Sunday, August 16, 2009

Should we abolish copyright on academic works? two cents...

I saw this on Techdirt about a month ago and it's been lingering in my Google Reader starred items ever since. I've made a good faith effort to read the original but my brain is a bit fried from this summer (and I would like to save a few braincells for the fall semester)

Here's the abstract for the paper:
The conventional rationale for copyright of written works, that copyright is needed to foster their creation, is seemingly of limited applicability to the academic domain. For in a world without copyright of academic writing, academics would still benefit from publishing in the major way that they do now, namely, from gaining scholarly esteem. Yet publishers would presumably have to impose fees on authors, because publishers would not be able to profit from reader charges. If these publication fees would be borne by academics, their incentives to publish would be reduced. But if the publication fees would usually be paid by universities or grantors, the motive of academics to publish would be unlikely to decrease (and could actually increase) – suggesting that ending academic copyright would be socially desirable in view of the broad benefits of a copyright-free world. If so, the demise of academic copyright should be achieved by a change in law, for the ‘open access’ movement that effectively seeks this objective without modification of the law faces fundamental difficulties.

Now as a student in academia my writing has been my writing. No one else could profit from it (i.e. get credit). presumably I could take the idea that I had in the classroom, that I eluded to in some paper and go out and sell it an make money.

Now there are many people out there that research, ponder, and write. They create new knowledge (or validate old hypotheses). These people get the street-cred, after all their names are on the paper that they submit and no one can take that away. But, the money gained from the purchase of that article does not go back to the original author but to the journal that printed it or made it available in some form. Working in a library I know that journal subscriptions costs A LOT of money, none of which the authors see (as far as I know).

What's funny is the fact that many academic that I know of are willing and complacent in this. They are so concerned with tenure (or getting from one level of professor to another), and their courseload that they don't seem to mind that other people are profiting from their work!

Should we abolish copyright on academic works? Yes we should. Academic work should be available in creative commons licensing schemes because academics are creating knowledge that can benefit us all. It seems unethical for people who did not contribute to the knowledge creation cycle to be heavily benefiting from the work of others and then creating a walled garden where content is only accessible to those with fat wallets.
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