Re: Copyright: Form, Content, and Prepublication Incarnations

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 15 Nov 2003 18:27:34 +0000

On Wed, 22 Oct 2003, Dr.Vinod Scaria wrote:

> It is possible (this factor has not been monitored to date) that
> many researchers (those who are aware of the open access movement)
> are troubled by the possible copyright implications of open archives
> and access

Fact: It is not only possible but certain that "many researchers are troubled
by the possible copyright implications of open archives and access". They are
troubled by this as well as by at least 27 other equally groundless worries
(see end of message).

Fact: 55% of journals already support self-archiving.
Concerning those journals, the worries are not just groundless but
perverse. There is hence no reason whatsoever why 55% of the 2.5 million
research articles published yearly should not already be self-archived and hence
open-access. (Of the remaining 45% "white" journals, many will agree to author
self-archiving if asked; and even for the remaining minority who do not agree,
there is still a way to self-archive one's articles in them without any
copyright implications: ).

Fact ("Los Alamos Lemma"): Physicists -- far more sensible than the rest
of us -- have been self-archiving since 1991 without worrying for a single
microsecond about "copyright implications." Across the ensuing years,
they have made over a quarter million articles open-access without a
single copyright challenge for a single publisher. Meanwhile, we are
still sitting in a state of Zeno's Paralysis, worrying.

    "The 'Los Alamos Lemma'"

    "Zeno's Paradox and the Road to the Optimal/Inevitable"

> It is possible... that many researchers... are troubled by the [possible
> impact of] possible copyright implications... on the visibility of
> their work as compared to the traditional publishing mechanism they are
> familiar with.

This worry sounds to me worse than groundless: it sounds incoherent. There
is no second-guessing what people who are minded to worry may worry about,
but I suspect the above one is based on not one but two conflations:
(1) Conflating copyright matters with the "Ingelfinger Rule" (not a
copyright matter but merely a journal policy matter) and (2) conflating
the Green Road to open access (BOAI-1: open-access self-archiving of
one's own toll-access journal publications) with the Golden Road (BOAI-2:
publishing one's articles in alternative open-access journals).

So, as I cannot disambiguate the above into a coherent worry to address,
all I can suggest is some information on (1) the Ingelfinger Rule (a journal
policy of refusing to even consider for publication findings that have been
previously publicised in any way (whether via the popular press or
the Web). The Ingelfinger Rule (which is vanishing fast) is neither
a copyright (hence legal) matter nor is it enforceable.

(Publishers may like the Ingelfinger Rule, to boost sales, but editors
and referees have no interest in it whatsoever. No referee will recommend
or condone the rejection of an important, sound, new finding simply
because the author has divulged it to the press or posted it on the
Web -- and he will rightly regard his freely donated refereeing time as
having been abused if he takes the trouble to review and evaluate the paper,
and his recommendations are over-ruled because of the Ingelfinger Rule!
Researchers are quite capable and experienced in distinguishing unrefereed
preprints from refereed, journal-certified postprints in deciding when
something is safe to use and try to build upon.) The best advice one can
give to authors about the Ingelfinger Rules is to ignore it completely.

As to (2) (the green/gold conflation), open access maximises visibility
and impact, but the effect is only additive (i.e., adds visbility and
impact to what the article would have had otherwise) in BOAI-1 (the
green road of self-archiving toll-access articles). With new journals,
whether open-access (BOAI-2) or toll-access, there is always the risk that
the new journal, lacking the track-record of the established journal,
may have lower visibility and impact. An extreme example might be the
choice between publishing in Nature (a high-impact toll-access journal)
and publishing in Psycoloquy (a
moderate-impact open-access journal that I founded in 1990).

No contest! The author should publish in Nature if he can (and then get the
added visibility/impact provided by open-access by self-archiving it). (For the
pedants: Nature is a "green" publisher, supporting self-archiving:

> They could probably contribute positively by submitting to Open
> Access Journals.DOAJ maintains an almost exclusive list of
> such Journals.

This is a non-sequitur.

> How can we dissipate these fears?

By tirelessly countering them with the facts:

    "I-worry-about..." FAQs"

    1. Preservation
    2. Authentication
    3. Corruption
    4. Navigation (info-glut)
    5. Certification
    6. Evaluation
    7. Peer review
    8. Paying the piper
    9. Downsizing
    10. Copyright
    11. Plagiarism Plagiarism
    12. Priority
    13. Censorship
    14. Capitalism
    15. Readability
    16. Graphics
    17. Publishers' future Publishers
    18. Libraries'/Librarians' future
    19. Learned Societies' future
    20. University conspiracy
    21. Serendipity
    22. Tenure/Promotion
    23. Version control
    24. Napster
    25. Mark-up
    26. Classification
    27. Secrecy
    28. Affordability

Stevan Harnad

NOTE: 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):
    Posted discussion to:

Dual Open-Access Strategy:
    BOAI-2 ("gold"): Publish your article in a suitable open-access
            journal whenever one exists.
    BOAI-1 ("green"): Otherwise, publish your article in a suitable
            toll-access journal and also self-archive it.
Received on Sat Nov 15 2003 - 18:27:34 GMT

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