Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Frankfurt Reminder

Three German organizations have issued the Frankfurter Mahnung: Ohne geistiges Eigentum keine Informationsgesellschaft [Frankfurt Reminder:  Without intellectual property no information society], May 14, 2007.  (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

Primarily it calls for strong copyright protection, reiterating the argument that authors need it as an incentive for their creativity.  The second to last sentence opposes any obligation to provide OA to copyrighted works. 

Because the full-text is a DOC file, I can't link to a machine translation.

The Reminder was issued by the Verband deutscher Schriftsteller (Federation of German Writers), P.E.N.-Zentrums Deutschland (P.E.N.-Center Germany), and the Börsenvereins des Deutschen Buchhandels (Association of German Booksellers).


  1. It seems clever to cast a contentious proposition as a Reminder rather than a Declaration or Manifesto.  But I'd have thought that good writers would fear insulting their readers and change the word before turning in the final draft.
  2. The three organizations behind the Frankfurt Reminder are clearly more interested in books than journal articles, in royalty-producing rather than royalty-free publications, and in mainstream rather than academic publications.  So it's largely beside the point for us.  Nevertheless....
  3. A definite part of the information society rests on works that make royalties for their authors and take full advantage of full-strength copyright.  But the Reminder's subtitle ("without intellectual property no information society") vastly overgeneralizes and willfully overlooks the blooming buzzing part of the information society resting on the public domain and works protected by Creative Commons or other open-content licenses.
  4. Strong copyright protection may be a critical incentive for novelists (or the subset of novelists not following Cory Doctorow's path to readers and sales), but it's no incentive at all for authors of scholarly journal articles.  There are two simple reasons:  in nearly every case, scholars are not paid for their journal articles and they transfer copyright to publishers.  If their articles make money, the money goes to publishers and the copyright monopoly protecting that revenue protects publishers.  As we all know, scholars are eager to write and publish journal articles even under this system in which they relinquish payment and transfer copyright. 
  5. Existing and proposed OA mandates do not apply to the copyrighted, published edition of an article, but only the final version of the author's peer-reviewed manuscript.  The Frankfurt Fear of an OA mandate for copyrighted, royalty-producing work is groundless --or at least pointed to a domain other than scholarly journal articles.