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

From: Joseph Ransdell <> <harnad_at_COGSCI.SOTON.AC.UK>
Date: Mon, 21 Sep 1998 10:31:32 -0400

From: "ransdell, joseph m." <>

Thanks, Steven, for your reply, and you have my permission to put the
nested exchange below in the public record. As before, I have not
forgotten that it is the refereed journal literature which is at issue

Joseph Ransdell

On Sun, 20 Sep 1998, ransdell, joseph m. wrote:


In your letter to Provosts Koonin and Fuchs you say that the reason "for
the guarantee of the author's public archiving rights is to answer
worries such as those of Professor Ransdell who infers (I think wrongly)
that the objective of the copyright proposal might be to suppress
publication in some cases, rather than to promote it."

But my worry does not concern the objective of the copyright proposal:
I have no reason to think Provost Koonin has any such objective and that
is not my inference. I realize that your wording it that way was only a
facon de parler, and I don't intend this as a quibble at that level. But
putting it in that way does tend to obscure what I think important,
which is that, regardless of anyone's present objectives, the decision
to go for joint copyright instead of insisting on retaining one's
original copyright is, if unqualified, simply giving up one's
independence as a scholar in a fundamental way, regardless of whether it
is the publisher or the university that it is given over to. One
doesn't do that sort of thing without good reason -- that is why an
adjective as strong as "Faustian" is indeed appropriately used of the
decision -- and the sincerity of Provost Koonin is not in itself a good
reason because it is not Provost Koonin that the copyright is to be
shared with. What is wanted here is not personal assurances so much as
reasonable expectations about very long range institutional
considerations, and putting this in terms of "the objective of the
proposal" tends to mislead in that respect.

Of course the idea is that what is questionable in this is to be, in
effect, nullified by the inclusion of the agreement about public
archiving. But even with this there is still a momentous legal step
being taken which one does not want to take without good reason, given
the fact that legal provisos and qualifications tend to be reinterpreted
in favor of the stronger party when changed circumstances suggest to one
of the parties involved that the original agreement may have been a
mistaken one.

Best regards,

Joseph Ransdell

Date: Monday, September 21, 1998 5:17 AM
From: Stevan Harnad <>
To: ransdell, joseph m. <>


You are quite right to insist that the legal details of any joint
author/university copyright will have to be worked out explicitly and
fully in advance to the satisfaction of both parties, as I had already
agreed in an early posting:

    "The idea of joint ownership of research reports by the author and
    the author's institution needs to be analyzed in detail, but, on
    the face of it, it is not obvious that it would diminish the rights
    or conflict with the needs of the authors of refereed-journal
    papers (the only literature to which my own writing on this subject
    is pertinent)."

However, I do think that Steve Koonin's resounding "yes" -- about both
(1) formalizing the agreement at point of publication (to guarantee
that there indeed IS rather than ISN'T publication), and about (2)
guaranteeing in advance and in perpetuo the author's right to archive
the paper publicly -- should allay prima facie worries of the kind you
voiced. Although you keep reminding me that there is no need to keep
doing it, I must again remind you that we are talking about the
refereed journal literature, where the objective is simply to get the
(peer-reviewed, certified) findings prominently into the public domain,
not to worry about retaining subsidiary movie rights!

Best wishes,


P.S. I'd be happy to put this exchange in the public record at CHE and
AmSci too, if you agree, as I think it may be helpful in revealing that,
latent in such worries on the part of even a comrade-at-arms such as
yourself, worries to the effect that there may still be something
"Faustian" about such a joint copyright agreement, is a residue of the
very trade thinking that defined the "Faustian" character of the
original refereed-author/publisher pact in the first place: For where
the SOLE objective is to get the issue of one's immortal soulwork fully
into the public eye for once and for (one and) all, once that has been
guaranteed, one has nothing left to lose (or save).

This is a PROFOUND difference between the refereed literature and all
other literatures; it is absolutely critical and central to the issue
at hand; and it's apparently devilishly difficult to keep it always
clearly in mind, untainted by the irrelevant trade constraints and
considerations of all other forms of publication (which ammounts to
most of it, and is certainly the prototype for it in everyone's mind).
Received on Tue Aug 25 1998 - 19:17:43 BST

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