Re: Free Access vs. Open Access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 15 Dec 2003 11:17:24 +0000

On Mon, 15 Dec 2003, Lars Aronsson wrote:

> Stevan Harnad wrote:
>sh> And what is meant by "redistribute" when the text is already distributed
>sh> all over the planet on the web, and freely available to anyone who may
>sh> wish to find, search, read, download, process computationally online or
>sh> offline, and print off anywhere in the world, any time?
> This sounds like the beginning of the free-as-beer or free-as-speech
> discussion from the GNU project all over again,

Please see this prior item on this same Amsci subject-thread:

    "On the Deep Disanalogy Between Text and Software and
    Between Text and Data Insofar as Free/Open Access is Concerned"

Here is am excerpt:

        MC: "The open source software community [uses] the shorthand
             'free, as in beer'"

    The open/free distinction in software is based on the modifiability
    of the code. This is irrelevant to refereed-article full-text. (And
    the beer analogy was silly and uninformative in both cases! Lots of
    laughs, but little light cast.)

> Redistribute means the permission to copy the article and republish it
> on another website or on another medium. Some say that this right is
> necessary to assure that the contents will be permanently available,
> because you cannot trust any one institution to be around for ever.

Are we now transmuting the free/open red herring into the preservation
red herring?

> Most eloquently put, "Only wimps use tape backup: real men just upload
> their important stuff on ftp, and let the rest of the world mirror
> it." ( The crucial
> question is then: Do you allow the world to mirror it?

Short answer: While the canonical version of the toll-access journal
literature is being bought and sold via access-tolls to institutional
subscribers/licensees, the preservation burden is *entirely* in the
hands of the toll-access providers and clients (i.e., publishers and
libraries). The self-archived version is merely a secondary supplement,
to provide open access for those whose institutions cannot afford the
primary toll-access version. It is not a substitute for the toll-access
version. It hence has no primary preservation burden (yet it has been
successfully surviving since at least 1991, thank you very much).

The analogy between free/open software and free/open access to the
refereed journal literature is a disanalogy and a misleading distraction.

> The conference paper that I have on
> is available for all to read free of charge, but you cannot
> copy-and-republish because I own the copyright, and I don't allow free
> copying and redistribution. If I find that you store a copy of it on
> your openly available website, I will ask you to take it down.

Why would I store a paper on my own website that is freely and permanently
available on another website? If I need to use it, I download and use it
from your website. If I need to refer to it, I cite it and link the URL.

On the permanence and preservation of *your* website, see above. We are
talking about secondary access-provision (to published articles)
through self-archiving here, not about self-publication:

About hypothetical future transitions in which the archiving/access/preservation
burden of the primary corpus is off-loaded onto the secondary corpus: Let's
talk about crossing that bridge if and when it looks as if it's coming close.

Till then what is needed isn't worries about preserving this still secondary
(and sparse) corpus, but positive measures to hasten its growth.

> But free software such as Linux is free to download, republish at your
> own website, sell on CDROM or redistribute in *almost* any way. This
> is not to say that it is in the public domain, which it is not. It is
> owned by its creators and licensed to you under the conditions set
> forth in the GNU General Public License.

Irrelevant to the open access movement's goal of attaining toll-free
full-text access online to the 2,500,000 annual articles in the 24,000
peer-reviewed journals for those of its would-be users whose institutions
cannot afford the tolls to access the journal's proprietary canonical

No need to "republish" anything. All that's needed is:
That's what the author's self-archived version -- in his own institution's
open-access archive for its own research output -- is intended to provide.
And that is what open-access provision is about.

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 Open Access Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01 & 02 & 03):
    Post discussion to:

Dual Open-Access-Provision Policy:
    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 Mon Dec 15 2003 - 11:17:24 GMT

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