Re: "Copyleft" article in New Scientist

From: Bernard Lang <>
Date: Tue, 12 Feb 2002 11:03:10 +0000

I do agree that toll-free access is the only essential issue, at this
time, and that mixing it with free software or open-content licences can
only muddle the issues ... at least where public discussions are
concerned, and current public action.

Considering alternative licences is however an interesting topic,
and ON A PERSONAL BASIS, authors can well chose to grant even more
freedom than called for by advocates of toll-free access to the
peer-reviewed research literature. I personally do allow people to
modify my papers, as long as it is clear who wrote what. Basically,
it allows for direct reuse of fragments of papers in other work. Just
my choice.

I am also concerned with fighting the data-base legislation, which
can also get in the way.

My licence is at:

If you are interested in variations and analyses of licences, for
text and other types of resources ... see

The page is in French, but it refers to documents in French and
English. I unfortunately cannot handle other languages. It has four
sections: licences for software, licences for text and/or for artistic
content, references to other sites, references to documents analyzing

I would like to point out that for textbooks, when the author is
WILLING, the situation is much like software. Textbooks are often
complex, and there are documents and management tools very similar to
what would constitute source code. Also, textbook often need
maintenance, to correct mistakes, make addition, follow the evolution
of the field, adapt to a specific teaching situation.
Free-software-like licences are then very useful.

I do know one case of an author fighting to get his textbook out of
the clutches of the publisher. The reason is that the textbook needs
maintenance to survive, and he no longer has the time to do it
himself, nor has anyone else, given the huge size of the book. The only
manageable solution is to let experts separately improve the sections
for which they are competent: This is pretty much an encyclopedia of
internet programming. Encyclopedias are actually a good example of
cooperative creation in the text world.

More generally, similar issues arise regarding the creation, evolution
and maintenance of educational resources.

But I do agree that these are problems quite different from the specific
on of toll-free access to the refereed research literature.


On Sun, Feb 10, 2002 at 03:21:39PM +0000, Stevan Harnad wrote:
> On Sun, 10 Feb 2002, Seth Johnson wrote:
> > Okay. As long as you're dealing with expressive wholes,
> > you're standing on legal precedent.
> >
> > It would help if some stipulations were made to assure that
> > it's clear you're talking about the original presentations,
> > presentations to which the author asserts authoritative
> > origin, and presentations of originality that may be false.
> > The factual elements of any expressive work are fair game.
> > This is essential from the standpoint of free online
> > collaboration.
> Here is a good rule of thumb for advocates of toll-free access to the
> peer-reviewed research literature:
> Don't aspire to be more royalist than the king, or more papist than the
> pope!
> What was enough for those who got access via tolls should also be enough
> for those who get access toll-free. No need to stipulate any more.
> OF COURSE the readers of articles in peer-reviewed journals are
> free to take the ideas and findings in those articles and build on them
> as they see fit in their own work. That's the very reason why the
> researchers published it in the first place!
> What we are referring to here is not the ideas and findings that are
> reported. Their usability was never in dispute. We are talking here
> about access to the TEXT. And it is the TEXT that may not be corrupted,
> or assigned a false authorship.
> (Moreover, using findings without citing their source is not a violation
> of copyright, though it may be exposable and punishable as violation
> of priority or even plagiarism in other senses.)
> These confusions come, again, I think, because of putting too much
> weight on the weak analogies between access to text and access to other
> things, such as software or music, and perhaps also on weak analogies
> between copyright and patent. When this happens, we are dealing with
> MISanalogies and not analogies, and we are better to remind ourselves
> of what the "use" of refereed journal articles has been all along,
> independent of whether it was accessed for-fee or for-free.
> Stevan Harnad

         Non aux Brevets Logiciels  -  No to Software Patents
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Received on Tue Feb 12 2002 - 11:03:47 GMT

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