Legal ways around copyright for one's own giveaway texts (fwd)

Stevan Harnad harnad at
Sun Jul 9 03:52:38 EST 2000

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 8 Jul 2000 16:21:45 -0400
From: "Christopher D. Green" <christo at YORKU.CA>
Reply-To: September 1998 American Scientist Forum
Subject: Re: Legal ways around copyright for one's own giveaway texts

Stevan Harnad wrote:

> Here is quick synopsis of the steps/logic involved:
> (1) Self-archive all pre-refereeing preprints. These precede submission
> and are not bound by any prior legal agreement.

The American Psychological Association (and I assume most other traditional
publishers) have explicitly stated that they will not consider submissions that
have been previously published elsewhere, and that they consider web-posting to
constitute a form of publication. So self-archiving pre-prints would make them
ineligible submissions to APA journals.

> (2) After refereeing, revision, and acceptance, if the copyright
> transfer agreement asks for a transfer of all rights for the final
> refereed draft to the publisher, first propose modifying the wording of
> the agreement: Agree to transfer to the publisher all rights to SELL
> the paper, on-paper or on-line; retain only your right to self-archive
> it for free on-line.

Fine, but this is completely dependent on the publisher's willingness to
cooperate. APA will not.

> (3) If the modified agreement is accepted by your publisher,
> self-archive the post-refereeing postprint.
> (4) If the modified agreement is not accepted by your publisher, sign
> the original agreement and self-archive only a list of the changes that
> have to be made in the (already-archived) preprint to transform it into
> the postprint.

Usually these agreements say something like "substantively" in them to block one
from changing a single word (or a few words), and then publishing them

> Why is it so simple to do this legally? Because copyright is designed
> to protect intellectual property from theft; your paper is your
> intellectual property. If you want to give it away, that is your
> prerogative. Copyright agreements were never designed with give-away
> work in mind; they were designed for royalty/fee-based work where the
> author and the publisher have a common stake in the sales, and in
> preventing theft.

Perhaps, but that doesn't keep people (publishers) from exploiting the
advantages the law gives them, even if unintentionally.

Christopher D. Green
Department of Psychology
York University
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3

e-mail: christo at
phone:  (416) 736-5115 ext. 66164
fax:    (416) 736-5814

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