Re: Free Access vs. Open Access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 1 Jan 2004 16:27:25 +0000

In the following, I respond to multiple postings: (a) one by Peter Suber,
(b) three by Mike Eisen, and (c) one by Seth Johnson.

Happy New Year to All! S.H.

(a) Peter Suber wrote:

> 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
> use".

That is a great relief to hear, Peter!

As long as both BOAI-1 and BOAI-2 are unambiguously on the same side
of the "free/open" distinction (i.e., the "open" side), there can
be no objection to calling *other* forms of access -- gerrymandered
ebrary-style access, for example, which blocks downloading and allows
only on-screen viewing -- merely "free access" rather than "open
access" (as immediately agreed in the posting that first launched this
thread: )

Self-archiving authors of course do not provide mere ebrary-style access,
for that would largely defeat their purpose in self-archiving, which is
to maximise the usage and impact of their work.

> 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.

Yes, it is intrinsic to BOAI-1 (the self-archiving strategy for providing
open access) that inherent in making one's full-texts publicly accessible
toll-free on the Web are all the capabilities that one normally has with
material on the web. No new rights agreement with the publisher is needed
for open-access provision via self-archiving (though it is helpful if the
publisher has an explicit "green" policy of supporting self-archiving).

BOAI-2 (the open-access journal-publishing strategy for providing open
access), being a form of *publishing,* necessarily has to have some
form of rights agreement (even if it is just full copyright retention by
the author). The most desirable agreement is the creative commons license,
but that is not necessarily the only possibility. Something very like
an ordinary toll-access publisher's copyright/licensing agreement, but
with the publisher formally agreeing to provide immediate, permanent,
(ungerrymandered), toll-free full-text online access (i.e., the publisher
archiving all contents rather than each individual author having to do it)
would (by my lights) be open-access (gold) publishing even if exclusive
republication rights were held by the publisher.

It is not that I don't see the extra value that would be conferred by
the further uses allowed by the creative commons license! I am merely
thinking of what would win over a reluctant white or green publisher to
converting to gold. It is very likely that they will feel it less of a
risk to convert if they retain exclusive republication rights (including
the exclusive right to publish and try to keep selling the toll-access
version, on-paper and online!), just in case they cannot make ends meet
with author-institution publication charges.

(Of course, I am fully confident that the very *nature* of open access
itself will ensure that none of these extra revenue-making options
proves either lucrative or necessary in order to make ends meet: The
natural, optimal, and inevitable outcome is that peer-reviewed journal
publishing will all downsize to become peer-review service-provision and
certification, and nothing else. That will be what online peer-reviewed
journal publishing *means*. But time's 'awasting, and if we insist that
the leap be made all at once, in advance, the leap will simply be delayed!)

>sh> I will frankly say that I not only consider the free/open distinction to
>sh> be an ill-conceived and insubstantial after-thought and a red herring;
>sh> but, if sustained and promoted, I believe it will add yet another a
>sh> huge and needless delay to the provision of the toll-free, full-text,
>sh> online access that (for me, at least) this has always been about, since
>sh> 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 agree about all of this now that it has been resolved that open-access
provision by authors self-archiving their toll-access full-texts
online (ungerrymandered) is indeed *open access*! Any further free/open
distinctions that are made *outside* the circle containing both BOAI-1
and BOAI-2 are unobjectionable. They would only have delayed open access
if they had *excluded* self-archiving as *not* providing open access,
but merely "free access"!

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

Your access-barrier/permission-barrier distinction too is unobjectionable
-- now that it is clear that it is not meant to contradict the fact that
toll-access journal articles (regardless of their rights/permissions
agreements) are indeed rendered open-access once they are self-archived
toll-free by their authors.

I know there are further rights that authors might wish to retain and
offer, over and above toll-free access to their full-texts, but first
things first (if the alternative is further delay, or never!).

It is, after all, only "republication" that is the rub: If (say) a
full-text translator/harvester service like the one Mike described --
harvesting and translating all open-access journal articles on the web --
only harvested and processed the open-access texts, without offering
them back publicly in translation (i.e., without "republishing"
them), then that would be no problem, and would not in itself require
re-negotiating rights that a self-archiving toll-access journal author
might not have retained. That would simply be an individual user's use
of openly accessible material on the web. Nor would there be any problem
if translating company sold their own translating software to users,
so individual users could use it to translate (for themselves, or for
their research) specific open-access texts that they access on the web.

