wish to
protect their priority will not want to submit their unpatented
findings even to the referees of refereed journals, let alone to have
them published, until and unless they are sure the findings have patent

So they simply don't submit or publish them, of course! That's not the
concern of the self-archiving initiative, which is dedicated to freeing
from needless access barriers those papers that the author DOES wish to
make public. Papers that the author has reason NOT to make public are
simply not relevant.

Having said that, there are those (such as my colleague at Southampton,
Adrian Pickering, q.v.), whose special interest is creating tools for
establishing primacy and digital text-authentication. In principle, it
will be possible to establish primacy by publicly self-archiving (and
date-stamping) an encrypted text that no one can decode until and unless
the author decrypts it. This would be a way to self-archive
not-yet-patented findings anyway (but it is not a particular concern of
the self-archiving initiative).

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 the ongoing discussion of providing free
access to the refereed journal literature online is available at the
American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01):

You may join the list at the site above.

Discussion can be posted to:
Received on Wed Jan 03 2001 - 19:17:43 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:46:02 GMT