The Napster effect
In 2000, for the first time in over a decade – some say for the first time ever – world-wide sales of music compact disks (CDs) fell. The following year the decline continued. The sale of CD singles in the US, for example, dropped by almost 40% in 2000, the US experiencing a further 10% fall in music sales in 2001 (Harmon, 2002). Indeed, only France and Britain have so far bucked this world-wide downward trend, in the latter’s case, partly thanks to the huge success of artists such as Robbie Williams and Dido. But with recent reports suggesting that the value of UK music shipments dropped by 3.7% last year to £1.2bn, even the previously buoyant British market now appears to be in decline (Cassy, 2003: 22).
All of which has left music industry chiefs frantically scrabbling for explanations. Among the most popular put forward to date are the slowing down of the world economy, the increase in popularity of CD ‘rewriters’, which enable individuals to make their own ‘pirate’ CDs, and the fact that most people have by now long since replaced their old vinyl recordings of Phil Collins’ ‘In the Air Tonight’ with a compact disk version. But there is another explanation, one with far more profound potential consequences for the music industry: the Napster effect.
Napster is a software tool for sharing MP3 files. It was written in 1999 by a then nineteen-year-old student, Shawn Fanning, and named after his nick-name at school – he had short, very tight, curly hair. Specially designed for the Web, MP3 files allow users to make free digitised copies of their vinyl and CD collections to a very high standard of sound quality. Now to this extent MP3 merely represents a technological update on home cassette taping and the associated debates of the 1970s: MP3 is open standard, without copyright protection, and so makes it hard for music companies to prevent people from copying and distributing their products without paying for them first. The big difference between home taping and MP3 lies in the ease and scale with which the copied recordings can be shared. In marked contrast to cassettes, MP3 files can be transmitted from user to user over the internet, stored on their computer hard drives, and then played back either on their computers or MP3 players. Yet in the early days of MP3 this still wasn’t seen as being too much of a problem because, as with home taping, people tended to exchange these files mainly on an individual basis: among friends, work colleagues, etc. Until Napster, that is. Napster transformed the situation by organising the process of exchange, simultaneously increasing, vastly, the amount of recorded material available. It works likes this. When a person logs on to Napster, the software reads the hard-disk of their computer for music files, and adds them to its central directory. All anyone looking for free music then has to do is just search Napster’s directory for the artists or songs they want and download them from there.
Now I realise that when it comes to ‘music piracy’ – or ‘software communism’, as some prefer to see it – Napster is a bit old hat these days. Sued for violation of copyright, Napster has long since been forced to remove all copyrighted files from its database. In late 2000, in an attempt to reinvent itself as a legitimate business, Napster even signed a deal with Bertelsmann, one of the world’s leading music and entertainment companies, to access their music catalogue, and subsequently proceeded to operate on a monthly subscription basis – although not particularly successfully, I might add. According to one report, for instance, whereas in ‘the summer of 2000, the peer-to-peer music company had more than 67m registered users swapping files free of charge – an internet phenomenon’:
Last [May] – until Bertelsmann, the German media group, stepped in – it was on the brink of bankruptcy. Bertelsmann has agreed to pay $8m (£5.4m) to see off Napster’s creditors. Shawn Fanning, its founder, and Konrad Hilbers, CEO, are to stay on, having threatened to walk out. But it is far from certain that Napster will survive as a business. The online music provider is still being pursued by music companies seeking compensation. And its transition from a free service to a subscription model has caused users to desert in droves. (Abrahams & Harding, 2002)
And in fact at the time of writing Napster’s site has indeed closed down. All of which has led to a whole series of arguments and disputes. Does Napster provide a model for revolutionising the music industry? Witness the way in which, as Napster struggled through the courts, Gnutella, Kazaa and a range of other unauthorised free music download sites and file-sharing applications all took its place on the internet.1 Or is Napster just another example of the general failure of new media technology to escape big business’ power of incorporation for any significant length of time? Indeed, does the recent announcement by HMV, the largest music retailer in Britain, that it is setting up its own website where, for £4.99 a month, subscribers can choose from almost 100,000 online tracks and download them as MP3 files direct onto their computers and portable MP3 players without ever having to set foot in a record shop, not provide evidence, if any was needed, that the free music download sites have had their day?
