Copyright: Form, Content, and Prepublication Incarnations (fwd)

Stevan Harnad harnad at cogprints.soton.ac.uk
Thu Nov 15 07:41:09 EST 2001


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 15 Nov 2001 01:02:47 +0000 (GMT)
From: Stevan Harnad <harnad at cogprints.soton.ac.uk>
To: September 1998 American Scientist Forum
     <SEPTEMBER98-FORUM at LISTSERVER.SIGMAXI.ORG>
Cc: cni-copyright at cni.org
Subject: Re: Copyright: Form, Content, and Prepublication Incarnations

On Wed, 14 Nov 2001, Joseph Pietro Riolo wrote:

> >     6. How to get around restrictive copyright legally
> >     http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Tp/resolution.htm#Harnad/Oppenheim

> I have a great doubt about the legality on the second statement in the
> section 6.1 (saying that an author is not bound by any future copyright
> transfer agreement).  How do you arrive at that conclusion?  Which
> law says that you are not bound by any future copyright transfer
> agreement?

I think you have misunderstood. That statement is surely as true as the
law of physics that there can be no backward causation is true.

Otherwise, I would already be guilty of perjury if I said, hand on
heart, I never personally met my great-grandfather -- the day before
I got into a time-travel machine and paid him a visit back in mid-19th
century Austro-Hungary. (Don't ask me whether I could nevertheless
repent and undo my crime by successfully persuading him not marry
or have children. Such incoherent scenarios defy my imagination.)

I am certainly not bound NOW by any contract I may or may not sign in
the future. And what that future contract binds me to THEN depends on
what it says. If it says "I transfer to X all rights to sell, lease or
give away this text, whether on-paper or on-line" then I have duly done
just that. No problem. I have no idea what would happen if the contract
said "I swear that I have never posted this text on the Net in the
past." But that doesn't sound like copyright, and it isn't what
copyright transfer agreements talk about (although they do ask whether
I own all the rights, hence they are mine to transfer -- which I do, and
they are).

Here are some koans for people to contemplate who fail to see the
slippery slope the drafters of PostGutenberg copyright agreements for
content face -- as long as the content in question is an author
give-away. (The problems are much fewer if both the author and the
copyright-tranferee want the content to be non-give-away.)

(1) "I swear that I have not told the contents to anyone orally."

(2) "Ok, I did, but never to a group of people."

(3) "Ok, I did, but never to a large group of people."

(4) "Ok, I did, but only once."

(5) "Ok, I did, many times, but it was never audio-taped."

(6) "Ok, it was audio-taped, but the tape was never aired."

(7) "Ok, it was aired, many times, worldwide, but it was never stored."

(8) "Ok, it was stored, but never copied."

(9) "Ok, it was copied, but never uploaded on the Net."

(10) "Ok, it was uploaded, many times, but never downloaded."

(11) "Ok, it was downloaded, many times, but it was never speech-recoged to text."

(12) "Ok, it was speech-recoged to text but the output was never uploaded on the Net."

(13) "Ok, it was uploaded, but the output was never stored.

(14) "Ok, it was stored, but never copied."

(15) "Ok, it was copied, but never uploaded on the Net."

(16) "Ok, it was uploaded: now what do you want me to do about it?"

Stevan Harnad

NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing free
access to the refereed journal literature online is available at the
American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01):

    http://amsci-forum.amsci.org/archives/september98-forum.html
                            or
    http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/index.html

You may join the list at the amsci site.

Discussion can be posted to:

    september98-forum at amsci-forum.amsci.org 






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