It only becomes a permissions problem if the harvester wants to offer
the translated texts themselves as a further service, because then
they become a secondary publisher (or if they want to offer the results
of some computation they perform on the whole translated corpus, as a
service). But if they can design their service so it is not *they* who
apply it to the open-access text, but each individual user, then again,
there is no permissions problem.

All those capabilities are inherent in toll-free full-text online online
access; they come with the territory. (And as the territory grows, and
as it becomes more apparent what degrees of freedom open access really
affords, these will be utilized more and more fully and resourcefully.)

So there is no need to force the issue a priori, thereby just provoking
resistance and delay. (This is all already *vastly* overdue, even though
it is attainable virtually overnight, and has been for at least a decade!)
It should just be serenely borne in mind that *open access* itself is
the immediate, urgent and attainable goal, and all the rest will come
with the territory.

> I never said "open access" included XML mark-up!... I merely said
> that open access removes both price and permission barriers, not just price
> barriers.
> 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.

I stand corrected. I was just referring here to what sounded like yet
another spurious reason for implying that mere self-archiving does
not provide "open access," but only "free access" (because the format
may not be the user's preferred one!).

(But a user does not need permission to mark up an open-access text,
downloaded from the web, in XML or anything else, for his own use. He
needs permission only if he wishes to *republish* the new version. As
in the case of the translation, one solution would be to offer the XML
markup software to users, so each can mark up any open access texts
they access themselves, rather than having to republish the marked up
texts for them in advance. Necessity is the Mother of Invention -- and,
as noted, comes with this remarkable new territory!.)

(b) Michael Eisen wrote:

> Yes, you are missing something. You seem intent on narrowly circumscribing
> the possible uses of the literature to include only those that amount to
> reading and citing works, thereby needlessly limiting both current and
> future uses; and it is absurd to dismiss other possible uses as "perks"
> that exist only to promote open access journals.

Mike, I was not excluding anything. I was just distinguishing the
jointly sufficient from the non-necessary conditions of open access:
It was you who were excluding -- excluding self-archiving as providing
merely "free access" but not "open access."

The sufficient condition for open access is toll-free
(immediate, permanent, webwide, ungerrymandered) full-text online
access. Republication rights are a desirable condition (and I think will
be an inevitable eventual consequence) of open access, but they are not
a *necessary* condition for it; hence they are, in that sense, "perks."

But we are as yet appallingly far from fulfilling this sufficient
condition for most of the annual 2.5 million articles in the world's
24,000 journals! *That* is what is limiting both current and future uses.

To insist now on adding an extra, unnecessary perk to the definition of "open
access" -- hence to what needs to be done to provide open access -- would
simply be to limit current and future uses still further, by needlessly
raising the goalposts higher for what "counts" as open access provision
(both for authors and for publishers who would like to do something to
support open access -- though perhaps something short of converting
to open-access publishing (gold), e.g., becoming green). And to thus raise
the goalposts at a time when the research community is still providing
far, far less OA (via either BOAI-1 or BOAI-2) than they could be,
and understanding OA's benefits and the means of attaining them far,
far less than they should be.

>sh> And none of this "free vs. open" business is either explicit or implicit
>sh> in what we agreed that "open access" meant when we founded the BOAI.
> I don't see how you can possibly say this. The definition from BOAI follows:
> 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. The only constraint
> on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this
> domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work
> and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited."
> But you seem to be editing out the rights to distribute and use the
> literature.

No. I think the necessary conditions for open access are laid out
fully in the first sentence, which says nothing about republication
rights. The "should" in the second sentence is vaguer, and that whole
sentence is vague. I read it as expressing a further *desideratum,*
not a necessary condition (inasmuch as it is expressing any condition
at all). I assure you that if I had read it as requiring authors to
renegotiate republication rights with their publishers as a precondition
for providing open access, alarm bells would immediately have gone off,
for this would have excluded BOAI-1 (self-archiving of one's toll-access
journal articles) as a means of providing open access!

