Re: ELSSS project (ELectronic Society for the Social Sciences)

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 12 Mar 2001 11:15:30 +0000

On Mon, 12 Mar 2001, Rob Walker wrote:

> I found this posting highly informative and very helpful. Over the
> years I have become increasingly concerned at the stranglehold that
> the major publishers seem to have over academic publishing. As an
> individual it has affected me only in small ways - something I had
> published in a journal being reprinted in a book without my knowledge
> or consent (the publisher owns the copyright), being asked high fees
> for the right to republish journal material on a CDROM intended for
> student use (the publisher etc). It seems to me that we sign away our
> intellectual property too easily and some time ago I began inserting
> clauses into agreements saying that I would not sign over copyright
> to private companies on work that was government sponsored. A move
> that seemed to cause some irritation but not much more.
> This issue is one I think we need to take seriously and act together
> on. I would welcome further discussion,


In order to make sense of all this it is absolutely essential that
certain distinctions be explicitly made. If you do not make these
distinctions, if you conflate different, unrelated, sometimes even
opposing aspects of "intellectual property" and try to treat them all
in one uniform, "one-size-fits-all" way, the current confusion will
just continue.

There is no generalized "stranglehold" that "publishers" exert over
"academic publishing." Academic publishing (whatever that is!) has
many different forms, and they have to be treated distinctly. In
general, book publishing is not the same as journal publishing, and
that is the most important cut to make. And royalty issues are not the
same as (indeed, they are in opposition to) access/impact issues.

Please see:

    Harnad, S. (2001) For Whom the Gate Tolls? How and Why to Free the
    Refereed Research Literature Online Through Author/Institution
    Self-Archiving, Now.

Excerpts below:

    5. PostGutenberg Copyright Concerns

    There is a great deal of concern about copyright in the digital
    age, and some of it may not be easily resolvable (e.g., what to do
    about the pirating of software and music). But none of that need
    detain us here, because digital piracy is only a problem for
    non-give-away work, whereas we are concerned here only with
    give-away work. (Again, failing to make the give-away/non-give-away
    distinction leads only to confusion, and the misapplication of the
    much bigger and more representative non-give-away model to the
    anomalous give-away corpus, which it does not fit.)

    The following digital copyright concerns are relevant to the
    non-give-away literature only:

    5.1. Protecting Intellectual Property (royalties)

            This is as much of a concern to authors of books as to
            authors of screenplays, music, and computer programs. It is
            also a concern to performers who have made digital audio or
            video disks of their work. They do not wish to see that
            work stolen; they want their fair share of the
            gate-receipts in return for their talent and efforts in
            producing the work.

            But the producers of refereed research reports do not wish
            to have protection from "theft" of this kind; on the
            contrary, they wish to encourage it. They have no royalties
            to gain from preventing it; they have only research impact
            to lose from access-blockage of any kind.

    5.2. Allowing Fair Use (user issue)

            "Fair Use" is another worthy concern. It has to do with
            certain sanctioned uses of non-give-away material, such as
            all or parts of books, magazine articles, etc., often for
            teaching purposes; the producers of these works do not wish
            to lose their potential royalty/fee-income from these

            The producers of refereed research reports, in contrast,
            wish to give their work away; hence fair-use issues are
            moot for this special give-away literature.

    5.3. Preventing Theft of Text (piracy)

            The producers of refereed research reports do not wish to
            prevent the theft of their texts; they wish to facilitate
            it as much as possible. (In the on-paper era they used to
            purchase and mail reprints to requesters at their own

    The following digital copyright concern is relevant to all
    literature, both give-away and non-give-away:

    5.4. Preventing Theft of Authorship (plagiarism)

            No author wants any other author to claim to have been the
            author of his work. This concern is shared by all authors,
            give-away and non-give-away. But it has nothing whatsoever
            to do with concerns about theft-of-text, and should not be
            conflated with such concerns in any way: Give-away work
            need not be held hostage to non-give-away concerns about
            theft-of-text under the pretext of "protecting" it from
            theft-of-authorship. (Unfortunately, many journal
            publishers try to write and use their copyright transfer
            agreements for precisely this purpose, and authors need to
            become aware of it.)

    The following digital copyright concern is relevant to the
give-away literature only:

    5.5. Guaranteeing Author Give-Away Rights

            Apart from the protection from plagiarism and the assurance
            of priority that all authors seek, the only other
            "protection" the give-away author of refereed research
            reports seeks is protection of his give-away rights!

            (The intuitive model for this is advertisements: what
            advertiser wants to lose his right to give away his ads for
            free, diminishing their potential impact by charging for
            access to them!)

            Well, there is no need for the authors of refereed research
            to worry about exercising their give-away rights, for they
            can do it, legally, even under the most restrictive
            copyright agreement, by using the following strategy.

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

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