Re: PostGutenberg Copyrights and Wrongs for Give-Away Research

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 4 Mar 2003 13:03:02 +0000

On Tue, 4 Mar 2003, Pam Davies wrote:

> But in the context of learning and teaching there are indeed possible
> uses that the author might want which are "not provided by permanent
> full-text open-access on the web:"

In the growing momentum toward open-access to refereed research a number
of sticking-points have held back progress until now, and this needless
and hard-to-defend linkage between research goals and teaching goals is
one of them.

The researcher/author's rationale and justification for open-access and
self-archiving is and must be purely research-based. The objective against
which no publisher can or will place himself into direct opposition
is the goal of maximizing the impact of the published research. Research
is written for fellow-researchers. Research impact means those
fellow-researchers taking up the research and using and building on it
in turn in their own research. Not constraining *that* in
any avoidable way (given the remarkable new possibilities created
by the online age) is the clarion call of the open-access movement:

Yes, there may be other beneficial side-effects of open access too:
Greater access for the developing world, greater access to teachers
and students and the general public, perhaps even eventual relief for
the library serials crisis. But those other beneficial side-effects are
not only *not* ones that the publishers need to heed, because they are
*not* specific to the intrinsic purposes of doing refereed research,
but they are in fact blurring and blunting the one true, incontestable
rationale for open-access: That the research is for researchers, for
research impact, and the online medium makes open access to it possible
at last.

To put it very simply: It would be difficult, indeed impossible, for a
publisher to explicitly deny the researcher's right to maximise the
impact of his own research by self-archiving it so as to make it openly
accessible for all its potential researcher/users in the new online
medium. To add the stipulation "and for course-packs too" is simply to
open up an altogether different can-of-worms, one that would be very hard
to argue on its own merits alone. (Publisher: "So, does this mean I have
to agree to open-access with course-pack rights for your textbooks and
books too?")

In the context of learning and teaching, I know where libraries are
coming from, with their struggles for fair-use, both for the work of
their own local authors, and for the work of authors at other
institutions. But this is a *completely different* ball-game, and has
complexities of its own -- complexities of which the refereed research
literature, and the rationale of opening access to it for the sake
of research-use and research-impact, is itself thankfully free.

To obtrude these other, wider and less defensible concerns onto the
clearcut, focused case for open access for the sake of research impact,
is simply to condemn the growing progress toward open-access to more
years of unsuccessful wrangling with publishers. Copyright retention is
not *needed*. Nor is the right to make course-packs. All that is needed is
the right to publicly self-archive the full-text on the web. The force
behind the rationale for open access in that case is the new online medium
itself: The *web* is what has made it possible at last for researchers
to maximise the potential impact of their own give-away work (refereed
research) -- written (unlike other writings, such as textbooks or books)
for research impact alone -- by maximising access to it online. To now
add the issue of "paper access for teaching purposes for those who do
not have web access" is simply inviting needless (and understandable)

And for no reason! Because teaching uses *will* be hugely enhanced by
making this precious corpus (20K+ journals' worth) openly accessible to
all web-users. We must resist the temptation to try to force the
open-access movement to lie in the procustean bed with other (worthy but
papyrocentric) causes. Doing so will not enhance the other causes; it
will merely encumber -- gratuitously -- the cause of open-access.

> 1: in reply to Stevan's point 4: The key words are "as long as the others
> too have web-access". But not everyone has access to the web. There are
> courses taught by distance learning, either by post or by face-to-face
> tuition in off-campus locations, where the students do not all have
> networked PCs. In some cases a tutor would like to offer these students
> access to his or her own research papers, and the right to make multiple
> print copies (or, for the more technically sophisticated but still
> non-networked, burning to CDROM) is needed.
> 2: authors may also want to include all or part of their authored papers in
> online or CDROM teaching materials, either solely for their own institution
> or for wider use. A link to the openly available web source is not always
> going to be adequate: they may wish only to refer the student to a section
> of the paper, or the student may be working from a CDROM so that it is
> preferable to be able to include the whole paper rather than rely on the
> student having web access and good network links for downloading.

All I can say is that this is another battle (and a partly obsolescent
one!); and conflating it with open access will obscure and handicap
both causes.

> So retention of copyright should be our goal, rather than only permission to
> self-archive.

Not only should retention-of-copyright *not* be our goal, but even the
referent of "our" is ambiguous: Who are "we"? Researchers, referring
here to our own refereed research writings? Or teachers, assigning local
course packs? Or librarians? Or university distance-education

The goal of the open-access movement (as represented by the BOAI ) is open online access to the
peer-reviewed research literature. That literature -- unlike just about
all other forms of literature -- is an author give-away, written only
for its impact on research and researchers. It is not written, like
textbooks and books, either for sales revenue or for teaching purposes
(though it can often be used for teaching purposes too).

Retention of copyright is a *sufficient* condition for providing
open-access to this literature, but it is not a *necessary*
condition. Self-archiving it online is not only a sufficient condition
for open-access, it *is* open access. To insist on more is to continue
to condemn us to less.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Tue Mar 04 2003 - 13:03:02 GMT

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