Re: Free Access vs. Open Access

From: Seth Johnson <seth.johnson_at_REALMEASURES.DYNDNS.ORG>
Date: Wed, 31 Dec 2003 12:23:58 -0500

-----Original Message-----
From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 31 Dec 2003 16:44:29 +0000
Subject: Re: Free Access vs. Open Access

> All would-be users need to be able to read, download, store,
> print-off and perhaps also computer-process those texts.

Not "perhaps" computer-process. Being able to use published
information is the whole reason we give people exclusive rights at all.

This is what "publishing" means. It gives us information, which once
published is intrinsically free.

> What exactly are the uses that this excludes, uses that we would need
> to surmount permission barriers in order to gain?

There are fundamental rights and freedoms involved, whatever the
statutory framework might seem to indicate.

> > Do we need to remove permission barriers even when readers have
> > fair-use rights? Yes. Fair use does not include permission to
> > copy 100% of an article, let alone forward it to a colleague or
> > store it for your own use. Open access includes permission for
> > these important and increasingly routine acts of research.
> What fair use is needed beyond webwide toll-free access?
> 1. You want to read it? Go ahead?
> 2. Download it? Go ahead.
> 3. Print it (for yourself)? Go ahead.
> 4. Forward it to a colleague? Forward him the URL!
> 5. "Copy 100%?" Copy it where? Onto your screen? Go ahead.
> 6. Onto your computer disk (i.e., download)? Go ahead.
> 7. Onto paper? Go ahead.
> 8. Into one of your own articles, which you then submit to
> a publisher? Either get the copyright holder's permission or insert
> excerpts plus the URL.
> 9. Into an edited on-paper collection? Either get the copyright
> holder's permission or insert excerpts plus the URL.
> Am I missing something? It seems to me that we have all the access
> and use we could possibly want here, without going so far as to
> stipulate what sort of velum it should appear on before declaring
> the access truly open!

This is a "legally-safe" analysis. It goes just as far as it goes.

> We are in the online age! Inserting the open-access URL into any
> online text is the online successor to copying or cut/pasting it!
> What can be re-published *on paper* is moot (and probably mostly
> obsolete) in the online age, but that is certainly nothing to hold
> back toll-free online access for (or to withhold the "open access"
> descriptor from)! This was all about (and all made possible by)
> *online* access, not on-paper access (even as on-paper publication
> and distribution fades away).

"Legally-safe," once again.

> Is any useful purpose really served by holding the term "open access"
> hostage to niggles like this? Doesn't it make far more sense to
> invite and welcome a lot more open access with the natural inclusive
> use of the term, rather than to hold it at arm's length as
> being "merely" free, but not "open"! (And at a time when most of
> this literature is nowhere near being "merely free"?)

This is a strange dispute. Evidently the proponents of the "not
merely free" position are using the term "free" in the "free as in
beer" sense, not in the "free as in freedom" sense.

> I think we are not only over-reaching our grasp with this sort of
> semiological exclusiveness, but we are doing it for nothing, for
> trifles, and at the cost of the true riches. This putative
> "free/open" distinction has lost perspective, perhaps even lost
> sight of the real problem (we don't yet *have* 1-9: we're nowhere
> near it!), and gotten buried instead in illusory frills -- and
> formalisms...
> And none of this "free vs. open" business is either explicit or
> implicit in what we agreed that "open access" meant when we founded
> the BOAI.

The indeterminacies around this area are why I did not sign the BOAI
when I was asked to -- I look for strong positions for freedom as
such, not the pursuit of "openness," whatever perspective the
participants in this dispute take on the term.

Both sides should just grant that they are each pursuing freedom by
different means, and recognize the dispute as a whole has already
subsumed itself under the lesser term of "openness," which says little
about how exclusive rights policy and knowledge as such (of whatever
sort) *should* be understood. Don't try to settle this; just continue
your various approaches. I would encourage you to try to take harder
positions, to directly violate premises of those who seek to restrict
the intrinsic freedom of information in the name of excluisve rights.
That's not something that's really, ultimately, pursued by legalistic
maneuvers. But aside from that, please just continue to do what you
feel comfortable with, and perhaps try to demonstrate support for the
higher principles as you go . . .

> I can see why promoting such putative extra perks might be useful in
> promoting open-access journals, but I don't understand why you,
> Peter, with your ecumenism, are also advocating this free/open split.
> (For a split it certainly is: If promoting toll-free access to
> toll-access articles through self-archiving is not promoting open
> access, then I am not, and never have been, promoting open access!
> Nor was Harold Varmus, in his original E-Biomed proposal. Nor has
> Andrew Odlyzko, or Steve Lawrence, or anyone else other than
> open-access journal promotors! Surely a line of reasoning that has
> that as a punchline calls for some re-thinking about the putative
> free/open distinction.)
> I strongly recommend instead our all uniting under the unified
> open-access provision strategy (below), and dropping this spurious
> free/open split.

Try to shake hands based on a discussion of principle and strategy,
which might include granting that some may feel it more advisable to
pursue different approaches.

The "free/open" split, at least as I see it by reading your words
alone so far, is off the mark on both sides.

Seth Johnson
Received on Wed Dec 31 2003 - 17:23:58 GMT

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