Re: Academic Press Journal Article Copyright Policy

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 1 Jun 1999 14:24:41 +0100

Brigitte Stemmer <stemmer_at_MAGELLAN.UMontreal.CA> asked:

> As guest editor for Brain and Language [journal]... I wondered whether
> I could advice the contributors of the special issue to post their
> articles in the cog archives.

> AP has a paragraph about "Personal Servers" in the Notice section at
> the end of B&L saying "When an Academic Press journal accepts the work
> for publication, the authors may post it, in its final accepted form,
> on their personal servers (but not on any organized preprint server)
> with a notice _Accepted for publication_ in ....etc. After
> publication, authors may post their Academic Press copyrighted material
> on their own servers without permission, provided ....." (Now they
> don't talk about "organized preprint servers" any more.)
> I know that some of my contributors cannot post their
> articles on personal servers. Are the cog archives
> considered as a "organized preprint server"?
> You may understand that I do not want to encourage my
> authors to something that puts them into trouble. But
> I would like to support free electronic availability
> of articles.

The answer is that the personal/public server distinction is completely
incoherent and hence untenable: Every "personal" server is public --
reachable by anyone on the Web, indexed by all search engines
everywhere, duplicated in countless public cache sites the world over,
mirrored, backed up on the home institution's backup tapes, etc.; in
addition, any "public" server in which the author archives himself,
password-protected, and can add/delete as he pleases, is "personal."

So publishers who try to make and enforce this non-distinction are just
playing word games in trying (desperately, and doomed to lose) to hold
onto something that cannot be held onto, logically, morally, or
practically. (The real distinction they are trying to re-create here,
but cannot, is the distinction between privately distributing one's own
offprints vs. publishing them with another publisher, but of course
that does not fit the new situation at all!)

So you can decide for yourself whether you want to collaborate with AP,
and reinforce this incoherent, illogical distinction, which will have
the effect of deterring some authors for a few more years, through
ignorance and timidity on their part, or whether you prefer to take
a step for good sense and progress and what is indisputably infinitely
better for research and researchers and will prevail sooner or later,
by telling them that they have the right to self-archive online as they
please, their own papers, for which they never received or requested a
penny from AP! The only thing that should/can be forbidden is (1) to
sell them, or (2) to publish them with someone else who sells them.

For a model of the copyright agreement of the near future, see the
self-archiving policy of the American Phsyical Society, publisher of
the most prestigious and highest impact journals in Physics:

No one should sign a copyright agreement that tries to formally forbid
online self-archiving.

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
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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