Re: Do PrePrints and PostPrints Need a Copyright Licence?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 18 Oct 2005 13:39:57 +0100 (BST)

On Tue, 18 Oct 2005, Joseph Pietro Riolo wrote:

> >
> I will point out the incorrect information in your FAQ.
> It is simply wrong to state that the copyright transfer agreement
> does not apply to preprint when the agreement is not made at the
> time of preprint. You made a wrong assumption that the copyright
> that is transferred according to the agreement is different from
> the copyright that exists in preprint. When you transfer copyright
> in your work to someone else, the copyright covers all the copies
> of the work. That includes preprint. Note that the author can
> retain a copy at his website. He simply no longer has the right
> to create more copies and to distribute more copies unless he
> has the permission from the copyright holder that holds copyright
> in his work.

There is just one fundamental oversight on your part here, and the
rest of the disagreement derives from that one oversight: The online
medium is *different*. "Copy* as in "copyright" no longer has its
prior straightforward meaning, and cannot. If you leave the preprint
on the website, everything else comes with the territory: accessing it,
reading it on-screen, downloading it, storing it, doing computations on
it, printing it off (own local use, not distribution), linking to it,
citing it.

That's all that's needed for OA; that's all that's claimed.

The preprint and the preprint self-archiving pre-date the submission, the
revision, the acceptance and any subsequent copyright transfer. Regardless
of whether the preprint is regarded as covered by the later copyright,
or the postprint is regarded as a derivative work, the cat's out of the
bag, irretrievably. The preprint, perfectly legally, is already online
and accessible to all, and continues to be, because, in fact, there's
no real way to remove something from the web once it has been made
publicly accessible and has propagated forever to mirrors and caches
and harvests and distributed downloads and wayback machines. That too
comes with the territory.

And that's the concrete, practical part. The rest is just formalistic
pedantry (based mostly on moot paper-based notions), with no practical
import online -- or on legalistic superstition, with likewise no
practical import online.

> Another wrong information that you continue to give is related
> to corrigenda. Corrigenda alone is not illegal from the perspective
> of copyright law. However, it is simply illegal to combine preprint
> and corrigenda to create a text that is totally identical to postprint
> whose copyright is owned by copyright holder unless you are
> permitted to do so. The reason is simply that the copyright holder
> holds copyright in postprint (and preprint). You continue to
> give the wrong information that it is legal to combine preprint
> and corrigenda.

With all due respect, I think that that is exactly the sort of formalism
that has no concrete practical content whatever. If I write a text,
post it publicly on the web, submit it for publication, revise it in
accordance with the recommendations of the referees and then the text
is accepted for publication and copyright is transfered to the publisher
(a) there is no way to get the preprint off the web and (b) it is utter
nonsense to say that I cannot post and link a list of corrigenda to the
preprint. Of course I can.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Tue Oct 18 2005 - 13:58:52 BST

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