Authors "Victorious" in UnCover Copyright Suit

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 10 Aug 2000 09:53:08 +0100

>From LJ Digital
>Authors Victorious in UnCover Copyright Suit (July 31, 2000)
>A group of authors have won their two-year-old copyright suit against the
>UnCover document delivery operation. A California court ruled on July 26
>that UnCover must secure copyright permission from and pay royalties
>directly to an author before using that person's work to fill requests from
>customers, instead of relying on the original publisher to compensate the
>authors. UnCover said it will set up licensing agreements with authors for
>semi-annual payments. A web site -- -- is
>being launched July 31, so authors can search to see if their work was
>illegally resold and to provide abused authors with information in
>collecting their share of the $7.25 million settlement.

Insofar as books are concerned, nolo contendere.

But insofar as refereed journal articles are concerned, this lawsuit
and its "victorious" outcome for researchers represents nothing but
short-sighted nonsense.

Journal articles are author GIVE-AWAYS; the average refereed journal
article (this is a free estimate, but unlikely to be far from the
truth) has, let's say, 25 readers, and zero citations (apart from
self-citations), in its entire life-cycle. (Authors for whom UnCover
raises that number by 1 or 2 are not "abused"!)

Collaborating in the raising of yet another needless access-barrier
between these no-market give-aways and that tiny potential readership
(and correspondingly tiny research impact), over and above the one the
primary publisher already needlessly erects there in the form of
Subscription/Site-License/Pay-per-View (S/L/P) tolls is, in the
On-Line, Post-Gutenberg age, not only self-defeating but downright
absurd, for researchers whose primary, secondary, and tertiary interest
is only to maximize the impact of their research findings!

Researchers should not be striving to collect the few pennies that can
be squeezed out of those needless impact-barriers: that only makes their
bargain all the more Faustian! They should be striving only to
ELIMINATE those gratuitous impact-barriers entirely, first, by publicly
self-archiving all their give-away research papers online in Open Archives
( & and, second, by
not signing away their online self-archiving rights in the first place
-- although even if they do, there are completely legal ways to get
around restrictive copyright agreements and hence to self-archive anyway,
through a combination of self-archiving the preprint before refereeing
and linking a "corrigenda" file to them after:

The myopia of the research cavalry is a real head-shaker, sometimes...

Stevan Harnad
Professor of Cognitive Science
Department of Electronics and phone: +44 23-80 592-582
             Computer Science fax: +44 23-80 592-865
University of Southampton
Highfield, Southampton

NOTE: A complete archive of this ongoing discussion of providing free
access to the refereed journal literature is available at the American
Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00):

You may join the list at the site above.

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Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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