Re: Copyright: Form, Content, and Prepublication Incarnations

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 8 Nov 2001 13:54:09 +0000

On Wed, 7 Nov 2001, Joseph Pietro Riolo posted to

> On Mon, 22 Oct 2001, Stevan Harnad <> wrote:
> >
> > (6) If and when it is accepted for publication, THAT final draft,
> > including the value added by the refereeing process (and perhaps also
> > the editing, markup, formatting), is the one on which the author is
> > asked to transfer copyright to the publisher.
> I find that hard to believe. If a final draft is substantially
> similar to the first draft, I doubt that the U.S. Copyright law
> will provide two separate copyrights, one for the first draft and
> one for the final draft. Even if there are differences between the
> first and final drafts, the author can claim the second copyright
> only on the expressions in the final draft that are not found in
> the first draft. But, in no way he can claim one copyright on the
> entirety of the first draft and again claim a second copyright on the
> entirety of the second draft.

There are two almost entirely independent dimensions of copyright

CT: Protection from theft-of-text (piracy, illicit acquisition or sale of
the copyright owner's text)


CA: Protection from theft-of-authorship (plagiarism, the claim to
having written the author's text).

     5. PostGutenberg Copyright Concerns

The author, being the author, can and does claim CA, intellectual
ownership (authorship), for the content of ALL versions of a text
that he has written.

But the specific authors we are discussing in the American Scientist
Forum, the authors of refereed journal articles, do not seek the other
aspect of copyright protection, CT, because they are not selling -- or
seeking or making sales revenue from -- their texts. The texts are
author give-aways. Nor do they seek to make sales revenue from them in
the future.

I don't know what Riola's recommended strategy (below) of putting one's
text in the public domain does to CA (is one just as protected against
plagiarism as if one retains the copyright?). But in any event, for the
special literature at issue here -- the annual articles in the 20,000
refereed journals worldwide -- there is no reason or advantage or need
for their authors to declare their texts to be public domain works,
particularly in advance of submitting them for refereeing and
publication. That would be only to ask for needless complications, as
the publisher might well conclude that if the texts are public domain
already, he cannot protect his potential sales revenue against CT in
any medium, even paper.

No, the sensible thing to do (for the specific give-away authors we are
concerned with here) is not to make their pre-refereeing preprints
PUBLIC DOMAIN, but merely to make them PUBLIC (by self-archiving them
publicly on-line), while retaining the copyright.

> > (8) If (7) is refused, the author merely self-archives and links a
> > corrigenda file to the already self-archived preprint, indicating
> > publicly what changes need to made in the already publicly archived
> > preprint in order to make it equivalent to the final draft.
> Instead of going through many intricate steps, why not just dedicate
> an article to the public domain in one step and be done with it?

For the simple reason that publishers rightly balk at publishing
public-domain texts. The authors of unrefereed preprints want them to
be refereed and accepted for publication as refereed postprints.
Publishers need at least a license to publish, if not full transfer
of copyright. But neither can be given by an author whose text is already
public domain.

> > A little reflection will remind us that copyright law was never
> > conceived or intended for this anomalous, nonrepresentative minority
> > consisting of give-away texts. It was conceived and intended for the
> > the majority, non-give-away texts, those for which their authors (in
> > collaboration with their publishers) wish to make MONEY (through
> > royalties, fees or salary) in exchange for the product:
> Copyright is not about money exclusively.

This statement is completely incorrect (and, I suspect, at the heart
of the incessant confusion, verging on nonsense, that surrounds the
copyright issue when one fails to make a clear distinction between
give-away and non-give-away texts, and between CT and CA).

    1. Five Essential PostGutenberg Distinctions

> It is about control
> (that is why copyright is called as a limited monopoly) and money
> is a consequence of the control. While the authors of the
> give-away texts may have no interest in money, they still retain
> control over the texts. This is what copyright law is intended
> for. History shows that copyright was an offspring of censorship
> which also concerns about the control.

All irrelevant to the special authorship and texts under consideration
here. The only thing the authors of refereed research papers want is
CA: Protection from theft-of-authorship (plagiarism). No one else
should be allowed to claim to have written my papers. As long as my
name appears as author (and the text is not corrupted), you may buy it,
sell it, or steal it. I do not care.

> Moreover, because an author of a give-away text still retains
> control over it, he can change his mind and change it to a
> non-give-away text.

But for the literature that we are discussing -- the refereed research
literature -- that possibility is completely irrelevant.

> > A URL can perhaps be removed from its original site if the author
> > acquiesces, and if that site is still under the control of the
> > self-archiving author. But when it comes to the countless mirrors,
> > caches, back-up archives and local/global downloads netwide, and their
> > own respective continuing lifelines and sequelae -- i.e., the "further
> > circulation" -- forget it!
> While it is almost impossible to eliminate all unauthorized copies
> of copyrighted works, the copyright holders have plenty of time -
> at least 70 years - to seek, find, and destroy the unauthorized
> copies. When they find the unauthorized copies, the copyright law
> is on their side. Also, the format of storage where the archives
> are kept in may be obsoleted and unless the owners of the storage
> put in a lot of effort to copy the storage to a new format,
> the unauthorized copies disappear naturally.

Apples, oranges, and orangutans!

First, the give-away author is not interested in seeking, finding and
destroying unauthorized copies.

Second, anyone who is, really has his work cut out for him, if he wants
to trawl, for 70 years, the endless residue of mirrors and caches and
backups etc. in the bowels of the internet, the virtually
indestructible digital detritus of texts that have once been made public

Third, the "preservation" (non)-problem would in fact be working in
favor of such a schizophrenic give-away/non-give-away author, rather
than against him (if for/against has any meaning in such an incoherent

Stevan Harnad

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 amsci site.

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Received on Thu Nov 08 2001 - 13:55:24 GMT

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