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Should Copyright of Academic Works Be Abolished? 349

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the time-for-the-copyright-anarchist-movement-to-start dept.
Dr_Ken writes to mention recent coverage of a Harvard Cyber-Law study on Techdirt that analyzes the uses of copyright in the academic world. Some are claiming that the applications of copyright in academia are stifling and that we should perhaps go so far as to abolish copyright in the academic world entirely. "I've even heard of academics who had to redo pretty much the identical experiment because they couldn't even cite their own earlier results for fear of a copyright claim. It leads to wacky situations where academics either ignore the fact that the journals they published in hold the copyright on their work, or they're forced to jump through hoops to retain certain rights. That's bad for everyone."
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Should Copyright of Academic Works Be Abolished?

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  • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Monday July 27, 2009 @02:34PM (#28841333)

    The biggest arguments here seem to apply to academics no more than to any other field. Why allow stifling of creativity elsewhere?

    • by grahamsaa (1287732) on Monday July 27, 2009 @02:37PM (#28841401)
      I don't think music copyrights are generally a good thing (that is, they tend to benefit recording companies far more than artists, and do stifle creativity) but academia is different. Academics should be even more deserving of the right to use / cite / republish papers or scientific studies.

      The point of working in academia is to seek knowledge and share it with others. Copyright prevents or severely limits that. If knowledge isn't shared, we're all more ignorant because of it. Academic works should all be published under the creative commons attribution license, or something similar.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Aladrin (926209)

        The point of working in the music industry is to create music and share it with others. Copyright prevents or severely limits that. If music isn't shared, we're all less cultured because of it. Music works should all be published under the creative commons attribution license, or something similar.

        Now, see how similar that is?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Issildur03 (1173487)
          The big difference is that academics get money from grants and departmental funding, not from selling their papers. So, in theory at least, removing copyright takes away a musician's income, but not the academic's.
          • by ivan256 (17499) on Monday July 27, 2009 @03:39PM (#28842367)

            Selling recordings is a recent innovation in business models for musicians. (And only a small percentage of musicians make any significant amount of money that way.)

            Most musicians throughout history have made money by performing the work. (Musicians, not composers).

            You don't need copyright protection at all in that case, since you're the only person who can possibly be you playing your music.

            Our current copyright system retards that process. Copyright assignment to recording distributors means that many musicians have to pay somebody for the right to play their own songs.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jythie (914043)

            True, but the people who publish the papers (who do provide a valuable function) DO derive their funding from selling the papers.

            There is also the issue of how much money universities pull in from copyrighted and patented works by their researchers. If you cut off the universities ability to do that you need to find other revenue streams for people to actually fund the research.

            This is where you run into an interesting conflict. In a way, the researcher is being paid to produce materials FOR someone, and

            • by yankpop (931224) on Monday July 27, 2009 @06:29PM (#28844749)

              In a way, the researcher is being paid to produce materials FOR someone, and then that someone (university, funding source, contract, etc) gets the rights to that research. This is the same for any type of 3rd party work.

              You're missing a very important point here. For most university researchers, the 'someone' that paid for the research is the taxpayer. But more importantly, the number of university professors whose research has the potential to generate profits for the university is vanishingly small compared to those who are engaged in basic research.

              The service most of us are providing to our university employers is measured in courses taught, graduate students mentored, papers published, grants secured, and various other tasks lumped together as 'service'. The professor as profit generator is recent, still rare, and not entirely welcome development.

              In many ways, the idea that university researchers should be engaged in producing proprietary 'intellectual property' is counter to the academic tradition that such work depends on. Why should it be acceptable for someone to take generations of 'open access' research in physics, engineering, medicine, or whatever, add a little piece on top, and forbid anyone else from using it? I'm not saying it should never be done, but certainly not in a publicly funded university.

        • The other point of working in the music industry is to make gobs of money. Any scheme to change music copyright laws must allow for that.

          Although there is a tendency to attribute noble and altruistic motives for artists, experience suggests otherwise.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jank1887 (815982)

          no. the point of working in the music industry (not just creating music, but working in the industry) is to sell your music in some form for a profit, or to enable that to happen. Academics (esp. scienctists) are supposed to further the body of knowledge in the field by building upon the basis set by previous contributors to the field. They are paid to provide a service (the research) not to provide content (the papers) although contribution is often rated by the content generated. They generally do not der

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Teancum (67324)

            The issue with academic researchers, at least in terms of the journals where the results of the research are published, is to ask who is going to pay for producing the journals?