The far larger number of annual open-access articles that have been and
are being provided by self-archiving -- at least three times as many as
the number provided by publishing in OA journals -- would immediately
have vanished from the OA map if the entry fee for each had been the
obligation to renegotiate rights with their publishers so as to retain
republication rights (the creative commons license)!

This is in fact the *essence* of the difference between the green
(BOAI-1) and gold (BOAI-2) strategies for open-access provision. You
unfortunately keep conflating open-access provision with open-access
publishing, thereby excluding BOAI-1 altogether except in the rare aases
where an author successfully negotiates an agreement with his toll-access
publisher that is essentially equivalent to open-access publication!

It would be very helpful if you could reply very explicitly about whether
or not you now accept that the "mere" provision of toll-free full-text
access, without the retention of republication rights, does indeed count
as full-blooded open-access provision.

And it is in that light that I again repeat my request that PLoS
systematically promote the unified dual open-access provision strategy
with researchers and their institutions and funders, and not just
BOAI-2, in order to use PLoS's far greater promotional power and
resources to advance open access itself, and not just open-access journal
publication. Nothing would be lost for PLoS if it systematically promoted
the unified strategy rather than just one part of it; considerably
more open-access would be gained for the research community as a whole,
and the eventual benefits of this for the rate of growth of open-access
publishing itself would be substantial too.

(I will of course reciprocate then by no longer systematically
pointing out in my own promotional efforts what the relative figures
are for the percentage of the annual 2.5 million articles for which
immediate open access can be provided, today, via BOAI-1 and BOAI-2
(100% and 5%, respectively). The purpose of broadcasting those figures
is to draw attention to the dramatic, underused potential of BOAI-1 that
is currently being consistently ignored in the unilateral promotion
of BOAI-2, with its far better-funded publicity budget! Publicizing
those relative percentages is just an attempt to redress this imbalance,
which is to the disadvantage of open access itself. PLoS could remedy
this imbalance simply by being more inclusive, for the sake of OA.)

> I don't recall it ever coming up in Budapest that we were endorsing flavors
> of open access where these key elements were missing. It was always assumed
> that the two strategies were alternative ways of achieving this end - a
> belief that I still strongly endorse.

OA-provision via BOAI-1 can certainly be a way of eventually achieving
republication rights. But republication rights are not part of the
definition of OA; they are not necessary conditions. BOAI-1 is sufficient to
provide OA itself! The growth of OA itself is, in turn, likely to help hasten
an eventual transition to BOAI-2 (which can then include republication rights).
(You keep conflating OA with BOAI-2!)

> Open access, in the true BOAI sense,
> can be readily achieved by self-archiving. But - and I think this is the
> crux of the current argument - self-archiving does not in and of itself
> achieve open access, especially when its chief proponent is dismissing
> critical parts of the open access definition as spurious. By relaxing the
> definition of open access in order to appease publisher you may achieve free
> access more rapidly, but this will not be without a cost.

I agree this is the crux of the argument: I am not relaxing the BOAI
definition, you are (needlessly and counter-productively) tightening it,
raising the OA goal post so that virtually all of the OA provided by
BOAI-1 to date (vastly more than the amount of OA provided by BOAI-2)
simply does not count as OA!

And I am not dismissing republication rights as *undesirable,* but as
*unnecessary* for OA -- and a needless extra hurdle to OA provision,
when what we need urgently now is *fewer* hurdles and more OA! (Once OA
grows, the rest of the desiderata will come too.)

> It's certainly true that the means and costs changed - but that is certainly
> not all! What also changed was that it became possible to begin moving
> beyond the limitations on the creative use of the knowledge contained in the
> scientific literature imposed by the printed page.

Yes, all kinds of desirable -- indeed revolutionary -- new online
capabilities were born with the online era which could be applied to
an OA corpus -- if only we had that OA corpus! But we don't, yet! So
let's not make those desirable new online capabilities a *precondition*
for OA! Let us do everything we can to accelerate the growth of OA so
that we can eventually apply those desirable new online capabilities to
it. We need to hasten OA, not handicap it. (Our chicken-eggs need to be
laid and hatched: we don't need preconditions on their color!)

