Re: Definition of Open Access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 29 May 2007 14:28:23 +0100

    Pertinent Prior AmSci Topic Threads:
    "Definition of Open Access"

    "Free vs. Open Access"

    "Is there any need for a universal Open Access label?"

On Mon, 28 May 2007, Rick Anderson wrote:

> > SH:
> > It is my impression that rights expertise is so focussed on the
> > formal that it has lost sight of the functional: OA has nothing
> > to do with commercial rights, either formally or functionally.
> RA:
> This depends entirely on the model of OA under consideration.

There is no "model of OA": OA is OA. There are two ways to provide OA
(Green and Gold), but what is provided is OA in both cases. This is not an
exercise in formalism: Providing OA is merely researchers providing free
online access to their research for other researchers so they can use it
in their research. It can be done by publishing in a conventional journal
and making the postprint free online by self-archiving it (Green OA)
or by publishing in an OA journal that makes the postprint free online.

> RA:
> Both the Bethesda and Berlin statements use the following
> language: "The author(s) and the copyright holder(s) ... grant(s)
> to all users a free, irrevocable, worldwide right of access to,
> and a license to copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the
> work publicly and to make and distribute derivative works."
> (The Bethesda statement adds the word "perpetual" before the
> phrase "right of access"; the Budapest statement phrases the same
> ideas slightly differently.) By granting to the world at large
> the right to copy, distribute, display and create derivative
> works, authors effectively divest themselves of all the rights
> that traditionally accrue to authors exclusively. Whether this
> is a good thing or a bad thing is open to debate, but there's no
> question that the effect of OA under any of these three models
> has both a formal and a functional effect on authors' rights.

Rick is quite right about this. Berlin, and especially Bethesda (from
which Berlin was derived), veered strongly toward a definition of Gold OA
in place of a generic definition of OA itself -- causing (and probably
also resulting from) considerable confusion about what OA means. I also
have to confess that even the Budapest (BOAI) statement contained some
unnecessary extra constraints on what is meant by OA (and I was one of
the co-signers of that version). It took a little while for things to
come fully into focus.

But there is no reason to be formalistic about this: Errors are there
to be corrected; definitions can be updated. OA just means FREE ONLINE
ACCESS to the full-text (of journal articles, in the first instance).
That automatically includes everything that comes with the online
territory (i.e., the web), with no need whatsoever to stipulate it
separately (linking, downloading, generating local hard-copy, local
storage, personal data-crunching).

The rest of the stipulations are completely superfluous and
counterproductive, adding gratuitous hurdles and deterrents, to Green
OA in particular. The extra stipulations apply only to a journal
providing Gold OA, they do not apply to OA itself, and this should be
made crystal clear.

For a conventional journal article that is made Green OA by its author,
self-archiving it online, free for all -- Larry Lessig calls this
"naked OA" -- there is no requirement to grant extra public licensing
or "derivative-works" rights (unless the author explicitly *wants*
to grant them, but then that's over and above OA). In particular, for
Green OA articles, already protected by conventional copyright, naked
OA is enough for now.

OA itself is a form of access-provision, not a form of publication. Gold
OA is a form of publication.

The only two extra constraints it became necessary, in hindsight, to
add, were that OA must be permanent and immediate. That proved necessary
in order to exclude obvious gimmicks and abuses of the very idea of OA,
such as making an article freely accessible online for N days only,
as a promotional ploy, or making it freely accessible only after a
1-year embargo. The motivation for OA is research access and progress,
and loopholes for such tom-foolery needed plugging up. Adding Immediate
and Permanent does the trick.

> > SH:
> > I expect that one can waive one's right to breath air too, if
> > one is silly enough to agree to do so, but that, too, is not
> > the point under discussion here...
> RA:
> It's exactly the point that was under discussion. Your statement
> was that "Fair use is not a right that a copyright transfer
> agreement can take away from anyone, especially the author," and
> it is completely wrong.

Rick is again quite right concerning those copyright transfer agreements
that explicitly state "I waive my author Fair Use Right to send individual
copies to researchers requesting my work." But as far as I know, no
publisher has ever drafted, and no author has ever signed, such an
absurd contract. (So, again, talking about it is merely formalism, of
no substantive import for the real, practical matter at hand: researchers
providing free online access to their own refereed research findings for
other researchers who want to use them.)

Stevan Harnad
Received on Tue May 29 2007 - 15:04:22 BST

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