Re: Chron. High. Ed. 18 September on Cal Tech & Copyright

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 19 Sep 1998 12:21:13 +0100

One can only hope that Professor Ransdell's ominous premises about
conflicts of interest between scholars and their institutions are
mistaken, for otherwise his conclusions would indeed be justified.

Fortunately [the Chronicle of Higher Education version of] his posting

suggests a simple empirical test:

> [Harnad's] closing suggestion that the university's co-ownership be only
> formalized in the publication agreement/licensing itself (i.e., at
> point of publication), and that the author's right to archive publicly
> in perpetuo be a permanent component of all such agreements/licenses
> sounds fine except that it is not clear why a university would want to
> cooperate in copyright which had such a proviso in it, effectively
> nullifying their control, and it seems very unlikely to me that many
> administrations would in fact agree to such a simple relinquishment of
> the power normally associated with copyright.

Let this question be put explicitly to the proponents of
scholar/university co-ownership of copyright (for refereed journal
articles), beginning with Professor Koonin of Cal Tech and Professor
Ira Fuchs of Princeton, who likewise attended the 1997 Conference on
Scholarly Communication at Cal Tech organised by Koonin and
attended by the Provosts from the major US Universities:

    Would you cooperate in copyright which had such a proviso in it?

If the answer is yes, then I think my interpretation of the motivation
of Koonin and his fellow-provosts is vindicated; if the answer is no,
then we are indebted to Professor Randsell for identifying a second
Trojan Horse. (The first was the one implicit in the "hybrid scenario"
described in the unpublished summary of my own contribution to the 1997
Cal Tech Provosts' conference, below.)


Stevan Harnad
Department of Psychology
University of Southampton
Highfield, Southampton

The publishers of learned journals have the following hybrid scenario
for the transition from paper to electronic publishing: Produce both
versions, and offer paper-plus-electronic subscriptions for slightly
more than paper-only, and electronic-only subscriptions for slightly
less. This allows supply and demand to decide which version is
preferred, and offers a seamless transition to electronic-only if and
when its time comes. Variants of this scenario include site-licensing
or pay-per-view in place of subscriptions, but, without exception, all
these scenarios continue to regard learned articles as a trade
commodity to be sold to readers and protected from "theft" by copyright
laws. This trade model entails and has always entailed, a conflict of
interest between the publisher and the nontrade researcher/author. In
the Gutenberg era, when print-on-paper was the only option, the
conflict of interest was resolved in favor of the publisher, whose real
costs and a fair profit could only be covered by restricting access to
those who paid (whereas the author would have preferred that everyone
everywhere have access for free). I have called this the "Faustian
Bargain" (which is rather like advertisers being forced to make
potential clients pay to see their ads!). The PostGutenberg era of
"Scholarly Skywriting" -- networked electronic publication, free for
all -- has at last made it possible for nontrade authors (those who ask
and receive no royalties, and whose readership is a small population of
fellow researchers) to free themselves from the Faustian Bargain. They
can archive their unrefereed preprints on the Net and can substitute
for them the refereed, published reprint after peer review, editing,
and mark-up. This is the gist of my "Subversive Proposal." The only
problem is that the cost of implementing peer review, editing and
mark-up is still being borne by paper journal publishers, who continue
to cling to the trade model, and whose subscription revenues are at
risk if the Net becomes the preferred means of access. These costs are
medium-independent and low enough to make it more productive to recover
them on the authors' end (as page charges, covered by the grant that
funded the research itself and/or from authors' institutions' savings
on canceled paper journal subscriptions). Paper publishers will have to
scale down to the reduced costs of electronic-only publication or their
editorial boards will defect and reconstitute themselves with new
electronic-only publishers who are prepared to adopt the nontrade,
page-charge model, yielding free access to the learned periodical
literature for everyone, as it had always meant to be.

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

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