CALL FOR COMMENTARY in
American Scientist September Forum
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"Science September 4 on Copyright"
The following proposal to change copyright argeements and funding
practises so that authors can freely archive their work on the Web has just
appeared in Science on Sept. 4, followed by a dissenting Editorial:
Bachrach S. et al. (1998)
Intellectual Property: Who Should Own Scientific Papers?
Science 281 (5382): 1459-1460. September 4 1998.
Bloom, F. (1998)
EDITORIAL: The Rightness of Copyright.
Science 281 (5382): 1451. September 4 1998.
For the time being, Science is allowing anyone to access both the
proposal and the dissenting Editorial by Floyd Bloom (Editor, Science)
for free (after some signup procedures) at:
Intellectual Property: Who Should Own Scientific Papers?
Bachrach, S., Berry, S.R., Blume, M., von Foerster, T.,
Fowler, A., Ginsparg, P., Heller, S., Kestner, N.,
Odlyzko, A., Okerson, A., Wigington, R., & Moffat, A.
"...The goals and motivations of scientists writing up their
research are very different from those of professional authors,
although they may be the same people in different settings. The
scientist is concerned with sharing new findings, advancing
research inquiry, and influencing the thinking of others. The
benefits the scientist receives from publication are indirect;
rarely is there direct remuneration for scientific articles.
Indeed, scientists frequently pay page charges to publish their
articles in journals. The world of the directly paid author is very
different. There, the need for close protection of intellectual
property follows directly from the need to protect income, making
natural allies of the publisher and the professional author,
whether a novelist or the author of a chemistry text..."
"...The suggested policy is this: Federal agencies that fund
research should recommend (or even require) as a condition of
funding that the copyrights of articles or other works describing
research that has been supported by those agencies remain with the
author. The author, in turn, can give prospective publishers a
wide-ranging nonexclusive license to use the work in a value-added
publication, either in traditional or electronic form. The author
thus retains the right to distribute informally, such as through a
Web server for direct interaction with peers..."
"...[Some publishers, such as] Science, the New England Journal of
Medicine, and the Journal of the American Chemical Society, have
adamantly opposed authors' posting of their own articles on Web
pages or e-print servers, whereas others, such as the American
Journal of Mathematics, the Journal of Neuroscience, Nature
Medicine, and Physical Review, have considered such distribution
consistent with, and even advertising for, their own journals..."
EDITORIAL: The Rightness of Copyright:
Floyd E. Bloom
"...[C]opyright transfer is critical to the process of
communicating scientific information accurately. Neither the public
nor the scientific community benefits from the potentially
no-holds-barred electronic dissemination capability provided by
today's Internet tools. Much information on the Internet may be
free, but quality information worthy of appreciation requires more
effort than most scientists could muster, even if able...."
Questions for Reflection [SH]:
(1) Is F. Bloom's a logical or even a practical argument for full
copyright transfer to publishers by refereed-journal paper authors,
ceding their right to archive those papers for free public access?
(2) Is it really true that the only options are either (a) free papers,
with no quality control, or (b) quality-controlled papers, but only in
exchange for copyright transfer and the ensuing blockage of free access by
S/SL/PPV (Subscription/Site-License/Pay-Per-View) fee barriers?
"...A paper submitted to Science will undergo extensive review and,
upon acceptance, extensive revision for clarity, accuracy, and
solidity. A paper published in Science will be seen throughout the
world by our 160,000 paid subscribers and perhaps two or three
times more readers as issues are shared. More than 30,000 readers
will be alerted to the new reports within hours of the appearance
each week of Science Online...."
(3) How many other journals reach 160K subscribers (or even
1/100 % of that)?
(4) Free posting on the Web can reach all 160K (and 100 times that).
(5) Science magazine is a hybrid trade/refereed journal. It publishes
refereed articles, contributed for free, plus commissioned and paid
articles by staff writers and others, for fee. Hence it is in most
relevant respects not representative of the vast refereed literature of
which it (and a few other journals like it, such as Nature) constitutes
a minuscule portion.
"...This degree of investment in the scientific publication process
requires the assignment of copyright. This allows the society
publisher to provide a stewardship over the paper, to protect it
from misuse by those who would otherwise be free to plagiarize or
alter it, and to expand the distribution of information products
for the benefit of the society.
(6) Do we need this degree of investment? Is it worth the consequences
(7) What is "stewardship"?
(8) What do copyright ASSIGNMENT (to the publisher) and S/SL/PPV tolls
have to do with protection from plagiarism or alteration? (Doesn't
copyright simpliciter already provide that, without transfer
to the publisher?)
"...Permissions are granted freely to the originating authors for
their own uses. Science holds the copyright of its authors because
of our belief that we materially improve and protect the product we
(9) What if the "own use" is the provision of one's work to others,
through free public archiving on the Web?
(10) Would payment for the true cost of the necessary "improvements"
not be sufficient, without the need for copyright assignment, S/SL/PPV
[Again, this should all be considered in conjunction with the fact that
Science magazine is far from representative of refereed journals, for
the reasons noted above.]
Cognitive Sciences Center
Department of Electronics and Computer Science
SO17 1BJ United Kingdom