Re: Draft IFLA Manifesto on Open Access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 31 Mar 2003 14:49:04 +0100

On Sun, 30 Mar 2003, Downes, Stephen wrote:

>sh> From: Stevan Harnad []
>sh> It is highly desirable and commendable to be committed to the
>sh> widest possible access to information. But in order to
>sh> promote *open access* it is essential to be far more specific
>sh> about the *nature* of the information. In particular, the
>sh> IFLA Manifesto is doomed to fail and to be ignored if it does
>sh> not make a specific and explicit distinction between
>sh> information that its creator *does* wish to give away, and
>sh> information its creator does *not* wish to give away. (Notice
>sh> that I said *creator* and not *publisher*.)
> I find this objection somewhat odd.
> Libraries legally acquire information - this is manifest in the third point
> of the declaration. They then loan this material free of charge to people
> who wish to read it. This has been the function of libraries for decades.
> The objection stated above seems to imply that this direction has been
> misguided, and that libraries should provide access to information only
> if the creator of the content sanctions this use.

Not at all. The objection above simply points out that *Open Access* is
not the same as -- and should not be conflated with -- *Fair Use*. Fair
Use is a 3rd-party matter, involving libraries (and users), not authors
(1st party), nor even publishers (2nd party, although they are of course
part of the negotations). Open Access, in contrast, is a 1st-party
matter: It is *authors* who are giving away their refereed research in
order to maximize its usage and impact. Fair Use covers far more of the
literature, much of it not consisting of author give-aways at all.

Please see the definition of "open access" in the BOAI initiative to see
how it differs from "fair use" or "fair dealing."

Open Access and Fair Use are not altogether orthogonal, in the sense
that both are concerned with trying to maximize access and usage -- but
there the resemblance (so far superficial and uninformative) stops. It
is in the differences and the details that a coherent agenda for Open
Access (not Fair Use) emerges. To conflate the two would simply make the
IFLA Open Access Manifesto incoherent and ineffectual. (If the IFLA also
has a Fair Use Manifesto, it should make it separately! Fair Use is not
only not the same as Open Access, it applies to a different corpus. And
indeed for Open Access materials, Fair Use is moot -- because free public
online access trumps 3rd-party fair use.)

> Why should a creator obtain this new right? Why should the historical
> function of the library now be limited? How could the declaration be
> considered "doomed to failure" when it is, at heart, reflective of a
> library's traditional practice?

Why whould the author of a book have the right to say he would rather
not make it freely accessible to everyone online? I think I will have
to let authors speak for themselves on that matter.

> It could be argued - and I would argue - that content creators do not
> a priori own all possible rights associated with a work. There are limits
> on such rights, a tacit recognition that the creation is a product not
> only of the author but also of the history and culture of the society
> in which it was produced.

This all sounds fine if stated in this abstract way, but let's be more
specific about it: There is this brilliant paragraph that I could write,
and people would like to read, and would be willing to pay to read. But
because of a "recognition that the creation is a product not only of the
author but also of the history and culture of the society in which it
was produced" I am allowed to try to sell it on paper, as always, but
it must be made openly accessible online, whether I like it or not,
even though this may well kill off *all* of its potential sales, and all
of my potential royalty income.

My guess -- I am not an expert here, as nothing could be more remote from
the case of give-away refereed research, written only for research impact,
not royalty income, which is the only case on which I [or the BOAI] have
anything substantive to say -- my guess is that such a non-give-away
author, faced with the prospect of being unable to sell his paragraph
any more, would instead turn to another line of creative work if he
could, maybe making patent medicines: a line of creative work that
has not been declared to be part of the "collective cultural heritage"
simply in virtue of the fact that it is digital rather than analog.

> There is a specific need, which libraries fulfill, to ensure that at the
> very least *access* - if not ownership - to information, any information,
> is made available to all members of a society, regardless of income. Even
> the most expensive journal may now be acquired by any library and thereby
> read by any person at no cost whatsoever to the reader. Why should this
> change?

But that is not called "Open Access," it is called
Toll-Access-Licensing. The library pays the license-tolls for access,
negotiated with publishers, usually as a function of the size of its
institutional readership.

If the IFLA has a Licensing Manifesto, it should make it separately,
possibly jointly with its Fair Use Manifesto; but certainly not its Open
Access Manifesto.

> I think that this is what the declaration is trying to express. And I do
> not think it is an unreasonable goal.

Neither Fair Use nor Licensing is Open-Access.

Stevan Harnad

> ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Stephen Downes ~ Senior Researcher ~ National Research Council Canada
> Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada
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NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing open
access to the peer-reviewed research literature online is available at
the American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01 & 02):

Discussion can be posted to:

See also the Budapest Open Access Initiative:

the BOAI Forum:

the Free Online Scholarship Movement:

the OAI site:

and the free OAI institutional archiving software site:
Received on Mon Mar 31 2003 - 14:49:04 BST

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