Re: Open Access & Copyright: Savings and Conveniences

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 16 Jul 2004 21:02:56 +0100

On Fri, 16 Jul 2004, Heather Morrison wrote:

> Universities will experience some cost savings and conveniences arising
> from the more open copyright associated with OA.

There is no more-open copyright associated with OA. More open copyright
is associated with OA publishing, which is merely one of the two roads to
OA. The other road -- OA self-archiving -- does not require renegotiating

> This is somewhat
> tangential to the more compelling reasons for switching to OA, of
> course, (the most essential of which is the need for OA to facilitate
> the advancement of scientific knowledge), but nonetheless might be of
> interest.

I think it will confuse people if they wrongly believe that OA requires
a change in copyright. It requires only a change in accessibility. And
that in turn requires OA *provision* by authors and their institutions
(and funders)

> Over the past few years, in Canada at least, universities have had to
> assign or hire staff to focus on copyright issues. While OA will not
> immediately eliminate the need for this focus, a broad-based change to
> OA will reverse the trend from increasing need for this kind of
> support, to decreasing need. This will result in gradual cost savings
> of two types: staffing, and fees for copying material.

It is certainly true that for articles that are OA, there is no need
for university copyright staff. But what is needed is university OA
provision policies that will make all their article output OA. Copyright
is a distraction and a red herring in this context.

> University faculty and administration will also benefit from increased
> convenience. For example, it will be easier to compile coursepacks,
> copy items for classroom use (this might not be an issue in the U.S),
> and place materials on reserve, as there will be fewer items for which
> copyright checking will be necessary.

This could all be said more simply and directly: OA papers are OA.

> This could be yet another factor which will result in a tendency to
> favor OA articles. If a faculty member is contemplating including an
> article in a coursepack or reserve collection, handing it out in class,
> and the article is highly desirable for students to read rather than
> essential, the article will be more likely to be included if it is OA.

Yes, but faculty members are typically *users* of articles when they are
putting together their course-packs. They are using articles by *other*
authors. They cannot make another author's article OA, only their own.

In other words, you are putting the shoe on the wrong foot here. The
relevant incentive is the author's. That's the one that needs to be
addressed. Both copyright and course-packs are irrelevant to it.

> This would also be true for handing out articles at meetings,
> conference presentations, etc.: all else being equal, the OA article
> has the advantage.

OA articles have the advantage for one simple reason -- the same one you
mentioned at the beginning as the most essential reason for providing OA:
maximizing research usage and impact by maximizing access to it.

Why complicate a compelling, straightforward reason for providing OA -- a reason that
most researchers still don't know about, and for which they are still unaware of the
growing quantitative evidence -- with minor side-issues and side-effects that
interest OA providers so much less?

Stevan Harnad
Received on Fri Jul 16 2004 - 21:02:56 BST

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