Re: PostGutenberg Copyrights and Wrongs for Give-Away Research

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 5 Mar 2003 14:40:06 +0000

On Wed, 5 Mar 2003, Elizabeth Gadd wrote:

> Yes, we can all add our corrigenda files, but who really wants to read
> a research paper that way?

Compared to what? Surely it is infinitely preferable to not being able to
read a research paper at all, because one's institution cannot afford the
toll access (as is true for *all* researchers, at *all* institutions,
for *most* of the annual 2,000,000 research papers appearing in
the at least 20,000 existing refereed journals, for *most* of which any
given institution cannot afford the toll-access!).

The status quo for those papers to which one's institution cannot afford
toll-access is *no-access*. Surely there can be no doubt that open
access to the preprints + corrigenda would be immeasurably better than
no access!

Moreover, more and more publishers are now agreeing to authors'
self-archiving their refereed postprints too. And the corrections are
often not that many. And the self-archived corpus is growing and growing:

Does it make any sense at all to make open-access wait for, or
weight itself down with, the added handicap of first trying to get
copyright-retention too?

That is my only point: These two (related) agendas need to be clearly
disentangled, so authors fully understand that they can make their
work open-access immediately, and that there is no dependency on or
prerequisite for copyright retention, whatsoever. Copyright retention
is indeed worth pursuing too, but in its own right, independently of
self-archiving rights and open access.

> As Pam and Steve [Hitchcock] point out, there are activities that
> researchers, academics, and libraries, would like to perform that they
> cannot if copyright is owned by the publisher.

I have replied about that too. Those extra activities are worthwhile,
and worth pursuing, but *not* as a part of the open-access agenda,
and not at the cost of slowing or weighing down the open-access agenda,
or of giving the incorrect impression that the two agendas are the same,
or dependent on one another, or have the same rationale, motivation,
or justification. The road to open access to refereed research is clear:
Let us not now needlessly clutter it with other things.

> The fact is that publishers do not *need* copyright assignment (or an
> exclusive licence - often the same thing by the way) in order to publish.
> They require only a non-exclusive licence. Why then assign copyright?

And the fact is also that authors do not *need* copyright retention to
self-archive and provide open access to all of their refereed research
output. So why burden them, and obstruct the path, with needless efforts
at copyright retention too? Make it clear that copyright retention is
desirable (for many reasons), but that it is *not* necessary for
open-access through self-archiving, and should not be pursued as a
co-condition, but merely an extra option. Otherwise it will handicap the
growth of self-archiving and open access.

> The value that publishers add to the publishing process should not,
> in my view, be paid for by copyright assignment. It should be rewarded and
> protected in other ways.

All true and fine, but a different agenda, a much bigger one than the
self-archiving right. Pursue it, but make it clear that it is a distinct
agenda, and not a precondition or a co-condition for the self-archiving
if all refereed research, right now. Conflating copyright retention and
open access

Stevan Harnad
Received on Wed Mar 05 2003 - 14:40:06 GMT

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