Legal deposit of self-archived documents

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 29 Mar 2002 14:24:26 +0100

> On Fri, 29 Mar 2002, Patrizia Cotoneschi wrote:
> I am writing you regarding the legal deposit of OAI archives.
> A group of users belonging to the Departiment of Agriculture would like
> to have this further recognition of the OAI archive of the University
> of Florenze.
> Giovanni Bergamin and I tried to reflect on this problem and in the end
> we decided that an OAI archive does not need the legal deposit because
> it is in itself a recognised archive not only by the University of
> Florence but also by the international scientific community.
> We would like to know what is your opinion on this matter, because
> probably these authors will not join the initiative without the legal
> deposit in the National Library and so we want to be sure that what we
> thought is correct.
> Patrizia Cotoneschi
> Firenze University Press
> Borgo Albizi, 28
> Firenze
> email:

Dear Patrizia,

As I am not a lawyer, my reply cannot be taken as legal advice, but it
can be checked with legal experts. I am addressing only the logical
issues of legal deposit.

What materials do you have in mind? For the material with which the BOAI
(Budapest Open Access Initiative)
is most concerned -- peer reviewed journal articles -- the author and
institution have no new legal-deposit concerns, any more than they
did before self-archiving.

These papers are all still appearing in journals, and whoever and
wherever the legal deposit of those journals was made previously, there
is nothing in the self-archiving that need or will or should change any
of that now. (It might change eventually, if the journals change, e.g.,
if they become online-only journals, or open-access journals, but not

For now, the only change is in the author-institution's practice, in
that the peer-reviewed articles, IN ADDITION to what was the case
before, and in parallel with it, are ALSO being deposited in the author's
institutional Eprint archive so as to make their full texts openly
accessible to all. No separate or further legal deposit is required;
these are simply extra public copies of what is already legally
deposited elsewhere as before.

Now what about material that is NOT being published in a peer-reviewed
journal? Let us consider two categories: (1) preprints, which have not
appeared in peer-reviewed journals yet, but are submitted, and will
probably appear eventually, perhaps after substantial revision; and (2)
"gray" literature which the author has not, and does not plan to submit
for publication, so that the self-archived version is the "locus
classicus" (and "solus").

For both these categories I would advise the authors to do what they
think is best for the security of their work: The preprints can be
legally deposited in the national legal repository of the author and the
author's institution, as can the gray literature, and this can be done
in paper or digital form, whatever is current practice and most
convenient. (My prediction is that national legal repositories will
before long not only be accepting digital deposits, but will be
encouraging that they be OAI-compliant;
national repositories may then even play a role in the global security
and preservation of the distributed digital corpus.)

But the preprints and gray literature should not be confused with the
published peer-reviewed drafts. The latter are not separate, independent
publications at all (as the preprints and gray papers might be
considered to be); their locus classicus is elsewhere, and its legal
deposit requirements continue to be met there as they were before the
self-archiving era.

My hypothesis as to what was in the back of the minds of your
agricultural colleagues is that it was either the familiar old
self-publishing/self-archiving confusion:

    "1.4. Distinguish self-publishing (vanity press) from
    self-archiving (of published, refereed research)"

or one or more of the following worries (all of which have obvious
solutions: see FAQs below):

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):
Discussion can be posted to:

See also the Budapest Open Access Initiative:
Received on Fri Mar 29 2002 - 14:25:32 GMT

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