Re: Free Access vs. Open Access

From: Peter Suber <peters_at_EARLHAM.EDU>
Date: Fri, 2 Jan 2004 18:42:02 -0500


Thanks for your comment.

I've already argued in public that deposit should not be part of the
definition of OA,
<>, and there's
no need to repeat the arguments here. The same arguments apply to

The point is a delicate one, since I strongly support both deposit and
OAI-compliance. I just think there's a difference between the definition
of OA and steps we can take to make OA literature more useful, just as
there's a difference between the definition of (say) voting and steps we
can take to make the right to vote easier to exercise and harder to take

I accept your argument that interoperability makes archived literature more
useful. But that doesn't make it part of the definition of OA. If it did,
then everything that makes archived literature more useful would be part of
OA --including peer review and punctuation. There is more than one good
thing, and luckily all the ones we're talking about are
compatible. Literature should be OA *and* interoperable *and* preserved
*and* peer-reviewed.... Drug companies say that a certain medicine is safe
and effective without feeling any pressure to redefine effectiveness as
part of the concept of safety.

To me, open access is a kind of access, not a kind of interoperability or a
kind of preservation. When literature is openly accessible, it's much more
useful than the same literature behind price and permission barriers. But
there's still a lot that we can do to make it even more useful. For
example, we can make it interoperable and we can preserve it. I want us to
do all of these things. I just want us to be clear about what we're
doing. When we do them, we're not providing OA; we're enhancing literature
that is already OA.

An archive might be open access without being OAI-compliant. That was the
case with PubMed Central until this fall. When it became OAI-compliant, it
did not become open-access; it was already open-access. It became
interoperable with other OAI-compliant archives, and more useful.

BTW, I agree with you that the Bethesda and Berlin statements err by
limiting the number of copies of an OA work that the author could make for
personal use. If the work is OA, there should be no limit. I applaud BMC
for deleting this restriction from its own definition. I think the two
statements also err by making deposit part of the definition of OA, though
they do not err by encouraging deposit.

Finally, I want to emphasize how minor our differences are. We do not
differ on what ought to be done. Thank goodness. We differ only on how to
define a term. On this, if we can't persuade one another, at least we can
agree to disagree.

      Happy new year,

(PS. I'm about to leave town for two days, without connectivity. If this
conversation continues, I'll catch up when I return.)

At 09:00 PM 1/2/2004 +0000, you wrote:

>I beg to differ. Maybe to the letter these things are not 'conditios
>sine qua non' for Open Access, but they pretty much are 'conditios sine
>qua useless'. The exception is perhaps the copyright provision, as any
>copyrightholder can assign the article to Open Access; it doesn't have
>to be the author. But the other points are important, and in my view
>part and parcel of Open Access, indeed of its whole 'reason d'etre',
>and not just 'supportive practices'.
>What is Open Access worth if an article is 'open' but not easily
>universally accessible? For that we need OAI-compliance.
>What is Open Access if not in a public archive, outside the reach of
>whatever residual power of the publisher and the chance to get lost? Don't
>underestimate the risks here.
>What is Open Access if not with the right to complete re-use, even
>'commercial'? Let's not forget that 'commercial' doesn't always entail
>immense profits. It also covers the local printer who takes an Open Access
>article, prints it, brings it to places that the Web doesn't (yet) reach,
>and makes a modest profit in the process. If that should be proscribed,
>access isn't truly open.
>This last issue, by the way, exposes a flaw in the Bethesda, Wellcome and
>Berlin declarations. They still speak of allowing 'a limited number of
>print copies for personal use'. We, at BioMed Central, don't agree, and we
>therefore impose no restrictions whatsoever on the number of print copies.
>Relinquishing them would threaten income in the old model, but not anymore
>in the Open Access model, so what's the point of restrictions anyway?
>I can't escape the thought that the discussion questioning the need to
>have these conditions/rights in the definition of Open Access betrays a
>less than full transition in thinking from the '(copy)rights-mongering'
>model of publishing to the 'service' model. After the publisher has
>been paid for the service of having the material properly peer-reviewed,
>made 'web-ready' and embedded in the literature via reference-linking,
>OAI-compliance, inclusion in secondary services and OA archives et cetera,
>the publisher has, in my view, no business exercising any control over
>the material anymore.
>Best wishes for an Open Access 2004 to you all!
Received on Fri Jan 02 2004 - 23:42:02 GMT

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