Re: Copyright: Form, Content, and Prepublication Incarnations

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 29 Dec 2003 22:28:32 +0000

On Mon, 29 Dec 2003, Sally Morris wrote:

> I don't think due consideration has been given to WHY some publishers might
> legitimately object. Their concern is that making their content freely
> available may ultimately undermine their sales revenue - and, although this
> has not yet proved to be the case, no one can say for sure that they are
> wrong about the longer term.

Publishers who do not wish to make their own content freely available
out of concern that it may ultimately undermine their sales revenue --
i.e., publishers who do not wish to convert to open-access publishing --
can certainly object, legitimately, to do being pressured to do so.

But objecting to their *authors* making their own content freely available
if they wish to do so is an entirely different matter. To attempt to
pressure authors not to do that -- on the grounds that, although it
has not yet proved to be the case after 12 years of self-archiving
by physicists and others, no one can say for sure that it will not
ultimately undermine their sales revenue in the longer term -- would be
to attempt to hold authors' research access and research impact hostage
to publishers' current bottom lines in an online era when that is
demonstrably no longer necessary, hence no longer justifiable.

Hence such an objection would not be legitimate. More important, it
would not be legally enforceable, as it is perfectly legal for an author to
self-archive his pre-refereeing preprint; and if the publisher insists
on exclusive copyright transfer for the refereed postprint without
the author's retaining the right to self-archive his refereed postprint,
the author can simply self-archive the list of corrections and link them
to the preprint.

In other words, author pressure on publishers to convert to open-access
publishing right now in order to provide the open access that authors
seek right now (so as to maximise the impact of their articles) is not
necessary, justifiable, or legitimate because authors have the alternative
of self-archiving their own articles -- but it is not necessary, justifiable
or legitimate for precisely the same reason that publisher pressure on
authors not to provide open access to their own articles right now by
self-archiving them is not necessary, justifiable or legitimate.

It is legitimate for publishers to decline to convert to open-access
publishing ("gold") right now, and prudent for them instead to wait,
watch, and adapt ("green") to whatever the consequences of open-access
provision through author self-archiving turn out to be, in the long
term. The process will be gradual and anarchic, leaving plenty of lead
time for any cost-cutting and downsizing that conversion to open-access
publishing and the open-access cost-recovery model (author-institution
publication charges per outgoing articles instead of user-institution
access-tolls per incoming journal) might call for -- *should that turn
out to be the ultimate outcome.*

But it is certainly not legitimate to try to deny authors the maximised
impact that is at last within their reach by attempting to prevent them from
providing open access to their own articles through self-archiving --
right now.

> Trying to circumvent publishers' objections by more or less devious means
> does not seem to me to be a good way to proceed.

A good way to proceed toward what? The objective is to put an immediate end to
needless impact loss by putting an immediate end to access-denial, through
self-archiving. And what is "more or less devious" about self-archiving
one's postprint if one's publisher is gold or green, and one's preprint and
corrigenda if one's publisher is white?
Or better still, self-archiving the postprint in any case, and waiting to hear
if anyone has any objections (as the authors of over a quarter of a million
physics articles have been doing since 1991, with only 4 copyright-based
objections throughout all those years)?

Publishers may be content to take a leisurely approach to what might be a
"good way to proceed" to put an immediate end to all needless access
and impact loss, but they will perhaps understand that authors, who are in
it for the research impact and not the sales revenues, will not care to wait.

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:

Unified 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 29 2003 - 22:28:32 GMT

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