Re: PostGutenberg Copyrights and Wrongs for Give-Away Research

From: Fytton Rowland <J.F.Rowland_at_LBORO.AC.UK>
Date: Mon, 22 Jul 2002 12:39:43 +0100

There is still confusion about the term "intellectual property" (IP) here. IP
is not a propaganda term; it is an accurate description -- if I make somethin
new, it is my property and I can decide whether to sell it, give it away, lease
it, bequeath it or whatever. If I decide to sell, or give away, my IP to a
publisher, I lose the right to distribute copies myself unless my agreement
with the publishing company permits me to. If I retain the IP myself but
choose to give away copies for nothing to anybody who wants one, I can still
prevent others from selling (or giving away) copies without my permission. But
whether I transfer the IP to someone else or not, in the case of text, I still
retain the moral right to be identified as its author, and for it not to be
changed, etc.

Am I right?

Fytton Rowland.

Quoting Stevan Harnad <>:

> On Sun, 21 Jul 2002, Richard Stallman wrote:
> >sh>Texts that an author has himself written are his own intellectual
> >sh>property.
> >
> > To refer to a text as someone's "intellectual property" spreads a
> > dangerous propaganda term which also spreads confusion. (See
> > for more explanation
> > of why this is so.)
> Richard, I've read the GNU passage, and I agree that "intellectual
> property" is not a good descriptor for software, as code can be built
> onto and out of others' code and programmers and users are better served
> if the code is open and can be modified by others.
> But this formula simply does not fit text. The text I write is indeed my
> intellectual property, even if it is give-away text. All that means is
> that no one else is allowed to claim to have authored it.
> Now that I have read your recommended passage, can I ask you to read
> mine?
> "5. PostGutenberg Copyright Concerns"
> We are in agreement that copyright lawyers and perhaps legislators are
> trying to force disparate things -- like music, patents, software, and
> texts (both give-away and non-give-away) -- into the same Procrstean
> bed, and that the results are not only unsatisfactory but sometimes even
> logically incoherent.
> But it is important that you should not do the same thing either! What
> is good for and true of software is not necessarily good for and true of
> texts.
> >sh>The text is still the author's
> >sh>intellectual property," in the sense that authorship is retained by
> >sh>he author, and the text may not be plagiarized by anyone,
> >
> > That is even more confusing, since it stretches the meaning of
> > "intellectual property" even further than normal.
> Not at all. What could be simpler? I wrote this text. No one else may
> claim to have written it. End of story. (The rest is about whether or
> not I deem it a give-away text.)
> Copyright has (and always has had) at least two functions:
> (1) To protect against theft-of-text-authorship (plagiarism)
> (2) To protect against theft-of-text (piracy, a word I know you don't
> like, when applied to software, but perfectly valid when applied to
> non-give-away text)
> ALL text authors want copyright protection of their intellectual
> property
> (sic), their text, from (1), theft-of-text-authorship (plagiarism).
> Only NON-give-away authors want copyright protection of their
> intellectual
> property, their non-give-away text, from (2), theft-of-text (piracy).
> You are quite right that (1) has nothing to do with "copying" in the
> sense of making copies bearing the author's correct name. So perhaps the
> legal protection against plagiarism should not be subsumed under
> "copyright" law in this sense. But that is a mere terminological matter,
> for one can certainly describe copying my text without my name, and
> affixing your name to it, as an illicit form of copying. So maybe it
> should stay under copyright law after all.
> > To avoid confusion, I suggest you rewrite it as follows:
> >
> > When you write an article, you are the copyright holder; you
> > are free to give away or sell copies, on-paper or on-line
> > (e.g., by self-archiving), as you see fit.
> Unfortunately, that does not quite cover it. For an author may be
> foolish enough to sign a copyright transfer agreement, assigning all
> rights to give away or sell his texts, online or on paper, to someone
> else, say, a publisher. But that would still not alter the matter of
> intellectual property, i.e., authorship. He would still be the author.
> And if someone else claimed to have authored it, it would still be a
> violation of his rights, even after he had assigned the copyright,
> without restrictions, to a publisher.
> I am not an expert in this (nor especially interested in it, I might
> add), but I believe that it is only if an author puts his text in the
> public domain that he loses the intellectual property rights, i.e., he
> cannot prosecute someone for plagiarizing it.
> (I am not sure about this last matter, and someone may wish to correct
> me,
> but please, let us not side-track the Forum discussion into these
> esoteric
> paths as it
> is not what we are concerned about here. We are concerned with GIVEAWAY
> texts -- peer-reviewed research articles -- for which their authors
> definitely want to retain authorship; but they also want them accessible
> for free for all.)
> See also:
> "PostGutenberg Copyrights and Wrongs for Give-Away Research"
> 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):
> or
> Discussion can be posted to:
> See also the Budapest Open Access Initiative:
> and the Free Online Scholarship Movement:
Received on Mon Jul 22 2002 - 12:39:43 BST

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