Re: Free Access vs. Open Access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 28 Aug 2003 13:25:24 +0100

On Wed, 27 Aug 2003, Christopher Warnock wrote:

> The ebrary [] controls over the documents
> range from very restrictive access models to completely open access
> models incorporating any variation of viewing, copying, printing or
> downloading.

That seems fine, and a welcome entrant to the range of softwares
(Eprints, Dspace, etc.) being offered to universities for
providing open access to their research output:

    "EPrints, DSpace or ESpace?"

> Any document submitted to ebrary may be
> downloaded if it is what the publisher desires, we support both
> protected downloads that provide copyright protection and open
> downloads that meet your previously stated requirements.

Universities providing open-access archives for their own refereed
research publications are not themselves publishers: They are merely
providing toll-free access to their own refereed research output,
published in toll-access journals, for all its potential users
worldwide. The only copyright protection they seek is protection against
plagiarism or text-corruption.

> Ebrary does not restrict access to harvesters either, the issue has
> been that the information that we currently have in our system is
> copyrighted

Refereed research is copyrighted too. But its authors wish to provide
toll-free access to their to it for all potential users, to maximize
its research impact.

> and having indexers create caches that may then be
> accessible in HTML contradicts the publisher's desires to protect their
> author's text and eliminates the copyright protection that has made
> them willing to make their content accessible online through us at all.

The authors of refereed research articles wish to make their texts
maximally accessible and maximally usable for all would-be users
worldwide. They do not seek protection from downloads, harvesters,
indexers, etc. They encourage it. The copyright protection that they
do seek (from plagiarism or text-corruption) is unrelated to protection
from downloads, harvesters, indexers, etc.

> With regard to reducing the value of the research and the benefits of
> unfettered access, what we are trying to do is to enable the
> information that is copyrighted and made accessible by the publisher to
> seamlessly interact with the information that is made available by
> institutions, or individuals-- essentially enabling and facilitating a
> virtual collaboration between the publisher, the institution and the
> individual.

In the special case of peer-reviewed research articles (the only
case under discussion here), there is nothing nearly as complicated as
this. The full-text merely needs to be made fully accessible, toll-free,
to all would-be users, worldwide. No need for any particular 3-way
interaction between publisher, institution and individual. The only
thing needed is an institutional OAI-compliant open-access archive
in which to self-archive the research (though links to publishers'
toll-access versions are welcome too!).

> through documents submitted to our system, each
> institution may have access to their own collection of their content as
> well as aggregate their content with other institution's collections.

OAI-compliance takes care of interoperability of each institution's
refereed research output with other universities' (OAI-compliant)
refereed research output. That is the only content at issue here,
and it has nothing to do with the older concepts of "collection" or

> This enables any ebrary enabled database to be integrated with any
> non-ebrary database and any other ebrary enabled commercial databases
> of copyrighted information with access levels that are appropriate to
> the publisher's interests.

Integrating open-access research with toll-access research will
certainly be useful, though the most useful function will be to make
research open-access! OAI-compliance only calls for interoperable
metadata, not necessarily open-access to full-text. Does that not
already provide the sort of interoperability you are referring to?

> We are in the process of establishing a focus group to help us define
> the requirements of our software for this community. If you are willing
> I would appreciate it if you would consider being a part of our focus
> group.

I'm always ready to provide focused feedback from the standpoint of
the research community's specific need for open access to refereed
research. I'll be happy to do so for ebrary too when asked. (So perhaps
there is no need to make me part of a formal focus group!)

Best wishes,

Stevan Harnad

NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing open
access to the peer-reviewed research literature online is available at
the American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01 & 02 & 03):

Discussion can be posted to:
Received on Thu Aug 28 2003 - 13:25:24 BST

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