Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Price and permission barriers, again

Stevan Harnad, Don't Risk Getting Less By Needlessly Demanding More, Open Access Archivangelism, April 9, 2008. 

Summary:  The BBB "definitions" of OA still need some tweaking to get them right. OA means free online access to the full-text of refereed journal articles. With that comes the capability of linking, reading, downloading, storing, printing off, and data-mining, and that is what is urgently needed by researchers today. Let the Green OA mandates provide that, and the rest will all come naturally of its own accord. We'll never get self-archiving mandates adopted if we insist in advance that they include 3rd-party re-use rights. Nor does demanding machine-readable XML make sense when most authors still aren't even doing the few keystrokes it takes to deposit the drafts they already have. Let's not risk getting less by needlessly insisting on more.


  • I disagree with my friend and ally, Stevan Harnad, on the adequacy of BBB definitions of OA.  Removing price barriers does not suffice to remove permission barriers, and removing permission barriers is a critical part of open access and goal worth reaching.  The BBB definitions got that exactly right.
  • As I put it last year:  "Stevan isn't saying that OA doesn't or shouldn't remove permission barriers.  He's saying that removing price barriers (making work accessible online free of charge) already does most or all of the work of removing permission barriers and therefore that no extra steps are needed. The chief problem with this view is the law...."
  • To put this another way:  The BBB definition recognizes that removing price barriers alone limits us to fair use, that researchers often need more than fair use, and that there are steps we can and should take to meet these needs lawfully.
  • "We'll never get self-archiving mandates adopted if we insist in advance that they include 3rd-party re-use rights."  If Stevan means that we shouldn't delay the removal of price barriers until we can remove permission barriers at the same time, then I fully agree.  We should do what we can, when we can.  If we can remove price barriers now, but cannot remove permission barriers now, then we should accept the need to work in stages.  But if Stevan means that we shouldn't do both at once even when we can, or that we shouldn't work for Stage Two, anywhere, before completing Stage One, everywhere, then I must disagree.  Same principle:  we should do what we can, when we can. 
  • Stevan and I have discussed this issue in detail before.  For example, see his views and my comments from October 14 and October 16 of last year.  Richard Poynder asked me several questions about this disagreement in his interview with me at about the same time, and I answered them at length (pp. 37-39).

Update (4/9/08).  Also see Klaus Graf's comments, supporting the BBB definition and the conclusion that fair use is not enough.

Update (4/10/08). Also see Robert Kiley's message on the AmSci OA Forum, arguing that fair use is not enough. Kiley is the Head of e-Strategy at the Wellcome Trust's Wellcome Library. Also see Stevan Harnad's response to Kiley's message.