But let’s hang fire with the usual debates around Napster for the moment and play a game of science-fiction instead. Let’s imagine that some time in the not too distant future it’s going to be possible to have an academic equivalent to Napster, Gnutella, Kazaa et al. . .
As anyone who teaches or studies in a university (and a British university especially) will be only too aware, our current system of higher education is one in which an expansion of student numbers has gone hand in hand with a decline in the number of books and journals per student that are provided by university and college libraries. Severe cuts in funding, brought about by the attempts of successive governments to compete in the global marketplace by reducing the state budget deficit through decreases in public spending, not least on education, have produced a situation in which it is increasingly difficult for libraries to be able to afford to stock books, and for students to be able to buy them. (To provide just one example from the US: whereas previously the University of California would have bought a copy of a particular book for each of its eight campus’ – UCLA, Berkeley, etc. – the University is now reported to be purchasing only one copy to share across all of them.) And it’s not just teaching and learning that has been affected. Building a career, even just surviving as an academic, is today more than ever dependent on publications. But as both institutions and students have found it harder and harder to purchase texts, the traditional market for the academic monograph has been substantially eroded. This has led a number of academic publishers to cut back dramatically on their commissions, with many
In Poland the censor says what you can and cannot do, and that creates a hunger for what the censor refuses to pass, whether it’s any good or not. What is approved by the censor is often by definition of little real interest to the Polish public. In the West we have The Market. The Market censors us through our stomachs and through the pockets of would-be publishers. We cannot do what we cannot sell. If there is no market for a thing, a book say, then the chances are that it will not get written. And if someone should write it, that it will not get published, and if it is published that it will not sell. That is not to say that it is a bad book. . . (Tighe, 2001: 170)
deciding to concentrate on producing ‘Introductions’ and ‘Readers’ for the relatively large first year undergraduate ‘core course’ markets, and not produce books for second and third years, let alone postgraduate students, at all. Indeed, so bad has the situation become in the US that in May 2002 the Modern Language Association (MLA) produced an open letter calling for ‘Action on Problems in Scholarly Book Publishing’:
. . . over the course of the last few decades, most departments of language and literature have come to demand that junior faculty members produce, as a condition for being seriously considered for promotion to tenure, a full-length scholarly book published by a reputable press. . .The immediate problem, however, is that university presses, which in the past brought out the vast majority of scholarly books, are cutting back on the publication of works in some areas of language and literature. Indeed, we are told that certain presses have eliminated editorial positions in our disciplines. . .
Some junior faculty members who will be reviewed for tenure in this academic year . . . find themselves in a maddening double bind. They face a challenge–under inflexible time constraints and with very high stakes–that many of them may be unable to meet successfully, no matter how strong or serious their scholarly achievement, because academic presses simply cannot afford to publish their books. . .
We are concerned because people who have spent years of professional training–our students, our colleagues–are at risk. Their careers are in jeopardy, and higher education stands to lose, or at least severely to damage, a generation of young scholars. . . (Greenblatt, 2002)
Of course, such problems have been offset to a degree by the seemingly endless stream of new journals that are being produced to meet the demand from academics for ever more ‘research impact’, Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) submitable publishing opportunities. The International Journal of Cultural Studies, The European Journal of Cultural Studies, Cultural Studies<->Critical Methodologies, Journal of Visual Culture and Journal of Consumer Culture are just some of the new titles that have appeared in the cultural studies field from Sage alone. And yet a shortage of funds produced by decreasing budgets and the rapidly increasing costs of medical, scientific and technical journals has meant that many university libraries are unable to sustain their current holdings, never mind expand the number of periodicals they take. So even if academics do manage to get published in one of these organs, the chances of anyone having access to their work, let alone actually reading it, are getting slimmer all the time. (As an academic one regularly hears rumours that the average readership for a journal article is, frighteningly enough, somewhere between just 3 and 7 readers.) That the major high street book chains are increasingly reluctant to stock academic titles (journals especially, but also books), and more and more independent books stores, such as Compendium and Silver Moon in London, are closing due to competition from the likes of Waterstones at one end of the market and Amazon.com at the other, only exacerbates the situation.
