Re: Moral rights in corrigenda

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 18 Feb 2002 19:43:18 +0000

On Mon, 18 Feb 2002, Chris Zielinski wrote:

> The theory that authors could claim moral rights to corrigenda is fine,
> but I think in practice it would not hold up. Typically, a final
> canonical text arises as a result of a group effort including the author
> and a "support team"; this effort is traditionally ascribed to the
> author, as it would be difficult and considered of no economic value to
> separate out the individual handiwork that took the originally submitted
> ur-version to printed canonical version. Corrigenda consist of 1)
> revisions introduced by the author (as a result of reviewer comments,
> from new data, whimsically, etc.), 2) substantive, editorial, stylistic
> and other changes introduced by the editor (copy editor, proof reader,
> managing editor, passing tea-boy). Given this reality, I find the
> situation regarding both practicality and moral rights problematic.

Chris, I think this is needless hair-splitting about things we should not
spend time worrying about.

> However, when you propose to include corrigenda as an add-on to a
> preprint, I am not sure this works. First of all, consider the
> complexity involved in trying to provide readers with the bloodbath of
> edit-tracking that would represent some heavily edited papers - papers
> which have had their heading systems and structure significantly
> modified, sections transposed, tables inverted, added or deleted and the
> like.

All irrelevant. Just provide whatever substantive corrections need to
be made to the preprint to make it equivalent to the final draft
for research uses. Don't worry about verbatim quotes here: the
alternative is no access at all!

> And then, in any corrigendum presented sequentially ("Line 24, FOR brain
> READ drain", line 27 FOR Franny READ Zooey), you would be separating out
> the work done by each member of the "support team" - in public for the
> first time, and with a claim of moral rights to it all, despite the fact
> that the author was only responsible for corrections 1, 3, 17 and 23,
> while the copy editor introduced 2,5,etc., the managing editor
> rearranged the heading system and proposed the change in the tables that
> made the data intelligible, etc.

Chris, I regret I again find this to be needless hair-splitting about

> Sorry if I'm labouring the point, but I see problems 1) in terms of
> practicality of rendering all changes in intelligible corrigenda , and
> 2) in asserting moral rights over such corrigenda.

I think we need to remind ourselves what the real issues are here, to
keep all this in perspective, and in proportion:

There are 20,000 refereed journals, publishing 2 million articles (just
corrected down from my 4M estimate by Andrew Odlyzko). Most of those
articles are inaccessible to most of their potential users because
their institutions cannot afford access. Preprints + corrigenda give
them substantive access, legally. (If a copy editor has corrected
your grammar and you are worried about copyright, leave that
correction out of your corrigenda; but don't worry about the
corrections from the referees: they weren't paid for, and they won't
sue you!)

Stevan Harnad
Received on Mon Feb 18 2002 - 19:43:27 GMT

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