Commercial re-use of openly accessible refereed research

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 26 Jan 2002 11:31:49 +0000

On Fri, 25 Jan 2002, Charles W. Bailey, Jr. wrote:

> Thanks for your reply.
> Let's assume that Psycoloquy was fully open access.
> Would you (or your contributors) care if a commercial publisher
> took Psycoloquy, reformatted it, indexed it, published it in print
> form, sold it, and kept all profits?
> Would you care if they also offered an electronic version for a
> fee that had system capabilities not found in the original, such
> as reference links to articles in commercial journals?
> Best Regards,
> Charles
> Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Assistant Dean for Systems,
> University of Houston, Library Administration,
> 114 University Libraries, Houston, TX 77204-2000.
> E-mail: Voice: (713) 743-9804.
> Fax: (713) 743-9811.

Dear Charles,

First, Psycoloquy is
indeed fully open access.

Second, I am really not sure what answer to give to your question.
Perhaps I have not thought the possibilities through sufficiently.
But here is my first approximation to an answer (thinking as
an author/contributor):

(1) The material in full-text, open-access journals (e.g.
Psycoloquy) consists of peer-reviewed research.

(2) The authors of this peer-reviewed research do not seek
fees or royalties for their work. They seek only research
impact (i.e., that it should be visible, read, cited, used).

(3) If a commercial secondary publisher (or anyone else) decides to
"use" the texts by repackaging and enhancing them, and offering them
for sale, it seems to me that this is a victimless act. (It is a crime
only if the authorship and original source are not clearly indicated,
or the text is altered or corrupted in some way -- but those are other
matters: you asked about simply re-using it for sale.)

(4) At worst, commercial re-packaging and sale can simply fail to sell,
because users will prefer to use the free version; at best, it can add
a bit more impact to the research.

(5) Most of the world's 20,000 refereed journals are not online-only
at the moment, with their full-texts accessible online from the
publisher toll-free: The paper version, as well as the publisher's
online version must be paid for by users. This too is no problem
for the author/institution self-archiving of the refereed final drafts
of those same papers. The two versions -- for-free and [possibly
enhanced] for-fee -- can peacefully co-exist as long as there is a
market for the for-fee version.

In summary, I think (unless your concerns are indeed about
text-corruption or plagiarism, which is another matter), that you might
be mixing conventional concerns about royalty-seeking literature (such
as books) with the special case of this give-away corpus (peer-reviewed
research), whose authors do not seek royalties, but merely seek to
maximize visibility, access, useage and impact.

Best wishes,

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
Received on Sat Jan 26 2002 - 11:32:00 GMT

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