But, as I say, let’s play a game of science fiction and imagine for a moment what it would be like if it were possible to have an academic equivalent to Napster, Gnutella et al, something dealing with written texts rather than music? What would the consequences be for the way in which scholarly research is conceived, acquired, communicated, exchanged, practised and understood?
Well, for one thing, a free academic text download (and upload) site of this kind would provide a way round some of the problems created by restrictive copyright regulations that have until recently enabled the publishing industry to severely limit the number of photocopied texts university lecturers in the UK can give to their students (we’ll get to the legalities of all this in a moment). Academics could provide their classes with as many copies of books and journal articles as they like, simply by supplying students with the address where they can find them on the net and download them for free. By ‘splicing and dicing’ from other texts, lecturers could even put their own ‘Readers’ together in this way, and ensure that they are constructed to suit the exact requirements of their specific courses (rather than having to rely on those huge ‘doorstoppers’ that are produced by other people with their own courses in mind, and which never quite seem to do the job you want), while simultaneously meeting the demand for pre-packaged material created ‘partly because of student poverty and partly because of the rise of the student as customer’ (Midgley, 2002: 15). Perhaps most importantly of all, at least as far as those working in the humanities are concerned (where, in contrast to the ‘hard’ sciences, more importance is attached to writing academic monographs than to publishing in the most prestigious peer reviewed journals), academics and researchers would need no longer worry about whether their next research project was going to appeal to a publisher as something that could be marketed and sold. They could forget about this, secure in the knowledge that as soon as they finish slaving over their text it can be made readily available – to anyone, anywhere in the world (providing of course that person has a computer and access to the Internet – not an insignificant point given that apparently one quarter of those in the UK and half of all Europeans don’t actually use the Net). And what’s more can stay that way for as long as they want (so never again need
As a minimum, access to the Internet typically requires a computer with the right software, a modem, a telephone line, and a subscription to an Internet service provider (ISP). In the Philippines, the computer and modem would cost some P25,000 (US$500); phone and ISP subscription combined would require around P1,000 (US$20) or more per month. This is definitely beyond the reach of most poor families, though perhaps within reach of the middle class, if they are willing to drop other daily expenses. At these costs, the Internet would definitely remain an enclave of the rich. (Verzola, 2002)
anyone suffer the indignity of having their book go out of print after only 18 months because their publisher only brought out a hardback version, which cost £45 a time, and which few people except institutional libraries could afford to purchase).
Now I realise that at this point some of you may be thinking: ‘Yeah, yeah, more cyberbabble!’ But despite what I said earlier about science-fiction this is all not quite so far fetched and utopian as it sounds. There are already a number of such ‘free text’ sites in operation on the Internet. Perhaps the best known and most influential of these is the arXiv.org e-Print archive. Founded in 1991 by Paul Ginsparg and originally based at the Los Alamos National Laboratory before moving to Cornell University in December 2001, this archive has carried over 215,000 submissions, has deposits of a further 25,000 every year, and receives 200,000 connections daily. arXiv.org works as follows. Whenever a scholar in the field of physics, maths, computing or non-linear sciences is about to submit a paper to a refereed scholarly journal for publication, they send a pre-print copy to this archive. This pre-print is then made available to any researcher, scholar or student who wants it, free of charge. They simply have to download the file from the archive.
