American Physical Society: Author Self-Archiving Policy

From: Stevan Harnad (
Date: Sat May 08 1999 - 13:19:10 BST

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 8 May 1999 12:53:35 +0100 (BST)
From: Stevan Harnad <>
To: September American Scientist Forum

Arthur Smith works for the American Physical Society (APS), the
publisher that is (to my knowledge) by far the most enlightened and
progressive of all large learned journal publishers today. Their
example should and will be followed by others. We should all do
whatever we can to further it.


    The APS author(s) shall have the following rights:

(3) The right, after publication by APS, to use all or part of
    the article and abstract, without revision or modification, in
    personal compilations or other publications of the author's own
    works, including the author's personal web home page, and to make
    copies of all or part of such materials for the author's use for
    lecture or classroom purposes, provided that the first page of such
    use or copy prominently displays the bibliographic data and the
    following copyright notice: ``Copyright 19XX by The American
    Physical Society.''

(4) The right to post and update the article on e-print servers as long
    as files prepared and/or formatted by APS or its vendors are not
    used for that purpose, and as long as access to the server does not
    depend on payment of access, subscription, or membership fees. Any
    such posting made or updated after acceptance of the article for
    publication shall include a copyright notice as in (3).

The Editor in Chief of APS was one of the co-authors of the following
important position paper concerning refereed journal copyright policy:


On Fri, 7 May 1999 Arthur Smith <apsmith@APS.ORG> wrote:
> sh> (2) Is the distinction between allowing free self-archiving of the
> sh> final draft on the "home" server and not the "global" server coherent
> sh> and enforceable?
> Here's what I understand of the current official policy (I was given
> some more information on this today):
> (1) The author, as part of the copyright agreement, can post any
> version of the manuscript as created by the author, including the
> final version after revisions suggested by referees, to any distribution
> service that is either free and public, or if not completely free
> is restricted to the author's institution and is not sold commercially
> to other institutions.

I think the APS's commercial restriction is fully justifiable: As long
as APS is footing the bill for it all, there is no reason whatsoever
why anyone else should be able to sell the product and profit from it.
The author's interests are fully served by having only free
distribution rights.

> (2) The author, also as part of the copyright agreement, may post the
> final APS-created rendition of the article (PDF file, two-column format
> and all) to a public web site under the control of the author or author's
> institution, accompanied by a statement concerning APS copyright. This
> version is not to be posted in other public areas.

Very reasonable to require the copyright notice and the clear tagging
as an APS-certified paper. However, the interpretation of the
difference between my institutional server and, say, the LANL server,
is incoherent: I control my LANL paper too; I can delete it any time.
Meanwhile, I DON'T control cached versions of my own institutional
server, which are automatically generated everywhere. So the LETTER of
this distinction turns out, at bottom, to be illogical, not just
impracticable. But the SPIRIT of it all seems fine.


> The coherence comes in part from requiring the accompanying copyright
> statement. Not that it would be easy (or very useful) to police.
> Now we have also seriously considered a license agreement, where the
> author retains full copyright. The only thing that is holding
> that up is some serious concerns about the validity of the language of
> the license under international laws. This may eventually happen,
> in which case the restrictions in policy 2 would probably be lifted.

Fine. It is clear that the APS has the true interests of its authors and
of science at heart, and that these formal details can be worked out.
Would that all or even most publishers felt and behaved in this way!

> We do want to be on the side of the widest possible distribution for
> the BEST scientific articles - somehow, in the past, copyright has
> helped to ensure that excellent work is widely distributed, but it may
> no longer be the best approach now.

Yes, it's the Faustian Bargain I wrote about in '93.


> Anyway, this issue really isn't as critical as you make it out to be.
> If we did allow it, we would not charge for it, it would just be part
> of the copyright or license agreement.

That is abundantly clear. The need to make it coherent and explicit is
more in the interests of setting a clear example for other publishers
than out of any concern about APS's intentions.


Stevan Harnad
Professor of Cognitive Science
Department of Electronics and phone: +44 1703 592-582
Computer Science fax: +44 1703 592-865
University of Southampton
Highfield, Southampton

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Tue Feb 13 2001 - 16:23:04 GMT