Re: A Simple Way to Optimize the NIH Public Access Policy

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 5 Jan 2008 20:35:39 +0000

On Sat, 5 Jan 2008, Klaus Graf wrote:

> (3) German copyright law doesn't allow [one] to give away a protected
> text to a person to which no personal relationship exists before the
> contact. "The communication of a work shall be deemed public if it is
> intended for a plurality of persons, unless such persons form a
> clearly defined group and are connected by personal relationship with
> each other or with the organizer." If German authors have given
> exclusive rights to the publisher they have according [to] law no right
> to [mail] an eprint to a person with whom they haven't close
> contacts before.

Please distinguish the laws that govern (1) the online dissemination of
3rd-party content by consumers (I buy a CD by artist X and then try to
put it online), which is not at all what Open Access is about, and (2)
the dissemination of the author's own final draft (not the publisher's
PDF) of an article that the author has written, to a researcher who has
requested a copy for research purposes.

On this particular scholarly practice, which has been going on for many
decades, from well before the online era, none of the hysterical steps
that are being taken to try to prevent the dissemination of 3rd-party
content by consumers in the digital era have any bearing whatsoever.

> (4) It is common custom that German scholars [don't] care [about] this
> legal barrier. "Und das ist gut so".

Not just German scholars, but all scholars, all around the world, have
been freely sharing their own peer-reviewed research on request. There
is no legal barrier to it, and if ever anyone tried to erect one, it
would not only be indefensible, but completely unenforceable. You may
as well try to forbid researchers to tell one another about their

(When all this nonsense is over and 100% OA to refereed research has
prevailed, posterity will laugh at us for how paranoid we were before
getting around to doing the obvious, optimal and inevitable in the
online era.)

Stevan Harnad

If you have adopted or plan to adopt a policy of providing Open Access
to your own research article output, please describe your policy at:

    BOAI-1 ("Green"): Publish your article in a suitable toll-access journal
    BOAI-2 ("Gold"): Publish your article in an open-access journal if/when
    a suitable one exists.
    in BOTH cases self-archive a supplementary version of your article
    in your own institutional repository.
Received on Sat Jan 05 2008 - 20:55:26 GMT

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