Nor does copyright present a problem. As an article that appeared in The Times Higher Education Supplement a couple of years ago made clear, the e-print archiving system is able to avoid falling foul of copyright agreements by means of what’s called the ‘Harnad/Oppenheim preprint+corrigenda strategy’:
First the author posts a pre-print of his or her paper on the web. Then they submit the paper to a refereed journal. The author makes amendments in light of referees’ and editors’ comments, then signs the publisher’s copyright agreement . . . The author then posts a note onto the web pre-print, pointing out where areas of correction might need to be made, in effect turning the pre-print into a version of the draft refereed paper. ‘If these steps are followed, the author has done nothing wrong, has broken no law and has not signed a contract he or she should not have signed’. (Patel, 2000: 12)
This last point is of course extremely important, as it highlights one of the major differences between the self-archiving of e-prints and Napster, and thus provides a means of overcoming what is, potentially, a major hurdle to making such a free academic text download site a real possibility (as opposed to a mere science fiction fantasy).2 After all, wasn’t Napster sued because it infringed the copyright of music companies and musicians to own the rights to, and profit from, their music? Archiving academic texts electronically in the manner described above, however, is not illegal because of the way in which academia works. Unlike Sony, the Motion Picture Association of America,3Eminem, Britney Spears, Madonna, Metallica, Missy Elliott or even the vast majority of authors of other forms of writing (novels, plays, screenplays, newspaper and magazine articles, computer programmes. . . ), academics tend not to be too concerned about getting paid a fee for, or receive royalties from, their research publications. (They’re in the wrong business if they are.) As Stevan Harnad, one of the co-authors of the Harnad/Oppenheim preprint and corrigenda strategy, and himself a vociferous advocate of the e-print self-archiving system, has emphasised, the main priority of most academics is to have their research read by as many people as they can, in the hope of having the biggest possible impact on future research, and perhaps even society, and so they are perfectly willing to in effect give their work away for free to anyone who can bring this about. In fact this is often how academics derive their income – from ‘how much they are read, cited, and built-upon by other researchers’ – as this tends to lead, either directly or indirectly, to employment, career advancement (including tenure), salary increases, promotions, the awarding of grants, etc. (Harnad, 2001). One of the things that makes e-print archiving, and digital publishing in general, so attractive to many academic authors is therefore precisely the extent to which, by rendering their work freely and easily available to all those who can access it (rather than restricting access merely to those who can afford to pay for it via the high cost of purchasing it in book or journal form, taking out a journal subscription fees, licensing deals, pay-per-view, etc.), it does make reaching a large audience a very real possibility.
To provide an obvious example of what is achievable, even on just a relatively small scale, publishers in cultural studies will generally regard an academic journal as financially viable as long as it sells at least one hundred copies per issue. Most cultural studies journals, even quite well established ones, have circulations of only
In an article written in honour of Stuart Hall and his activities over the years, Angela McRobbie describes being in the ‘audience at an academic media and communications conference where a whole array of editors were on the stage and asked to give an update on publishing in their RAE rated journals’. To her horror, not one of these editors so much as ‘flinched when they described their readerships as a paltry 300 or 400 internationally’ (McRobbie, 2000: 219). Myself, I’m just surprised she was so surprised. Of course, these figures has to be qualified by the fact that, as most ‘paper’ journals are purchased by university libraries, they are often read by far more people than actually buy them. The amount such journals may be photocopied, and the way a lot of them appear in multiple formats (digital as well as paper, for instance), also has to be taken into account. Still, the figures McRobbie cites go a long way to explaining why so many new journals are being produced. After all, if individual journals only sell in the region of 500 copies or so per edition, one way for publishers to sell more journals is to increase the number of titles they publish – especially if they have a captive market in university libraries who are likely to feel obliged to subscribe to most if not all the journals produced in a particular area. Considering that publishers pay for neither the content, the editing, nor the peer-review process that makes these journals possible (and that the yearly subscription to at least one journal in the sciences, Brain Research, costs over £9000, with others in the humanities and social sciences already operating on a ‘pay-to-play basis’, the Journal of Information Technology charging $US200 reader’s fee for reviewing the article and then $US100 per page that is actually published), academic journal publishing can be extremely profitable.
400-600 copies internationally. Compare this to the fact that Culture Machine achieved a circulation of 6,500 (i.e. at least 10 times that amount) in the first 10 months of its existence alone, and only 3 years later (2001-2) was receiving as many as 375,000 hits per annum, which works out as somewhere between 40,000-50,000 individual accesses, or approximately 4,000 readers a month on average.
