Re: Authors "Victorious" in UnCover Copyright Suit

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 10 Aug 2000 16:44:36 +0100

On Thu, 10 Aug 2000, Mike Holderness wrote:

>>sh> Insofar as books are concerned, nolo contendere.
>>sh> But insofar as refereed journal articles are concerned, this lawsuit
>>sh> and its "victorious" outcome for researchers represents nothing but
>>sh> short-sighted nonsense.
>>sh> Journal articles are author GIVE-AWAYS; the average refereed journal
>>sh> article (this is a free estimate, but unlikely to be far from the
>>sh> truth) has, let's say, 25 readers, and zero citations (apart from
>>sh> self-citations), in its entire life-cycle. (Authors for whom UnCover
>>sh> raises that number by 1 or 2 are not "abused"!)
>mh> How you perceive this ruling clearly depends on what place you occupy
>mh> in the writing economy/ies, and how you use UnCover.
>mh> Stevan indeed writes papers as give-aways, having a salary which is
>mh> in part influenced by citation.
>mh> I infer from what he writes above that he uses UnCover (&co)
>mh> largely to locate papers by others occupying the same niche.
>mh> I write articles to make a living, as a freelance.
>mh> I use UnCover (&co) largely to locate articles written by
>mh> journalists. From time to time I discover my own work being sold
>mh> without any license from me ("stolen" in the vernacular).

Valid point, Mike, and I should have used my more usual long-hand
formula, to forestall this misunderstanding:

    "Insofar as books AND MAGAZINE ARTICLES are concerned, nolo

What I said pertains ONLY to the refereed-journal literature, which is
written for-free. It does not apply to any literature that is written
for-fee (or royalty).

(But the reason researchers, unlike journalists, give away their
papers, is not primarily that their salaries are influenced by impact,
but that they are reporting their research for its impact on future
research and fellow-researchers, not to make money on the sale of those
research reports [which are more like ads than anything else,
functionally speaking].)

(And I have never used UnCover. I am not promoting UnCover; I am
promoting the freeing of the give-away refereed research literature
through self-archiving. Once this happens, primary publishers will still
have the essential service of quality-control and certification (peer
review) to implement, and be paid for implementing; it is not at all
clear what niche, if any, will be left for the non-primaries, like
UnCover, however.)

>mh> What is required is a distributed Authors' Rights Registry database,
>mh> delivering access terms set by the author(s) of each "object" and
>mh> licenses they have granted.

Not for the authors of the refereed research literature -- a give-away
literature, and the ONLY literature to which my own recommendations apply.

>mh> Stevan finds one of my articles on UnCover and agrees to pay
>mh> them $11.05 for a hard copy, of which I get $2.04 net of
>mh> handling charges;

Not likely. I do not use UnCover; and I hardly read non-give-away

>mh> I find one of Stevan's papers on UnCover and agree to pay
>mh> them $X for a hard copy, Stevan having set the license fee
>mh> at $0.00.

That would be a waste of money, as they are all self-archived online on
my website for free for all.

>mh> Writing this, I pondered *why* I don't use UnCover for refereed
>mh> papers. I think the answer is that as a journo working to
>mh> deadlines I usually need a paper *now*, not in the morning.
>mh> When I want papers I get them from academics' self-archiving
>mh> websites. Them as doesn't have websites don't get journalistic
>mh> citations, from me at least. If you hear echoes of Stevan's wider
>mh> arguments here, you're bang on the mark.

Except that the gold standard for research citations and impact is
citation by peers in peer-reviewed journals, not citation by
journos, I am afraid...

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):

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

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