Re: Free Access vs. Open Access

From: Peter Suber <>
Date: Thu, 1 Jan 2004 01:53:25 +0000

At 03:16 PM 12/31/2003 +0000, Stevan Harnad wrote:

>The discussion of the Free/Open Access distinction appears to
>be growing. I see that Peter Suber has posted a reply to the
>SOAF list, which I will re-post to the Amsci Forum in a moment
>so I can reply to it on both lists after I have replied to
>Mike Eisen (in prep.!).


>(3) If BOAI-1 (self-archiving) indeed yielded only "free" access but not
>"open" access:
> (i) Why would we dub BOAI-1 an "open-access" strategy rather than
> merely a "free-access" strategy?

Self-archiving is a true open-access strategy, not merely a free-access
strategy. Authors who self-archive their articles are consenting not only
to price-free access, but to a range of scholarly uses that exceeds "fair

We can quibble about what authors really consent to, since there is no
consent form connected to the self-archiving process. But at least the
BOAI was clear on what it called on authors to consent to under the name of
"open access":
"By 'open access' to this literature, we mean its free availability on the
public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute,
print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for
indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful
purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those
inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself."
This list of permissible uses is not intrinsic to price-free access and
needed explicit enumeration. Moreover, it exceeds fair use as provided by
copyright law.

>I will frankly say that I not only consider the free/open distinction to
>be an ill-conceived and insubstantial after-thought and a red herring;
>but, if sustained and promoted, I believe it will add yet another a
>huge and needless delay to the provision of the toll-free, full-text,
>online access that (for me, at least) this has always been about, since
>the advent of the online era.

It's not ill-conceived because price barriers are different in kind from
permission barriers; we might face either one without facing the
other. It's not an after-thought because it was already contained in the
BOAI. It's not a red herring because we must remove permission barriers as
well as price barriers in order to maximize the impact and usefulness of
research articles.

I don't see the argument for the claim that my definition of "open access"
will cause delay.

>Must we remind ourselves that what we need -- and don't have, but
>could have virtually overnight if we make up our minds we want it --
>is maximised research impact through maximised research access? Isn't that
>what this is all about? That does *not* mean holding out for XML mark-up,
>raising the goal-posts so that only XML articles are seen as meeting the
>goal, and withholding the title of having met the goal from any article
>that is not XML -- while the *real* problem, which is the continuing
>toll-barriers to access and impact, just keeps on festering, unremedied!

If you're still replying to me, then this misses the target. I never said
"open access" included XML mark-up! Please reread my note. I merely said
that open access removes both price and permission barriers, not just price

Mike Eisen didn't say that open access included XML mark-up either. He
merely said that XML mark-up is desirable, and that permission to do it is
not part of fair use; and he's right about both points.

Received on Thu Jan 01 2004 - 01:53:25 GMT

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