Re: Public Access to Science Act (Sabo Bill, H.R. 2613)

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 3 Sep 2003 15:07:00 +0100

[identity deleted] wrote:

> I read your interesting reply to Joseph Pietro Riolo on the
> digital-copyright list.
> I am thinking of writing a reply to this discussion too. I
> think many people believe this is only a question of remuneration and
> ego. In what we call the information age - or even the knowledge
> society - I believe it is a very very important question to be able
> to keep track of who did say what to whom about what. Otherwise
> intellectual discussion would almost return to oral tradition with
> the kind of distortion that comes with it.

[I hope your further comments will be public, to undo the irony of the
fact that without permission I could only reply to them here

There are probably clever digital ways of tracking who posted what
publicly. The public-domain problem is not just that. It's partly
about "intellectual property" (for which Europe has rights-protection,
independent of copyright, whereas the US does not) and partly about not
needlessly constraining authors' right to submit their work to whatever
journal they choose: Most of the existing 24,000 journals would not
accept to publish public-domain texts. If that had been the only way
to attain open access, it might have been necessary to consider it
anyway, but since open-access self-archiving is completely compatible
with copyright and copyright transfer (or licensing) to the journal
publisher, there is no need whatsoever to force the public-domain
constraint onto either authors or publishers. Trying to do so would
only needlessly delay open access still further. The Public Access to
Science Act (Sabo Bill) needs to be modified to mandate open-access only,
not public-domain.

[By the way, I think that in a sense we *are* going back to the oral
tradition -- but with its "verba volunt, scripta manent" handicap
remedied by the public and permanent nature of PostGutenberg "skywriting" ]

Stevan Harnad

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 & 03):

Discussion can be posted to:
Received on Wed Sep 03 2003 - 15:07:00 BST

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