Re: Free Access vs. Open Access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 13 Jan 2004 13:27:53 +0000

This scriptural exegesis about "free" vs. "open" calls to mind
the (alleged) words of a certain franco-austrian monarchess on the
subject of brioche:

    "Let Them Eat Cake..." (M. Antoinette)

What research needs is toll-free access to all refereed research,
immediately, to stanch its mounting impact-loss.

It doesn't have it. Why on earth are we bickering about "open" vs. "free"
instead of doing everything we can to hasten the stanching of that
impact-loss, now?

The BOAI definition of "open access" is not Holy Writ. We wrote it!
We keep quoting back the same passages at one another, but we differ
in our interpretation of them. I have already answered this point of
Mike's several times over, but, for the sake of OA, I'm willing to say
it yet again:

Michael Eisen wrote:

>s> On Thu, 8 Jan 2004, Stevan Harnad wrote:
>s> There is nothing in the BOAI definition to support the "free/open"
>s> distinction that some have since attempted to make. In particular, the
>s> BOAI definition states that author/institution self-archiving of the
>s> full-text of an article is one of the two ways to make that article open
>s> access (BOAI-1 ["green"] and BOAI-2 ["gold"]). Proponents of
>s> the free/open distinction have attempted to argue that BOAI-2 is
>s> "open access" while BOAI-1 is merely "free access" (unless the author
>s> negotiates something equivalent to the creative commons license, including
>s> republication rights, as in some BOAI-2 journals).
>s> I have argued that this is not only *not* part of the BOAI definition,
>s> but that it is unnecessary and would be a gratuitous deterrent if
>s> taken to be a necessary condition for open access.
> I really don't want to beat this to death, and I think you and I are just
> going to have to agree to disagree about the importance of redistribution
> and reuse rights. However, I don't see how you can keep saying that the BOAI
> doesn't support the distinction between free and open. The BOAI text can
> speak for itself.
> "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."
> [ ]

As I have said repeatedly, every single capability listed in the
first sentence above is provided by authors self-archiving their own
full-texts on the web. Every single one.

In the case of articles made OA through author self-archiving, the "other
lawful purposes" simply does not include republishing by a third-party
publisher, either on paper or online. That's all.

Open access was always about open access, not about 3rd party republishing
rights. (Moreover, with the article available to one and all --
for reading, downloading, copying, distributing *the URL* to others
(so they can do likewise), printing, searching, linking, crawling,
indexing, passing to software or any other lawful purposes -- it is
not at all clear why any 3rd part publisher would want to republish and
redistribute them!)

The second sentence of the BOAI definition is vague, and it is not clear
what the "should" means.

Of course authorship and text integrity need to be protected. They
are protected either way: whether the OA is provided by (1) publishing
the text in an OA journal under a creative-commons license or by (2)
publishing the text in an OA journal under ordinary copyright transfer,
but the OA journal (being OA) contracts to make the full-text OA
from its own website (as so many of the OA journals listed in DOAJ do, and to retain republishing rights -- or is
Mike suggesting that they not be counted as OA journals either, if they
do not adopt the Creative Commons License?) or by (3) self-archiving
the full-text on the author's own institutional website.

As to the force of the "should" regarding republishing rights: it is
vague, and if construed as "must," it is either in contradiction with the
"any other lawful purpose" clause of the first sentence *or* it excludes
all self-archived full-texts a priori if they do not renegotiate rights
with their publisher: This would be to redefine BOAI-1: "Self-archiving
one's own full text, free for all uses on the web, is *not* OA!"

I assure you that if that far-fetched interpretation had occurred to me
(or been raised by any of us) as we drafted the BOAI definition, I would
never have signed the BOAI! Moreover, the wording of the BOAI definition
as it stands now is not etched in stone. If it leaves room for ambiguities
such as this, let it be updated to make it clear that OA does *not*
require renegotiating rights in the case of self-archived TA texts. It
requires only self-archiving!

But let me also remind you exactly what this niggling over "republishing
rights" is bringing us: We are wasting our time insisting that OA texts
must have republishing rights along with all the rest -- and meanwhile
most texts continue to have neither, because they are still TA. And
the authors that might have been contemplating making them OA we are
instead telling that self-archiving them won't make them OA. You need
to renegotiate republishing rights with your TA publisher too!

If someone had persuaded the physicists that that was true in 1991, we
would today have as little OA in physics as we still have in most of the
other disciplines. But the physicists would never have been deterred by
such nonsense. They cut to the quick, well before the rest of us,
providing immediate, permanent, toll-free, online, full-text access to
their work without even bothering to define "OA"!

I suggest we do the same. This scriptural bickering gets us exactly
nowhere, and nothing, just as insisting that any feed-the-starving
world-food programme must provide only organic food. That's the
functional equivalent of "let them eat cake"!

> I have been arguing that self-archiving where the original publisher
> restricts uses of the self-archived version of the paper falls outside the
> BOAI definition of open access. While I disagree strongly with you on this,
> I accept that you think there are tactical reasons to promote such
> restricted self-archiving. But I simply can not see how you can claim that
> making papers freely available in a way that explicitly prevents copying,
> distribution and many other uses is consistent with the BOAI definition of
> open access.

The only use that not renegotiating rights leaves out is 3rd-party
republishing and that is not and should not be part of the BOAI definition
of OA. It is an extra desideratum, not a necessary condition.

And the only "tactical reasons" for promoting self-archiving
are so that we can have OA now, rather than waiting for brioche.

Stevan Harnad

NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing open
access to the peer-reviewed research literature online (1998-2004)
is available at the American Scientist Open Access Forum:
        To join the Forum:
        Post discussion to:
        Hypermail Archive:

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 Tue Jan 13 2004 - 13:27:53 GMT

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