Nor should those writers and authors who do want to profit directly from their work automatically dismiss the potential benefits of the e-archiving system. A recent study of writers by The Society of Authors found that most had to supplement their very low annual earnings with other forms of work and that:
. . .only a handful of writers earn the huge advances which take up so many column inches in the press. Indeed, in writing, five per cent earn on average over £75,000 and ‘three quarters of members earned less than the national average wage; and two-thirds less than half the average wage and one half less than the minimum wage…'(Pool, 2000; cited in McRobbie, 2002)
So the argument that writers of for-profit texts risk losing money, or not making it all, by self-archiving their work does not really apply. Unfortunately, the vast majority of authors simply have no money to lose; like academics, they, too, could in fact gain from the increase in potential readers and exposure.
By now the impact an equivalent archive to that at Cornell, or the CogPrints archive that has been put together for cognitive psychology at the University of Southampton by Harnad (or the DSpace ‘super-archive’ that has recently been launched by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for that matter) could potentially have on cultural studies is hopefully becoming clear. Which is why Culture Machine, working in association with the Mediactive group at Middlesex University, is shortly to launch just such a cultural studies e-print archive (called, imaginatively enough, the Cultural Studies e-Archive – or CSeARCH, for short). The idea is to join with those at Cornell and Southampton as part of the Open Archives Initiative, which is described – somewhat problematically in my view, it has to be said, but that’s an argument for another day – as being in effect one global, virtual archive of jointly searchable academic work.
Among other things the CSeARCH electronic archive will enable those in the cultural studies field to:
- publish their research, and make it widely available as a result, immediately upon completion – before it comes out in either journal or book form (which can take between 18 months and 2 years from submission of the final manuscript); even before it has gone through the peer review process if they wish, as that can also take a considerable amount of time;
- attach a record of all the various stages of the research they wish to record – from pre-refereeing, through successive revisions, to the refereed, journal/publisher-certified publication, including any subsequently corrected, revised, or otherwise updated drafts;
- make their work available for free to anyone who can access it – and not just to those who can afford to pay to read it via book fees, journal subscription fees, etc. As Stevan Harnad notes, obviously ‘[r]esearchers in developing countries and at the less affluent universities and research institutions of developed countries will benefit even more from barrier-free access to the research literature than will the better-off institutions, but it is instructive to remind ourselves that even the most affluent institutional libraries cannot afford most of the refereed journals! None have access to more than a small subset of the entire annual corpus‘ (Harnad, 2001);
- provide their audience, including students, with as many copies of their work as they like – simply by supplying their readers with the address where they can find them on the net and download them or print them off for free;
- advertise and promote their texts for free – all authors need to do is send out the relevant addresses by email. This enables individual writers to be far more accurate when targeting an audience for their works, as they can send details to people who they know will be interested: students, colleagues, peers, etc;
- potentially increase reading figures, impact and even sales of their paper publications – rather than detracting from them, as many publishers fear, publishing on the web frequently increases sales of paper copies, as the (now ex) chairman of Faber and Faber, Matthew Evans, acknowledged during a recent talk (Evans, 2002);
- publish books and journals which have too small a potential readership to make them cost effective for a ‘paper’ publisher to take on – because they are seen as being perhaps too ‘advanced’, ‘specialised’, ‘esoteric’ or ‘avant-garde’;
- make their research ‘permanently’ available – so authors no longer need concern themselves with the thought that their work may go out of print or become otherwise unavailable;
- re-publish texts which have gone out of print – and this applies to journal articles as well as full-length books;
- revise and update their research whenever they wish – so authors need no longer worry about their work going out of date;
- distribute their research to an extremely wide (if not necessarily ‘global’) audience – rather than reaching merely the specific audiences their publishers think they can market and sell their work to (in cultural studies’ case, primarily just the US, UK and Australia);
- encourage browsing by enabling even those readers who still prefer to purchase a paper copy to read the texts concerned first – this is simply not possible on Amazon.com, nor increasingly in the conventional bookselling market, as bookstores are taking fewer and fewer ‘academic’ titles. As a result, the element of chance and serendipity traditionally associated with browsing in a bookshop is brought back.
In addition authors will have all the advantages associated with electronic publication, including ease of navigation and searching, speed of access, ability to link citations to other electronic texts and to link their texts to other multimedia material in general. To provide just one quick example: individual journal articles are rarely included in library catalogues. Digital academic texts, however, can be easily indexed and searched, even to the level of specific words and phrases.
