Apercus of WOS Meeting: Making Ends Meet in the Creative Commons

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2004 00:48:16 +0100

            Apercus of WOS 2004

                Stevan Harnad

This is not a comprehensive report on the Wizards of OS WOS meeting in
Berlin last week, but just a brief attempt to summarize and examine the
relation between the Creative Commons (CC) and Free and Open Source
Software (FOSS) movements on the one hand, and the Open Access (OA)
movement on the other.

One of the main motivations for the WOS meeting was to launch the
German Creative Commons. http://creativecommons.org/
The CC family of licenses has been designed by Lawrence Lessig of
Stanford. It allows creators to specify what uses they would like to
retain and to allow for their work (attribution, commercial re-use,
personal re-use, etc.). CC applies to all digital media: text,
video, audio, software, data. The special case of software (FOSS)
was strongly represented at the meeting, with Eben Moglen, one of its
inspired and inspiring architects. FOSS's archangel, Richard Stallman,
was unfortunately not present for the occasion.

The underlying rationale for this confluence of free-access interests
was the shared idea that human creativity and productivity are limited
needlessly by many of the existing barriers to accessing and using human
creative products. The digital products of the human intellect are a
kind of common resource that benefits humanity more if restrictions
are minimized and usage is maximized. And unlike analog commons (such
as fields for grazing cattle), digital commons are not depleted by
maximizing access and usage, they are enhanced.

The CC/FOSS movements and the OA movement are clearly related in the
sense that both are concerned with maximizing access and usage for the
sake of maximizing creativity and productivity. There is also not just
an analogy but an overlap when it comes to the use of the CC license
by OA journals: The CC license gives OA journal authors and OA journal
publishers an excellent way of formalizing their intentions: anyone and
everyone can have immediate, permanent, toll-free online access to the
full-text, and may view, store, use and re-use it in any way as long
as the text is not corrupted or altered, and the authorship is properly

But there seems to be a prominent disanalogy too:

It is true of every single one of the authors of every single one of
the annual 2.5 million articles published in the world's 24,000 refereed
research journals that not one of them wishes to make a penny from selling
their articles: They are all author giveaways, written solely to be used,
not sold, as far as their authors are concerned. All their authors
want to do (and have ever wanted to do) is to maximize their usage,
and thereby their research impact (e.g., citations, which indicate that
their creative work has made a contribution and has generated further
creative work). It is from the impact of their articles that researchers
are rewarded (through promotion, research funding, prizes, prestige),
not out of royalties or fees from their sale. In fact, all access-denial
to those would-be users who cannot afford the access-tolls means lost
research impact for researchers.

The prominent first difference that accordingly has to be noted is that
whereas something rather like this is also true for *some* other creative
products -- some books, software, audio, video -- it is not universally true
in any other creative domain that *all* creators, without exception
(or even most of them) want to give away their work, and derive benefit only
from its impact, not its sale.

This immediately means that fee/royalty-based creative domains face an
extra burden, not faced by OA: A distinction must be made between those
who do and do not want to give away their work online toll-free for
everyone. Not so for OA: All research-journal article authors want to,
and always have.

Nor do all OA authors need to adopt the CC license: Those publishing
in OA journals do, but those publishing in conventional Toll Access
(TA) (subscription, site-license) journals need merely supplement the
publisher's TA version of their work with an OA version of their own,
which they self-archive, free for all, on their institution's website
(preferably in an OAI-compliant Eprint Archive, for the sake of

There is accordingly no need for these authors to adopt the CC license
in order to do this, nor to persuade their publishers to do so. Over 80%
of journals have already given their green light to author self-archiving
and with the growing momentum of the world OA movement, the rest will no
doubt follow suit (although there is no need for authors to wait: they
can already self-archive their presubmission preprints -- for which they
hold all the rights -- plus a list of any corrigenda after peer review:

So, as I understand it, the CC/FOSS movement faces a number of
challenges: (1) distinguishing the give-away from the non-give-away
creators (presumably the CC license can handle both), (2) persuading at
least the give-away creators to adopt the CC license, (3) persuading
(some? all?) non-give-away creators to become give-away creators,
and either (4a) persuading the middle-men in the non-give-away transactions
(book/software/movie/music publishers/producers/employers/vendors) to
forego their joint revenues in the product or (4b) finding a way to
dispense with or otherwise compensate their contribution (if any).

A profound further spinoff of (3) is also the need to find a way to
otherwise compensate the creator too, if free online access would
diminish his revenue to the point where it would no longer be worth his
while to create.

OA has no counterpart for (1) and (3) (all OA authors are give-away
creators), and only the OA *journal* authors need adopt the CC
license (2). That leaves only (4), and the solution is clear: OA
journal publishers are paid as peer-review service providers and
quality-certifiers; self-archiving takes care of all storage and
access-provision. TA journal publishers continue to be paid from tolls as
long as there is a TA demand, and if/when the TA demand should ever become too
small to cover costs (because of preference for the self-archived version)
TA journals can convert to OA journals too (and be paid out of a portion
of the windfall TA savings).

It is not clear whether there is always a counterpart for this in other
creative domains.

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 Thu Jun 17 2004 - 00:48:16 BST

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