Re: PostGutenberg Copyrights and Wrongs for Give-Away Research

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 1 Jun 2001 12:02:44 +0100

> > On Wed, 30 May 2001, Albert Henderson wrote:
> Speaking more generally, it is clear that there is a
> sense of publication when a work is made available on an
> Internet database. This medium is different from printing
> and distributing a number of copies. It differs from print,
> in this context, in that it can begin and also end on the
> author's command.
> When the author asks a publisher to invest in the work,
> transferring the copyright to leverage that investment,
> the author has a duty to remove the alternative form
> of the work from public access when the copyright is
> transferred.
> [snip, snip, snip]

In Albert's snips he has unfortunately deleted the portion that already
replies to this. No matter how one tries to fit the PostGutenberg Web
into this Procrustean Gutenberg Bed, it cannot be done, and hence
legislation cannot be predicated on it (i.e., on doing the undoable):

Once a text has been publicly archived by its author at one website, it
is mirrored, cached, harvested, stored and restored at countless other
sites Webwide till Doomsday. This Juggernaut is decidedly NOT under the
"author's command," and it is unstoppable. If it would be hard to
demonstrate that the pre-copyright preprint at the designated website
would hurt sales, it would be impossible to demonstrate that the
countless other cached copies MINUS that website would hurt them any
less. And all this, remember, PRE-DATES the copyright transfer.

(And all this without even considering the slippery slope of how much
constitutes a prior "alternative form"...)

So the only utility in invoking such obsolete, unenforceable, and
incoherent legalistic menaces now is to temporarily intimidate the
average, short-sighted researcher into needlessly refraining from
self-archiving right now. This filibuster may work for a few years yet,
but not if I (and others) can help it: The word too will propagate,
just as the cached copies do...

May I suggest that Albert instead direct his efforts toward protecting
the vast majoritarian texts (books, magazines, newspapers) that are NOT
author give-aways, from consumer cyberpiracy, via napster and gnutella?
The tiny minoritarian author give-away literature (20K refereed
journals-full per annum) is just a flea on the tail of this dog, and
its liberation by its own authors is not only optimal (for research and
researchers and society) and inevitable, but just: It can only be
delayed by disinformation, not stopped.

In the past decade, 150,000 such papers have already been self-archived
by the Physicists (who are decidedly more far-sighted than the average
researcher, and will get historic credit for having led the way)
without a single attempt at legal action along the lines Albert is here

Wizard-of-Oz intimidation is the last recourse of the defenders of
an obsolete and indefensible means of disseminating give-away
refereed research findings.

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):

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Received on Wed Jan 03 2001 - 19:17:43 GMT

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