Central versus institutional self-archiving

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Date: Sun, 23 Nov 2003 20:19:36 +0000

On Fri, 21 Nov 2003, Dan Hunter
(Robert F. Irwin IV Term Assistant Professor of Legal Studies,
The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania) wrote:

> Thanks for the details. All good strategies, with which I'm reasonably
> familiar given that one of my areas of professional interest is in the
> propagation of [peer-to-peer] networks and the copyright effects on same...
> ...[California Law Review] can sue me, but I'm a really really really
> good copyright lawyer, and I would be *delighted* to run that
> case in the courts and in the courts of public opinion....
> ...However the specific issue in this case is with SSRN...
> http://www.ssrn.com/
> ...which is subject to attack as a centralized repository of material
> which is copyright by others.

Dear Dan,

This is *precisely* one of the two fundamental reasons why I have
redirected my efforts and support from central archiving (such as
the Physics ArXiv, and CogPrints, which I founded in 1997) to
institutional self-archiving:

    REASON 1: Researchers and their own institutions share a common
    interest -- because they are co-beneficiaries -- in maximizing the
    access to, and thereby the impact of, their own research output.

They co-benefit from their research impact, in terms of enhanced research
funding, prestige, and prizes. It is for this reason that institutions
have "publish or perish" policies (these days weighted by the citation
impact of each publication) and it is for this reason that institutions
reward their researchers accordingly (salaries, promotion, tenure, etc.)

Consequently, it is researchers' institutions that are in a position to
extend the carrot/stick of "publish or perish" to "maximize the impact
of your journal publications" by providing open access to them. Central
archives and disciplines do not share these interests (they are not even
really entities) and they cannot mandate self-archiving.

Moreover, institutions are in a position to take on the distributed
load of self-archiving their own research input, at far less (because
distributed) expense. A central archive has a bigger burden. But, more
important, a central archive cannot monitor and enforce self-archiving,
as the researcher's own institution and department can, under a systematic
open-access-provision policy.

Most important and relevant in all this is the common "glue" of
OAI-interoperability, which is a shared metadata-tagging standard that
makes it *irrelevant* where individual papers are physically archived,
because their metadata can all be centrally harvested to make them
seamlessly searchable and accessible *as if* they were all sitting in
one central archive:
OAI has effectively transformed all distributed OAI archives into one
global virtual archive.

    REASON 2: Like you, I don't set much store by publishers' likelihood
    of success in going after individual self-archiving authors or
    their own institutions and hence partners in the research. But
    they *do* have some possibility of success in going after a
    3rd-party central archive like SSRN, invoking copyright law to
    treat them as copyright-infringing rival publishers. At the very
    least, publishers' lawyers can intimidate central archives, as the
    service-providers, into removing papers they challenge, without
    even having to consider the doomed strategy of trying to go after
    the authors or their institutions directly.

So that too is a needless handicap of central archiving -- especially
in our OAI-interoperable age.

But there is a solution, since "archives" are all just virtual entities
anyway! And the solution could have a strong positive effect on momentum
in self-archiving (for currently neither the central nor the institutional
archives are filling nearly as fast as they could or should):

For the papers with copyright problems, SSRN need merely reconfigure
itself (in whole or in part) as a metadata havester (like OAIster) instead
of being only the site archiving the full-texts themselves! The authors
would be asked to deposit any problem papers in their own institutional
OAI archives, and merely tag them for SSRN harvesting (and perhaps even that
tagging is unnecessary, harvesting being the powerful and sophisticated
technique it has become). Or authors could deposit the metadata and
links directly into SSRN themselves.

This would effectively defeat the potential invocation of 3rd-party
copyright-infringement, because those papers would be sitting in their
home archives! (Of course the distinction is absurd in the postgutenberg
medium, but we have to keep slow-witted pedants happy!)

In microcosm, a similar point has already been scored: In their wording,
some green publishers first tried to hedge by invoking an absurd,
arbitrary, and technically incoherent distinction between a researcher's
"home website" and an "institutional OAI archive".

    "Academic Press Journal Article Copyright Policy"

    "Copyright: Form, Content, and Prepublication Incarnations"

    "Open Letter to Philip Campbell, Editor, Nature"

But of course the author's "home website" is merely a sector on a disk
provided by his institution, and so is his "institutional OAI archive,"
and those sectors can be named and assigned and metadata tagged in any
way the research's institution wishes (including cosmetically, to satisfy
empty and arbitrary contractual stipulations)! So this piece of incoherent
nonsense has since been quietly dropped from publishers' fine print on
this score...

> I can put my material up on my website, or propagate it through
> eDonkey/BitTorrent/etc, and there is essentially nothing that California
> Law Review can do about it. They can sue me, but I'm a really really
> really good copyright lawyer, and I would be *delighted* to run that
> case in the courts and in the courts of public opinion. However if
> California Law Review insists that SSRN take the work down, then SSRN
> has a major problem and may eventually give in. This is something that
> I don't want to see happen.

I understand completely, and that is why I urge the
distributing/harvesting strategy for problem cases (for authors who
are not copyright lawyers!) -- archiving in a "virtual center" instead
of of "geographic center." It solves this problem for SSRN, and it
also gives further impetus to self-archiving itself!

No need to bother doing it retrospectively, but just forward-going. The
formal policy could be split: Archive directly in SSRN if there is no
copyright problem; archive at home and just provide the metadata and
link otherwise!

> Hence the strategy in this case is not about my articles (which I can
> propagate in all manner of devious and amusing ways) but in protecting
> the benefits of alternative dissemination mechanisms like SSRN. I
> don't care about winning the battle (my articles). I do care about
> winning the war (SSRN and like mechanisms are protected).

The decisive weapon in this war is OAI-interoperability, which has
effectively eliminated the distinction between local and central
archiving! Winning the battle (on the home-front) is now equivalent to
winning the war webwide!

Best wishes, Stevan

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):
    Post discussion to: american-scientist-open-access-forum_at_amsci.org

Dual Open-Access Strategy:
    BOAI-2 ("gold"): Publish your article in a suitable open-access
            journal whenever one exists.
    BOAI-1 ("green"): Otherwise, publish your article in a suitable
            toll-access journal and also self-archive it.
Received on Sun Nov 23 2003 - 20:19:36 GMT

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