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RE: [BOAI] Re: Draft IFLA Manifesto on Open Access

From: "Downes, Stephen" <Stephen.Downes AT>
Date: Sun, 30 Mar 2003 22:48:04 -0500

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             [BOAI] Re: Draft IFLA Manifesto on Open Access from harnad AT


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Stevan Harnad [mailto:harnad AT] 

> It is highly desirable and commendable to be committed to the 
> widest possible access to information. But in order to 
> promote *open access* it is essential to be far more specific 
> about the *nature* of the information. In particular, the 
> IFLA Manifesto is doomed to fail and to be ignored if it does 
> not make a specific and explicit distinction between 
> information that its creator *does* wish to give away, and 
> information its creator does *not* wish to give away. (Notice 
> that I said *creator* and not *publisher*.) 

I find this objection somewhat odd.

Libraries legally acquire information - this is manifest in the third point
of the declaration. They then loan this material free of charge to people 
who wish to read it. This has been the function of libraries for decades.

The objection stated above seems to imply that this direction has been
misguided, and that libraries should provide access to information only
if the creator of the content sanctions this use.

Why should a creator obtain this new right? Why should the historical
function of the library now be limited? How could the declaration be 
considered "doomed to failure" when it is, at heart, reflective of a
library's traditional practice?

It could be argued - and I would argue - that content creators do not
a priori own all possible rights associated with a work. There are limits
on such rights, a tacit recognition that the creation is a product not
only of the author but also of the history and culture of the society
in which it was produced.

There is a specific need, which libraries fulfill, to ensure that at the
very least *access* - if not ownership - to information, any information,
is made available to all members of a society, regardless of income. Even
the most expensive journal may now be acquired by any library and thereby
read by any person at no cost whatsoever to the reader. Why should this 

I think that this is what the declaration is trying to express. And I do
not think it is an unreasonable goal. 

Stephen Downes ~ Senior Researcher ~ National Research Council Canada
Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada stephen AT 
stephen.downes AT
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