Do PrePrints and PostPrints Need a Copyright Licence?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sun, 16 Oct 2005 20:23:43 +0100

As Roger Clarke's email form letter to Repository Managers is being
circulated quite widely, I would accordingly like to make these comments
and suggestions publicly:

(1) For the unrefereed, unpublished preprint, it is a good idea to do
as Roger recommends: to adopt some form of provisional Creative Commons
License rather than just putting it "nakedly" on the Web when self-archiving

(2) This does not apply, however,, to the final, refereed, accepted,
published draft (the postprint), which is published in a journal, which
will have its own copyright transfer agreement, signed with the publisher,
and which is the primary target of the Open Access movement.

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

Now some comments:

On Sun, 16 Oct 2005, Antonella De Robbio wrote:

> Dear Stevan
> I received this mail below from Roger Clarke, a Visiting Professor in Info
> Science & Eng Australian National University, Visiting Professor in the
> eCommerce Program, University of Hong Kong and also Visiting Professor in
> the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre Uni of NSW.
> I haven't yet reply to him because I have been away and precisely I have
> been as Italian delegate at UNESCO 33.rd general conference where we have
> presented an Open Access resolution as Italian UNESCO Commission.
> Well, I am leaving for Geneva at OAI4 next days where I will organise the
> first E-LIS conference too, at the end of OAI4 event.
> I think we must reply to this professor, and so I thought you are the best
> OAIperson who can do it.
> I will answer to him too, later, when I will come back to my conferences
> in Geneva.
> Please look at this letter, he refers to some his articles on FirstMOnday
> and others..
> If you reply please put me in cc, so we could be coordinate in our
> actions.

My replies appear below:

> Thank you!
> Antonella De Robbio
> E-LIS manager
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: Roger Clarke <Roger.Clarke AT>
> To:
> Subject: PrePrints and PostPrints Need a Copyright
> Licence
> Dear ePrint Repository Manager
> The OA/ePrints/Repository movement is very important, and developing very well.
> But there's a gap in the strategy.
> When an ePrint is downloaded, it's likely that an implicit copyright
> licence comes into existence. There's a lack of clarity about the
> terms that courts might infer to be in such a licence. And that's
> dangerous.

It's not *terribly* dangerous, and courts have not much to do with it: Physicists
and computer scientists have been posting "naked" papers online for over a decade
and a half (hundreds of thousands of papers) with no problems.

But for the unpublished, unrefereed, not-yet-copyright-protected preprints, it is
a good idea to adopt one of the Copyright Commons Licenses to protect it until
the final postprint is ready, accepted by the journal, and thenceforward
covered by the journal's copyright agreement.

It is somewhat misleading, though, to say that "eprints," generically, need a
separate license: The preprints do, the postprints do not.

> In a paper published in First Monday in August 2005, I analysed the
> requirements for a copyright licence for Pre-Prints. I took care to
> balance the interests of authors, journal-publishers, and the reading
> public. Details of the paper are below.

I have read the paper, and most of it is not pertinent to published postprints.

> In a further short paper, I've now extended that analysis to address
> Post-Prints as well. Details of that paper are also below.
> I'd like to submit a recommendation to the 'peak body' of ePrint
> Repository Managers; but I haven't been able to find such an
> association.
> So I'm approaching each ePrint Repository Manager directly, with the
> following suggestions:
> - recommend to authors that they make this licence-type available
> for all PrePrints and PostPrints;

Recommendations for naked preprints are welcome, but the postprints are already
covered by publisher copyright.

> - provide guidance and support to authors to enable them to do so
> with a minimum of effort; and

The guidance should clearly state that this is only pertinent to the unpublished

> - consider making the availability of this licence-type a default
> for all papers placed in repositories.

As the primary target to Open Access Institutional Repositories is
not unrefereed preprints but published postprints, the license should
certainly not be incorporated as a default option. It will only create
confusion in the case of the postprint, with the agreement already signed
with the publisher.

> Clarke R. (2005) 'A Proposal for an Open Content Licence for
> Research Paper (Pr)ePrints' First Monday 10, 8 (August 2005), at
> The Post-Print of the paper is at:
> The Pre-Print of the paper (of 1 May 2005) is at:
> Clarke R. (2005) 'A Standard Copyright Licence for PostPrints'
> Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 26 August 2005, at
> Creative Commons - Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0
> US -
> and its equivalents, e.g.
> UK -
> FR -
> AU -

These CC licenses are not applicable to articles that are already under
a publisher's copyright agreement. Nor should anyone imply -- at a time
when self-archiving of postprints is still only at 15%, even though 70%
of journals already endorse postprint self-archiving, and 23% more endorse
preprint self-archiving -- that the postprint author need do anything
more than self-archive his postprint. Authors don't need more burdens,
nor more worries (they are already needlessly worried about whether
they may self-archive at all). Nor should they be advised (incorrectly)
that in order to self-archive their postprints, they need to negotiate a
different copyright agreement with their publishers. Nor should copyright
licenses be applied to their preprints that might contradict the copyright
agreement that they will be signing for their postprints.

In general, copyright is a red herring for Open Access. Yes, make sure your text
is copyright-protected while it's a preprint, but the postprint has no more
copyright problem if it is self-archived than it used to have when it was not.
That is what the copyright agreement with the publisher is for.

See the eprint self-archiving FAQ items on copyright:

Stevan Harnad

> Other national licences are at:
> --
> Roger Clarke
> Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd 78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
> Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, and 6288 6916
> Visiting Professor in Info Science & Eng Australian National University
> Visiting Professor in the eCommerce Program University of Hong Kong
> Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre Uni of NSW
Received on Sun Oct 16 2005 - 22:35:07 BST

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