Re: Do PrePrints and PostPrints Need a Copyright Licence?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 19 Oct 2005 18:02:46 +0100

On Wed, 19 Oct 2005 vilanka_at_HANKEN.FI wrote:

> Finally I would like to comment that the main point that Roger Clarke makes in
> his article, is relevant. There is a problem when we post writings online
> without any copyright notice. The default we have in the traditional
> (continental) copyright system is that any use requires a permission (license)
> from the author if not otherwise granted by a specific provision in law (e.g.
> fair- or private use). Thus even if the author's personal intention is to allow
> free distribution (e.g. "of course my work may be printed and distributed,
> that's why I posted it online"), the default in the law is different.

These questions make absolutely no sense out of context. Here is the context:

(1) Google indexes billions of digital documents, most of them freely accessible
to anyone, anywhere webwide with one click.

(2) Millions and millions of web users are accessing those billions of
documents daily without the slightest thought about asking for permission
to do so.

(3) Among those billions of documents are the 15% of the annual 2,500,000
articles that are published annually in the planet's 24,000 peer-reviewed research
journals -- i.e., about 375,000 documents per year -- because they have been
self-archived by their authors to make them freely accessible on the web.

(4) Missing from those billions of documents are the 85% of the annual
2.5 million articles published annual in the planet's peer-reviewed
research journals -- i.e., about 2,125,000 documents per year -- because
they have *not* been self-archived by their authors to make them freely
accessible on the web.

(5) The authors of those absent 2,125,000 documents per year are currently losing
50%-250% of their citation impact.

Hence the immediate priority for those 2,125,000 documents per year
that are not being self-archived today is *not* to get their authors to
self-archive them and also to get them to provide explicit permission
to access them, but to get their authors to self-archive them at all.

Those 2,125,000 documents per year can then take their chances (along
with the other billions of documents being freely accessed daily) that
their would-be users may not feel they may access them until given
explicit permission.

In other words, the real problem is the absence of access-provision, not the
absence of access-permission.

So we should not be asking these authors (85%) to do more than self-archiving,
when they are not yet even doing the self-archiving.

> The remaining problem is, [whether] the publisher is interested
> in publishing the article after it (or preprint) has been published with a
> CC-license online.

Ninety-three percent of journals have already said self-archiving
is ok with them (70% for postprint self-archiving, 23% for preprint

So the problem (for most publishers today) is not with the author
self-archiving; but it could well be the prior preprint license, if it
is in conflict with the publisher's subsequent copyright agreement for
the postprint.

And the effect of the problem -- needing to adopt a CC license in order
to self-archive -- may well be to discourage rather than encourage
the authors of the missing 85% of the annual articles (2,125,000) to
self-archive them.

And all that, just to provide -- for this tiny, unhappy (and missing)
subset of total web content -- the "explicit permissions" that millions
of daily web users today are happily and unhesitantly accessing billions
of web documents without.

Let's deal with the access-permission problem if and when it actually shows any
signs of becoming a problem; meanwhile, let us deal with the access-provision
problem, which is already very real, and long overdue for resolution.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Wed Oct 19 2005 - 19:25:54 BST

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