Re: Science 4 September on Copyright

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_COGSCI.SOTON.AC.UK>
Date: Wed, 16 Sep 1998 13:53:49 -0400

Albert Henderson <> wrote:

> The Bachrach et al. proposal is not about authors and publishers.

Incorrect. It is about authors retaining the right to give away for
free to readers what they already give away for free to publishers.

> It is about universities shifting the burden of spending for their
> libraries to researchers.

Incorrect. It is about a way to lighten that burden considerably, while
increasing access to the refereed literature incomparably.

> It requires every researcher to have the use
> of expensive equipment and supplies of energy and paper.

Incorrect. It requires no more than what is rapidly becoming the
norm anyway, and it is a way of accelerating it.

> It misrepresents the cost of a handful of electronic novelties that are
> heavily subsidized with publications that are sustained by their
> markets.

Incorrect. If "electronic novelties" refers to Eprint archives like
xxx, these are indeed subsidised by the quality control currently
provided by S/SL/PPV-based paper journals, but these in turn are
subsidized by the S/SL/PPV-tolls paid by the authors' libraries.

The learned community (authors and readers alike) would clearly be
better off if there were a way that these costs could be reduced by 2/3
and the remainder covered in such a way as to make the refereed
literature available for free for all. There is a way, and the author's
right to publicly archive his refereed journal articles as proposed by
Bachrach et al. is the first and most important step along that path to
the optimal and inevitable.

xxx's NSF/DOE subsidy is mostly for development; maintenance costs
are modest and become proportionately even more modest as we increase
the number of eggs in the same collective basket. Compared to the
maintenance costs of the paper corpus they are infinitesimal.

One of the "handful of electronic novelties" in question has 65,000
That's quite a "market."

> The authors delude themselves that grant-supported projects are immune
> from sudden death. The preprint experiments of the 1960s funded by NIH
> and the Atomic Energy Commission suggest there is a dark cloud
> somewhere in the future of Drs Harnad and Ginsparg.

This analogy is incoherent. Paper was always a loss-leader insofar as
the optimal dissemination of the refereed literature (for free for all)
was concerned. Not so for free electronic dissemination, which is
sustainable, rational and involves converging, common interests.

The dark cloud is in the future of such blinkered papyrocentric thinking.

> The recognition of "Library photocopying" in the Copyright Act of 1976
> helped substitute copying for collection development. It excused the
> decimation of university library collections. The Bachrach et al.
> proposal seems prepared to excuse elimination of libraries entirely.

Incorrect, and yet another incoherent analogy. In the papyrocentric
era, no alternative existed, bootleg photo-copying was indeed a
parasite that could have destroyed the entire refereed journal corpus
by leeching out its legitimate source of revenue. Public archiving will
instead free it (by forcing and accelerating the conversion from
S/SL/PPV to page charges for recovering the remaining costs of quality

The Bachrach proposal is not in the interests of publishers or
libraries, It is in the interests of the learned community, who are
both the producers and the consumers of the refereed journal
literature. The learned community has always chosen to give away this
product, but they want to continue to give it away in the traditional
quality-controlled, certified form. The much-reduced costs of that
quality control and certification in the online-only medium can be
recovered from the windfall S/SL/PPV savings, with the result being a
free refereed journal literature for all.

Is Henderson suggesting that the learned community should abjure this
so as to prevent the "decimation of university [refereed serials]
collections"? Should we be spamming the 65K daily users of xxx to let
them know they are behaving irresponsibly?

As to the "elimination of libraries entirely," let us remember that
all of this applies only to the always-freely-given refereed serials
literature. Not to books, not to trade magazines. (But, apart from
that, are we not forgetting that the scholar's library is there in
the service of the scholar, and not the other way around?)

> One of its coauthors has already projected an end to collection
> development by the year 2017 based on statistics of the Association of
> Research Libraries (Okerson PUBLISHERS WEEKLY 27 July 1992: 22-23)

Let us hope that we will reach the optimal and inevitable earlier
than that. Ann has always been so cautious...

> The Association of College and Research Libraries recommended that
> schools spend six percent of their budget on their libraries. They have
> instead spent less and less according to the National Center for
> Education Statistics (STATUS OF ACADEMIC LIBRARIES ... NCES 97-413,
> June 1997).

And what on earth has that got to do with anything we are discussing
here, since the measures at issue will lead to greater saving rather
than greater spending by libraries?

> Between 1960, when the first plain paper copier was commercialized and
> 1995, U.S. academic R&D (constant dollars) increased nearly seven
> times. Spending for 41 of the largest research university libraries
> increased only 4.13 times (also constant dollars). If there is a
> problem in modern dissemination, it falls from this huge imbalance.

Just what is the point here? Is there some law of nature that says
expenses and technologies from which we have suffered in the past we
are wedded to till doomsday?

> The neglect of dissemination by science policy has affected the quality
> of research. For a detailed article on "the incoherence of science
> policy," see the current (S/O) issue of SOCIETY.

The only neglect that has affected the quality of research has been
the decline in the funding of research itself. Let us hope that some
further savings on dissemination vouchsafed by the PostGutenberg era,
along with the incalculable benefits of universal, fire-wall-free
access, will help to redress that neglect.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Tue Aug 25 1998 - 19:17:43 BST

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