Open Access and For-Pay Access (to the same IR materials)

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 20 Apr 2005 18:13:21 +0100 (BST)

On Wed, 20 Apr 2005, Ann Okerson wrote:

> At a meeting last week of consortial directors and representatives, an
> interesting topic was raised. One consortium had developed a specialized
> (in subject) institutional repository using a particular vendor's IR
> software. The content in this consortium's IR is available to the world
> for free and that will not change; the consortium and authors arecommitted
> to this. At the same time, the vendor is marketing the software in a way
> that content developed and made available through the IR software by all
> of the vendor's IR customers can be cross searched with some nice
> enhancements - for a fee. This set off quite a conversation.

And the moral is quite straightforward: Why resort to such (un-named) "vendors" at
all, when the most widely used "IR software" (Eprints, Dspace, CDSware, etc.)
is free, wiith no hidden catches?

And what's wrong with cross-searching with the OAI protocol? (That was what it was
designed for.)

And I wouldn't want to try to build a business these days based on a for-fee
searching service over OA archive contents, because be my product ever so spiffy
for the moment, it is a foregone conclusion that (many) enterprising grad students
will soon top it with a better search tool, and for free.

> o One side reasoned that owners of the IRs should/could refuse to have
> their content participate, even passively, in such a commercial setting,
> as antithetical to their desires when they set up the IR.

Doesn't matter in the slightest. OA content is OA content. If someone thinks he
can sell a service on top of it, let him try. If he succeeds, he's got something
people find useful enough to buy. If he fails (or a grad student tops him the next
day), that's business...

> o Others reasoned that owners of the IRs should/could cooperate with the
> IR software vendor to assure that the content can be included (author
> permissions, etc.) so that authors can also get the benefit of better,
> more focused search and services.

No need for the IR to either cooperate or thwart: OA content is OA
content. If it's there, online, OAI-compliant, free, and harvestable,
it's there. The primary content-providers (the authors and their copyright
co-holders) can of course challenge the use of their particular piece
of content for illegal commercial or political purposes, but that's not
the business of the OA Archives. They just provide a means for their authors
to provide Open Access to their articles.

> Any thoughts about this kind of situation? There is a lot of potential
> for a lot of re-use, re-purposing, upgrading of works that are freely
> available. It's a new world we're entering. Ann Okerson/Yale Library

Potential there is. But when the works are themselves all OA, and freely
available to all directly, it puts some limits on cash-in aspirations
that will bring some surprises disappointments to those who try to
over-reach their grasp in this unfamiliar new world.

Patience. The 1st, 2nd, and Nth priority today is getting OA content up from its
current 10-20% level to 100%. No need to worry about pre-empting pipe-dreams about
commercial cash-cows. Just keep pumping those OA articles! The OA will take care
of itself.

Stevan Harnad

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Received on Wed Apr 20 2005 - 18:13:21 BST

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