> Saying that all that
> changed for scientific publishing in the on-line era is that it became
> possible to expose a greater chunk of the world to our writing, is, in my
> mind, like saying all that changed for society with the birth of the
> internet was that it became easier and cheaper to send letters to our
> friends and family.

It's a good image but it doesn't fit the case we are discussing. The
internet has a lot more uses than email, but to discover and exploit them,
people had to be induced the use the internet. Email was probably a good
hook, to get them online. In the case of OA, we have our users online,
but not the texts to which we would like to apply the revolutionary new
powers of the internet! Moreover, until those texts are online, their
would-be users are being denied access and their authors are losing
impact. Putting an end to that access denial and impact loss ain't like
just sending letters to friends and family more cheaply! And, worse,
it ain't happening! So it is premature to insist on the revolutionary
capabilities when even the subsistence capabilities are not there:
OA will provide them.

So whatever accelerates OA accelerates the further desirable outcomes
you are seeking too. This is why PLoS should use its resources to promote
the unified BOAI-1/BOAI-2 strategy for OA provision, and not just BOAI-2.

Your next comment was actually on Sally Morris's posting:

> > Sally Morris wrote:
>>sm> In neither case is any of the following a sine qua non, though they appear
>>sm> to be 'articles of faith' for some:
>>sm> Copyright retention by the author, or the author's institution (or, for
>>sm> that matter, absence of copyright - i.e. 'public domain')
> I look at open access as a way to remove copyright as an obstacle to access
> and use of the scientific literature. Authors [can] almost certainly be better
> stewards of copyright than many journals, since it is in their interest to
> allow most if not all access and use of their works. However, situating
> copyright with authors or institutions could become a serious obstacle for
> the use of the literature. This is why PLoS, BMC and most open access
> publishers that I know of use licenses in which the copyright holder grants
> permissions for most types of use in advance - essentially replacing the
> all/most rights reserved of copyright, with a permanent, upfront new no/some
> rights reserved agreement.

That's all fine for gold (BOAI-2) publishers, and authors ready and
willing to publish in suitable gold journals, when those suitable gold
journals exist. But you are completely overlooking the vast number of
articles (95%) for which the gold journals don't yet exist (even if
the willing authors do)! Sally's points pertain to the green (BOAI-1)
option for providing OA to *those* TA journal articles, for *those*
authors, *right now*. As long as you keeping seeing BOAI-2 as the only
way of providing OA, your contribution to the growth of OA will be
very limited.

(c) Seth Johnson wrote:

> Stevan Harnad wrote:
>sh> All would-be users need to be able to read, download, store,
>sh> 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.

The "computer-process" here referred to the data-crunching and
computational analysis some might want to do on certain open-access
texts, over and above reading, downloading, storing and printing them
off. What percentage of the users of what percentage of the 2,500,000
annual articles in the world's 24,000 peer-reviewed journals, across
disciplines, do you think need to data-crunch the OA texts they access?

That's why I said "perhaps also" ( = some users will need to, many/most
will not).

But it's all a legitimate part of the the capability vouchsafed by
OA provision.

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

This sounds like it is going far beyond the bounds of this Forum, which is
not about information in general, nor even about publishing in general,
but only about the annual 2.5 million articles published in the world's
24,000 peer-reviewed journals.

Certain solutions (BOAI-1 and BOAI-2) are immediately applicable to
this special literature -- all, without exception, consisting of author
give-aways, written purely for research impact rather than royalty income,
with the problem being impact-loss because of toll-based access-denial.

For other kinds of literature (information, publishing) neither the
problem nor the solution are so clear -- or relevant here:

    Harnad, S., Varian, H. & Parks, R. (2000) Academic
    publishing in the online era: What Will Be For-Fee And
    What Will Be For-Free? Culture Machine 2 (Online Journal)

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

It need go no further. These are all author give-aways. It remains only to
inform the authors that they can and should give them away, big-time,
through OA provision.

> 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.

No, it is not the "free beer" issue:

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

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):
        To join the Forum:
        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 Thu Jan 01 2004 - 16:27:25 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:47:14 GMT