All this will be available for free – to both authors and their readers.
What’s more, thanks to the Harnad/Oppenheim preprint+corrigenda strategy cultural studies writers and scholars can still publish any research placed in the archive as journal articles or academic monographs; and do so without fear of infringing copyright agreements. A variation on this theme even works for articles and books that have already been accepted for publication in a referred journal, or which are already in print. ‘Simply do a revised 2nd edition! Update the references, rearrange the text (and add more text and data if you wish). For the record, the enhanced draft can be accompanied by a “de-corrigenda” file, stating which of the enhancements were not in the published version’ (Harnad, 2001).4 Indeed, as far as cultural studies is concerned this last point is probably almost as important as the self-archiving system’s ability to circumvent the problem of copyright, since it has the effect of rendering the Harnad/Oppenheim preprint and corrigenda strategy much more appropriate and appealing to a field which – partly because it does not place so much
It makes little sense for academic libraries to be purchasing journals which no one actually reads, and whose main value to the community is their ‘citability’. The logical resolution to this absurdity, as Harnad has advanced in his work, is for the journal titles to continue to exist but primarily to provide the function of quality control, the organisation of peer review. The titles should continue, almost certainly in electronic-only form, and will continue to pick up subscriptions Â– perhaps from individual subscribers, or members of the learned societies who publish them in many cases, rather than from academic libraries Â– but will not depend upon library subscriptions for their existence. Their economic basis will change as they disinvest in the machinery of print and electronic distribution, scaling down their production to a much reduced level (and abandoning print distribution entirely), and will be funded through charges levied on academic and research institutions for the provision of peer-review services. (MacColl, 2002)
emphasis on the speed with which results are shared, published and communicated – lacks the history and culture of pre-print exchange of many physical science disciplines.
Despite everything I’ve said so far, however, the advantages this process offers to cultural studies teaching and research are not the only reason why a number of us who are involved with Culture Machine are interested in the self-archiving of e-prints. For example, we’re not putting it forward merely as a possible solution to the hunt that is now on within the MLA, as a result of Stephen Greenblatt’s open letter on the ‘Problems in Scholarly Book Publishing’ to find an alternative criterion for tenure to books – the most obvious candidate being the refereed journal article, with the idea of ‘attaching equal weight to peer-reviewed electronic publications’ interestingly being
My preference. . . would be to encourage a greater diversity of types of publication, where perhaps the rules of anonymous peer reviewing and all the paraphernalia involved in getting RAE-rated work into print might be suspended in favour of attention to the quality of the written work and the spirit of experiment and innovation. The system the RAE has put in place operates as a means of disciplining young scholars to conform to the rules of their seniors. In a nutshell, they have to go through the route of the established journals rather than start their own. This is also a constraint on critique and on healthy intellectual subordination.(McRobbie, 2000: 220)
one of the options reportedly also under consideration (Phillips, 2002: 18). Nor are we motivated simply by a belief that knowledge shouldn’t be owned, copyrighted or exchanged by publishers for profit, and that it should instead be made available for free (or at least relatively cheaply) to (almost) everyone – a conviction that has recently led 32,362 research scientists in 183 countries to boycott any scientific journal which refuses to make research papers freely available on the internet 6 months after publication; and when that boycott failed, since younger scholars in particular found they still had to publish in those journals in order to embark on their careers, to launch their own free online journals (Meak, 2001: 3; MacLeod, 2003: 9). And we’re certainly not advocating it as a way of making money for publishers. In other words, we don’t see e-print archiving as representing a new, alternative form of capitalism or even post-capitalism, one that is potentially more effective in the context of what’s called variously the ‘digital’ or ‘knowledge economy’. The reason we’re so interested in electronic archiving is due to the ethical and political questions it raises for academic and institutional authority and legitimacy: the way NapsterXivation, as I’ll nickname it, promises to transform and redefine our relationship to knowledge.
