Re: Free Access vs. Open Access

From: Peter Suber <>
Date: Fri, 2 Jan 2004 17:28:22 +0000


I'm sorry it has taken me so long to reply to your helpful post.
More below.

At 09:02 AM 12/31/2003 +0100, Sally Morris wrote:

[Omitting short descriptions of OA journals and OA archives.]

> In neither case is any of the following a sine qua non, though they
> appear to be 'articles of faith' for some:
> * Copyright retention by the author, or the author's institution (or, for
> that matter, absence of copyright - i.e. 'public domain')
> * OAI compliance
> * Absence of restrictions on re-use (including commercial re-use)
> * Deposit in a specific type of archive
> Am I alone in seeing it this way?

No, you're not alone. I agree with you about three of the four. Let me
take your points in order.

* OA doesn't require authors to retain copyright. It requires the
copyright holder (whoever that is) to consent to OA. But because
authors are much more likely to consent to OA than journals, letting
authors retain copyright is an important sub-goal for the OA movement.

When authors ask to retain copyright and are denied, they should ask for
permission to archive the postprint.

* OA doesn't require OAI-compliance. OAI-compliance makes open-access
archives more useful, by making them interoperable. But it doesn't make
them open-access. However, because it makes them more useful, spreading
OAI-compliance is also an important sub-goal for the open-access

* I do believe that OA requires the absence of most copyright and
licensing restrictions, or what I have called permission barriers. It
does not require the public domain, or absence of all these
restrictions, although that's one important path to OA.

We can quibble about exactly which rights copyright holders should waive
in order to make OA possible. Here's my personal list: the copyright
holder should consent in advance to unrestricted reading, downloading,
copying, sharing, storing, printing, searching, linking, and crawling.
This is compatible with retaining the right to block the distribution of
mangled and misattributed copies.

Commercial reuse is the tough one. I've always thought that OA was
compatible with commercial reuse, and still think so. But I once
thought that OA authors shouldn't consent to it, and now I think they
should. However, as I put it in FOSN for 1/30/02, <
<> >, "I want
to make this preference genial, or compatible with the opposite
preference, so that the [OA] movement can recruit and retain authors who
oppose commercial use."

* In my view, OA does not require deposit in a specific type of archive.
However, the Bethesda and BMC definitions of OA take the opposite view.
In any case, archiving is one direct path to OA itself, and in addition
makes journal-published OA articles more useful.

It's rarely important to separate "OA itself" from "practices that make
OA more likely or more useful". On the contrary, it's usually important
to defend all of these at once. But when we need to separate the
definition of OA from supportive practices (authors retaining copyright,
deposit in certain kinds of archives, steps toward long-term
preservation...), then see the start I made toward clarification in SOAF
for 8/4/03, <
<> >.


Peter Suber
Research Professor of Philosophy, Earlham College
Open Access Project Director, Public Knowledge
Author, SPARC Open Access Newsletter
Editor, Open Access News blog <>
Received on Fri Jan 02 2004 - 17:28:22 GMT

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