Re: Some initial thoughts on the Brussels Declaration on STM publishing

From: C.Oppenheim <C.Oppenheim_at_LBORO.AC.UK>
Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2007 13:52:08 -0000

Jan,† lots of publishers are prepared to offer a simple "licence to
publish in a journal", with the author retaining ALL other rights.† The
publisher does not get "all the dissemination rights", just the right to
disseminate within the vehicle of the journal, leaving the author free to
disseminate using, e.g., web pages, repositories and so on.† The
publisher usually requires a cross-reference to the journal bibliographic
citation, which is fair enough.


Professor Charles Oppenheim
Department of Information Science
Loughborough University
Leics LE11 3TU

Tel 01509-223065
Fax 01509-223053
e mail
      ----- Original Message -----
From: Velterop, Jan, Springer UK
Sent: Wednesday, February 21, 2007 1:29 PM
Subject: Some further thoughts on the Brussels Declaration on STM
publishing: copyright

Copyright is widely misunderstood. Particularly the role of
copyright in science publishing. First of all, there is this idea
that some journals and publishers don't require copyright transfer,
but 'just' the exclusive dissemination and exploitation rights. To
all practical intents and purposes, that is exactly the same, and
'copyright' is just shorthand for 'exclusive dissemination and
exploitation rights'! So if it helps to drop the word 'copyright'
then that should, and easily can, be done.

Secondly, transfer of exclusive rights to a publisher is a form of
'payment'. Payment for the services of a publisher. The publisher
subsequently uses these exclusive rights to sell subscriptions and
licences in order to recoup his costs, in a rather roundabout way.
This form of payment ^÷ as opposed to cash ^÷ has advantages and
disadvantages. The advantage is seemingly for the author, who
(mistakenly) has the feeling that he doesn't have to pay for the
services of formal publication of his article, but who seldom
realises why he is asked to transfer exclusive rights. The
disadvantage is that payment in the form of exclusive rights limits
access, because it needs a subscription/licence model to convert
this form of 'payment' into money. And subscriptions/licences are
by definition restrictive in terms of dissemination. Article fee
supported open access publishing, where the transfer of exclusive
rights is replaced by the transfer of money, consequently doesn't
have the need for subscriptions and can therefore abolish all
restrictions on dissemination.

Stevan Harnad c.s. will argue that none of this matters, because
there is 'green', meaning that whatever 'exclusive' rights have
been transferred, authors can still disseminate their articles via
self-archiving in open repositories. In that model, having
transferred 'exclusive' rights is meaningless, and that implies
that the 'payment' that exclusive rights transfer actually is, has
become worthless. In mandates with embargos, the 'payment' may not
be completely worthless (depending on the length of the embargo)
but is at least severely devalued.

I am a great fan of open access, but not a great fan of 'green'.
'Green' is a kind of appeasement by publishers (some of who, it
must be said, themselves didn't ^÷ sometimes still don't ^÷ realise
the 'payment' nature of exclusive rights transfer). Appeasement is
often regretted with hindsight. Instead of allowing the nature of
exclusive rights transfer to be compromised, publishers should much
earlier have offered authors the choice of payment ^÷ either
transfer of exclusive rights, or cash. The appeasement, the
'green', now acts as a hurdle to structural open access, perhaps
even an impediment.

Harnadian orthodoxy will dismiss this. It holds that subscription
journals will survive, that they will be paid for by librarians
even if the content is freely disseminated in parallel via open
repositories, and that it doesn't matter anyway (the guru is
tentatively beginning to admit that large scale uptake of
self-archiving, for instance as the result of mandates, may indeed
destroy journals) because a new order will only come about after
the complete destruction of the old order. After all, morphing the
old order into the new, without complete destruction, entails a
cost in terms of money, which "isn't there", and anyway, the cost
that comes with complete destruction of the old order is preferred
to spending money on any transition, in that school of thought.

I doubt that a complete wipe-out will come. But there are quite a
large number of vulnerable journals and a partial wipe-out as a
result of mandated self-archiving is entirely plausible. Although
there seems to be a myth that journals are very, even extremely,
profitable, the fact is that a great many journals are not
profitable or 'surplus-able' (in not-for-profit parlance). In my
estimate it is the majority. Within the portfolio of larger
publishers these journals are often absorbed and cross-subsidised
by the journals that are profitable. Smaller (e.g. society-)
publishers cannot do that. Marginal journals do not have to suffer
a lot of subscription loss before they go under. Some of these,
especially society ones, will be 'salvaged' by being given the
opportunity to shelter under the umbrella of the portfolio of one
of the larger independent publishers. Others will just perish if
they lose subscriptions. They could of course convert to open
access journals with article processing fees, but setting those up
is no sinecure, and requires a substantial financial commitment, as
the experience of PLoS and BMC has shown. Journals that are run for
the love of it, by the commendable voluntary efforts of academics,
are mostly very small, and are the first to be affected, unless, of
course, they do not need any income because they are
crypto-subsidised by the institutions with which their editors are
affiliated. Such journals have always been there and there are
probably more now than ever (and some are very good indeed, or so
I'm told), but to imagine scaling them up to deal with the million
plus articles per year published as a result of global research
efforts seems far-fetched, indeed.

Open access is the inevitable future, and it is worth working on a
truly robust and sustainable way to achieve it.

Jan Velterop

-----Original Message-----
From: American Scientist Open Access Forum on behalf of Leslie Carr
Sent: Wed 2/21/2007 1:32 AM
Subject: Re: Some initial thoughts on the Brussels Declaration on
STM publishing

On 20 Feb 2007, at 20:37, Eamon Fensessy wrote:
> It is true researchers do transfer copyright of their works to†
> publishers for wider distribution but they do this knowing full†
> well the works will be peer-reviewed and included in Journals
> are respected in the STM community.

Researchers could know full well exactly the same thing WITHOUT†
transferring copyright.
This is done becaue the researchers know it will benefit them.

I beg to differ: it is done BECAUSE the publishers issue contracts
which it is demanded. Can you explain how copyright transfer
researchers, because I think that it harms them.

> If one were to go out and establish their own journals using†
> today's technology, they could do that too.
We seem to be agreed that technology may assist those wishing to†
establish an independent journal.
> But, there are "journals" and there are "JOURNALS."
ie there are journals which are highly rated, perhaps with higher†
impact factors than their "competitors".
> Publishers provide a necessary service to their readers
It sounds as if I am splitting hairs if I point out that
don't have readers", but I want to emphasise the roles that†
publishers undertake. Otherwise we end up making sentences (like
Brussels Declaration) that sound as if publishing companies are†
entirely responsible for journal output, peer review and scholarly†
communication. The sentence "I am going to read this publisher" is†
nonsense. (Although the sentence "I am going to read Elsevier"
be the basis of a dreadful pun.)

Publishers have customers. Journals have subscribers. Articles
readers. What service do publishers provide? They manage the
aspects of journals (investment, sales, marketing) and they help†
administer the workflow for journal content.

In an indirect sense publishers provide a service to readers, but
do funding councils and governments.
Received on Wed Feb 21 2007 - 14:04:09 GMT

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