Re: Poynder on Digital Rights Management and Open Access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 26 Apr 2005 14:37:16 +0100

On Tue, 26 Apr 2005, Richard Poynder wrote:

> my point was that many in this 85% group of authors are still parked
> because the rights situation is uncertain and they don't want a traffic cop
> to pull them in when/if they move on to the highway. So let's clarify the
> rights and allow the parked authors to move off into the self-archiving fast
> lane - so long, of course, as they have been mandated to self-archive by
> their funders. Since funders also have it in their power to clarify the
> rights situation - by insisting that researchers retain sufficient rights to
> self-archive - they can apparently achieve both aims at one fell swoop.

Perhaps this allegory (in which author/researchers are cast
as delivery-truck drivers, delivering research impact for their
employers/funders) will help get the logic of the situation into better

                       U-HAUL ALLEGORY

    When 85% of delivery-truck drivers are parked motionless facing
    traffic-lights, 92% of which are green, one need not (1) seek a court
    ruling on the legality of going ahead on green! Nor need one (2) seek,
    for each individual driver, the personal legal right to turn the light
    green at will of his own accord, when 92% are already green! The
    drivers' paymasters can propel them into motion by reminding them
    of the logical and legal contingency between green lights and going
    ahead as well as the professional and practical contingency between
    one's salary and making one's deliveries....

> as Alma Swan elsewhere says: "The fact is that copyright raises its head
> all the time when authors are asked about OA and it is acting as a deterrent
> to self-archiving. So it can't be ignored."
> (

I think that by "can't be ignored" Alma meant mostly (92%, to be exact)
informing drivers about the logical/legal contingencies, as well as
firming up the practical/professional contingencies.

> Indeed, Alma is not the only person to have made this point. Here are the
> words of Stevan Harnad:
> "[W]hat really needs changing is journals' copyright policies, which are a
> perceived deterrent to self-archiving refereed papers (even though they can
> be circumvented completely legally)"
> Since research funders seem equally unclear about the current rights
> situation there appears to be considerable confusion all round.

Richard, that quote was from Tue Mar 27 2001 - 19:09:15 BST!

Things have, fortunately, progressed since then -- though more on the
publisher (traffic-light) side than on the author (delivery) side, with
author self-archiving only increasing from about 10% to 15% during that
4-year interval while journal green-lights increased from perhaps <10%
in 2001 to 92% today (under pressure from the demand for OA including,
amongst others, the 34,000 authors who signed the PLoS Open Letter
threatening to boycott their journals by September 2001 otherwise!) The
present situation is not without its ironies and internal inconsistencies!
But inconsistencies are there to be pointed out and corrected:

    "A Keystroke Koan For Our Open Access Times" (2003)

The second part of my quote, by the way, is still valid and pertinent

but it is mooted by the progress on the first part, 92% of journals now
being green; for the remaining 8%, copyright re-negotiation is one option;
the preprint-plus-corrections strategy is another; and the "keystroke mandate"
is another:

>sh> to date only one green publisher (Nature) has back-slid, and only from
>sh> full-green (immediate postscript self-archiving) to pale-green
>sh> (immediate preprint self-archiving...
> However small the overall impact of Nature's back-pedalling may be in
> itself, it teaches us that relying on "permissions" from publishers is an
> inherently unstable strategy for the OA movement, since these permissions
> can be withdrawn at any point in time. Moreover since publishers do not
> create the material that they publish, a more appropriate way of organising
> things would be for them to seek permissions from authors, not the other way
> round.

When the shade of green for one publisher changes (yet remains green,
the 92% figure unchanged), this is hardly grounds to call for a bottom-up
reconstruction of the traffic grid! Let us reconstruct the grid if and
when we ever need to. The priority right now is making those deliveries!

    "32. Poisoned Apple"

> I tried [Demoprints] but had some difficulties.
> [ ]
> Specifically, I could not establish whether the article I was trying to
> post had been accepted by the system. After 20 minutes trying to work
> this out I gave up. Perhaps this is because it is only a demo system,
> but I think the first thing a researcher would want to do is check that
> his paper has indeed been uploaded - by doing a search to see if it is
> there. It might also be because I am not as technology literate as I
> would wish, but then many researchers might be similarly handicapped!

Richard, many thanks for that feedback! You are quite right that depositors
require rapid feedback and the reward of seeing of their paper in the archive
(if there are no metadata problems to fix) as soon as possible.

I note that there was a backlog of 49 deposits in the Demoprints buffer.
I have now cleared most for deposit myself (some had errors to fix) and
will ask Chris Gutteridge to make sure someone checks the Demoprints buffer
at least every week.

A week is too slow a turnaround for a real institutional archive, however, so
I hope institutions will make sure that their buffer is processed daily or even
more often, especially in the all-important start-up phase when the idea is
to encourage and reward all self-archivers!

But Richard, your own deposit did not even make it to the buffer: The sequence
is: (1) Register (and wait for confirmation). [I assume you went through this
1-time phase successfully, if you got the the deposit stage.] (2) Deposit the
metadada and the full-text of a paper. (3) Wait for confirmation that it has
been processed (usually after someone has checked that the metadata ar ok and
that the full-text is indeed attached and readable).

You must have left out a step in (2) because your deposit never even reached
the buffer for checking. (Please do try again, or let me know what happened!)

Stevan Harnad

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Received on Tue Apr 26 2005 - 14:37:16 BST

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