Re: Open Access Does Not require Republishing and Reprinting Rights

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 16 Jan 2004 14:01:09 +0000

On Fri, 16 Jan 2004, Jan Velterop wrote:

> There is nothing against copyright. There is everything against copyright
> (or exclusive distribution rights) on research articles being transferred to
> the kind of publishers who subsequently use it to restrict - severely
> restrict - their dissemination and optimal use. Authors of research articles
> should keep their copyright and if they use it properly, they use it to
> ensure maximum dissemination, which is where their real interest lies.

Authors should keep their copyright whenever they can -- and whenever
that is not an obstacle to getting their work published in the journal
of their choice. But to advise them to retain copyright at all costs
would be both bad advice and counterproductive for the cause of OA.

Authors' real interest lies in providing Open Access (OA) to their
articles. This can be done in two ways, only *one* of which (sometimes)
requires copyright retention by the author: Publishing in *certain kinds*
of Open Access (OA, "gold") journals.

See the rest of the ongoing discussion to learn why it is only *certain
kinds* of OA journals that do not require copyright transfer. There are
also OA journals that do: See the Directory of Open Access Journals
for examples of OA journals that still require copyright transfer --
but that nevertheless commit to providing a (permanent, ungerrymandred)
OA version online).

This is again related to the definition of OA: Neither copyright
retention by the author, nor any particular creative-commons license,
nor placing the work in the public domain, is a necessary condition for
or part of the definition of OA. Copyright retention and creative-commons licensing are
highly desirable, recommended where possible, and, as noted, part of the
mechanism by which some forms of OA provision manage to provide OA. But it
is neither the same thing as nor a necessary condition for providing OA.

The only *necessary* condition for OA is that the full-text should be
immediately and permanently accessible to everyone, webwide, toll-free
(and with access and downloading not gerrymandered in any way).

Copyright retention is part of some of the means for attaining that end,
and it is always desirable where possible. But it would be a great mistake
-- and would be a great retardant to OA provision if not corrected -- to
suggest that copyright retention by the author is a necessary condition
for OA provision.

By way of example, OA (with all the capabilities listed above) can
be provided (and has been provided for well over a decade, by tens of
thousands of authors) by authors self-archiving their own full-texts
-- lately in OAI-compliant eprint archives. This practise has been
increasing, but it needs to be increased much faster and much more. This
increase is not encouraged by the incorrect suggestion that copyright
retention is a necessary precondition for providing OA to one's own
articles by self-archiving them.

The only *necessary* condition for *self*-archiving is that the articles
be written by your*self*. It is helpful (but not necessary) if the article's
publisher is "green" -- i.e., explicitly supports author self-archiving, as
55% of journals sampled already do:

But it is definitely not necessary (only desirable) that the author
retain copyright. The incorrect advice that the author must successfully
negotiate copyright retention in order to self-archive would be
misinformation and (if believed) it would be yet another groundless
retardant on OA provision:

Self-archiving authors can definitely provide open access to their
articles without having to go through the extra hurdle of trying to
negotiate the retention of copyright (or republishing/reprinting rights)
with their journals. To suggest that they must would be either to send
them on a fool's errand or (more likely) to discourage them from bothering
to self-archive at all.

It does not serve the cause of OA provision to imply that one's own OA
shoe size must fit all.

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 Fri Jan 16 2004 - 14:01:09 GMT

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