Re: Moral rights in corrigenda

From: Chris Zielinski <informania_at_SUPANET.COM>
Date: Sat, 23 Feb 2002 14:27:29 -0000


Consider the process in this exchange: you put forward your
"Harnad-Oppenheim corrigendum" idea as a way around the risk of being
liable for self-piracy, I point out that it is not practically workable,
and you say my evidence it is "needless hair-splitting"! If you find the
detail of what I have to say unnecessary, fair enough, but my
macro-point is that corrigenda won't work practically, which is more
than an inconvenience to the strategy.

Second point: you say "Preprints + corrigenda give [potential users]
substantive access, legally," as though this was a fact - but is there
any evidence that this would be legal? I have seen papers strengthened
so considerably by the review and editorial process that the author's
original is virtually useless compared with the final version. Much of
the intervening work is not legally the author's: to claim it would be
to expose yourself to litigation, while to ignore it could render your
work useless for scientific communication. A rock and a hard place.

Third point "If a copy editor has corrected your grammar and you are
worried about copyright, leave that correction out of your corrigenda":
a) I'm not worried about copyright, but rather moral rights; b) all this
picking and choosing about what to leave in and what to leave out is
precisely the exasperating "nitpicking" that your unworkable strategy
would demand.

Fourth point: "don't worry about the corrections from the referees: they
weren't paid for, and they won't sue you!" We are talking about moral
rights: being paid has nothing to do with it. When referees are
responding to a request from a journal editor, the tradition is
anonymity and an implied waiver of moral rights. But if an author were
to claim moral rights in respect of a significant contribution from a
referee, clearly distinguished and listed in a set of corrigenda, the
referee may well raise a hand or dispute the claim. If the concern for
making fraudulent claims of moral rights is shared by the author, and as
a result the referee-proposed corrigendum is not included, the
self-archived paper would end up being impoverished.

Note that I entirely support self-archiving as a way of freeing up
scholarly communication. The above remarks are offered in a constructive
spirit of helping to build a solid position, as there are evident
weaknesses at present.

Chris Zielinski
Director, Information Waystations and Staging Posts Network
18 Monks Orchard, Petersfield, Hants GU32 2JD, United Kingdom
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-----Original Message-----
From: September 1998 American Scientist Forum
Sent: 18 February 2002 19:43
Subject: Re: Moral rights in corrigenda

On Mon, 18 Feb 2002, Chris Zielinski wrote:

> The theory that authors could claim moral rights to corrigenda is
> 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
> and a "support team"; this effort is traditionally ascribed to the
> author, as it would be difficult and considered of no economic value
> separate out the individual handiwork that took the originally
> 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,
> 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
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
> 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
> READ drain", line 27 FOR Franny READ Zooey), you would be separating
> 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
> 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
> 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 Sat Feb 23 2002 - 17:16:46 GMT

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