To be continued…5
1 According to Duncan Campbell and Stuart Miller, more than ‘8bn music files were swapped online’ in 2001 (Campbell & Miller, 2002: 5), while members of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry are reported as having ‘closed down more than 1,000 illicit music sites’ in 2001 (Cassy, 2002: 20).
2This is of course not the only important difference between them. Another concerns the way in which the e-print archiving system, at least as it is characterized by arXiv.org, is based on a database, hosted on a central server, which is used to collect, publish and store written academic texts. Napster, by contrast, is a music file sharing tool based around a central directory which lists the data that is being offered for exchange by other registered participants. Neither arXiv.org nor Napster is therefore what is called a P2P (peer-to-peer) networking system, at least not in the proper sense of the term. P2P file sharing systems such as Gnutella and Kazaa consist of a de-centralised network of connected machines that are independent of either a centralised server or a centralised directory.
3 In March 2002 the Motion Picture Association of America began a legal action against MusicCity.com and others for swapping ‘pirated’ television programmes and films online. According to Campbell and Miller, approximately ’11m Americans are now swapping television programmes and films online and are downloading an estimated 350,000 moves from the internet everyday’ (Campbell & Miller, 2002: 5).
4 As Harnard makes clear, this strategy is designed to be employed only in those cases where a publisher will not expressly allow the self-archiving of the refereed pre-prints. Such cases are rarer than one might think. Harnad cites figures to the effect that approximately 10% of journal publishers already explicitly allow self-archiving of the refereed postprint. Others, ‘(perhaps 70%)’, will also allow authors to modify their copyright transfer agreement forms with something along the lines of the following clause, ‘but only if you explicitly propose it yourself (they will not formulate it on their own initiative)’:
I hereby transfer to [publisher or journal] all rights to sell or lease the text (on-paper and on-line) of my paper [paper-title]. I retain only the right to distribute it for free for scholarly/scientific purposes, in particular, the right to self-archive it publicly online on the Web. (Harnad, 2001)
If you ask nicely most journal publishers will generally release articles for self-archiving at some stage once the journal issue in question has been published, as after a certain date they have no real sale value:
As to the past (retrospective) literature: the Harnad/Oppenheim preprint+corrigenda strategy will not work there, but as the retrospective journal literature brings virtually no revenue, most publishers will agree to author self-archiving after a sufficient period (6 months to 2 years) has elapsed. Moreover, for the really old literature, it is not clear that on-line self-archiving was covered by the old copyright agreements at all. (Harnad, 2001)
But even if publishers do respond to such ventures, as some have predicted, by getting together and agreeing between themselves to no longer wave copyright and allow self-archiving of pre- and post-prints (although why should they: after all, arXiv.org has been operating for over 10 years now without any such difficulty) there is a case to be made for academics just cutting out the middle-man (i.e. the publishing houses) and taking the means of production into their own hands and simply publishing their work for, and by, themselves. After all, as I pointed earlier, academics are rarely paid, either substantially or directly, for any of the writing, editorial work or refereeing that goes into the production of scholarly journals, publishers getting all this work for free.
5 See Hall (2003).
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Campbell, D. & Miller, S. (2002) ‘Net Pirates Turn Sites on Hollywood’, The Guardian, (February 23).
Cassy, J. (2002) ‘Record Firms Foil CD Pirates’, The Guardian (April 17).
Cassy, J. (2003)’Pirates Turn Down the Music’, The Guardian (February 11).
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Greenblatt, S. (2002) ‘Call for Action on Problems in Scholarly Book Publishing: A Special Letter from the President’, MLA Documents and Reports (May 28).
Hall, G. (2003) ‘Digitize This’, Mediactive (April, 2003: forthcoming).
Harmon, A. (2002) ‘CD Technology Stops Copies, But it Starts a Controversy’, New York Times (March 1).
Harnad, S. (2001), ‘For Whom the Gate Tolls? How and Why to Free the Refereed Research Literature Online Through Author/Institution Self-Archiving, Now’. http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Tp/resolution.htm
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Verzola, R. (2002) ‘Internet Cafes: Connectivity for the Masses?’. Posted on the fibreculture list 05.05.02. email@example.com, http://ww.fibreculture.org