            If you want to have a professional looking journal that has full-time editors, administrative staff, and reviewers (perhaps not full time, but at least willing to take the time to do an honest review and make it worth their time), you need to have paid staff. A good editor who not only knows the field but also has a strong command o

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by rawr_one (1474675)

        The creative commons license is a copyright, it's just a different (more permissive) kind of copyright.

        The idea of copyright isn't a bad thing, it's just that the execution of it can often (most of the time) benefits people who can legalese their way around the actual creators of content.

        In my opinion, there is absolutely no reason that the copyright for something should be held solely by the person(s) who created it; regrettably this is a very hard call to make with music, but with academia it seems a rath

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mcgrew (92797)

          It's not a different kind of copyright, CC stuff falls under the same copyright laws as any other work. It's the licensing that's less restrictive.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by photomonkey (987563)

        Who modded this insightful? I'm not trolling, but the fact that copyright allows labels to benefit from sales more than artists is THE FAULT OF THE ARTIST for signing away forever and ever rights in exchange for an advance from the label. Especially since today a record label is largely obsolete.

        But yeah, ruin it for everyone because you don't like David Geffen or the teeny bopper shitheads who know nothing of the world and are willing to sell what proves to be millions, if not billions, of dollars of mus

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jeffasselin (566598)

          The problem is since US copyright allows the artists to give away their rights, the sheer power of the music cartel has forced the musicians to either accept their terms or not get their music put on disc at all.

          The situation in Europe, Canada and elsewhere is slightly different where some inalienable rights cannot be signed away, making the situation a bit better in other markets, but since musicians sign away their copyrights for the US market anyway it doesn't help that much. In fact it makes for weird a

    • For one thing I bet 80% of the research has been funded by taxpayer dollars.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Possibly, but we won't know unless we find.. omg.. a citation for your statement.

        Moreover, the journals that publish these papers ARE in the business of making themselves money. Sure, they may be non-profit, but they sure do want to protect the content that they funded to print up for everyone so that they can continue to do so.

        Speaking broadly, I hate, as a student, that so many papers are locked behind the websites for journals and I cannot access these to even read for free! What the hell?

        It sure is st

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Bender0x7D1 (536254)

          You should be able to access the journals/websites from your library.

          I know at my school, Iowa State University, that I can directly access the restricted journal content if I'm anywhere on campus. If I'm at home I can still access it through the library website, and logging in to their proxy. YMMV, but everywhere I've been the library computers are cleared to access the "restricted" content.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by caerwyn (38056)

      Because the scientists generally get paid for their results (or even just for doing the research regardless of the results), which are not copyrighted; the copyright on the papers is ancillary (except for where it prevents plagiarism and other academic dishonesty).

      Other creative fields get paid based on individual copies of what they've created- books, music, etc. The model is entirely different.

    • It's not just that; there really is no objective boundary between "academic" work and non-academic work. Even in music, there are certainly musical works that are "academic," produced by scholars to make a contribution to knowledge and receive scholarly recognition. So there's no way to apply this sort of proposal to only "academic" works. But I don't think copyright needs to be abolished -- it's just that the purpose of copyright law (at least in the US - promoting knowledge and creativity) should *alwa

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by imamac (1083405)
      Because a musician's income is directly related to holding that copyright. With today's technology musician's only give up that copyright by choice. Most musicians I know are happy to be idnependent and keep the copyright to their material in order to earn some income or at least suplement their "music habbit". Doing away with music copyright would be a travesty.
      • Unfortunately, the recording industry (and publishing industry) largely benefits, it seems, the publishers and a few publishees (hehe). But the solution to not rewarding publishers so much while still rewarding artists is *not* to abolish copyrights altogether (which I think is your point).

        Live shows may work for some, but not all. I, as a composer, cannot make money by selling live showings of my sheet music. And if anyone can copy my music and sell it for their own profit as much as they want, I'm not

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by marnues (906739)
          You have this equation backwards. No one requires you to let someone else copy it. People copying anything they please is the natural course. It only through copyright law that we are not allowed to copy something. You only have rights to what you physically make, not the abstract ideas and art behind it. And you can still sell work without copyright law. You just don't have a monopoly on it.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            Hmmm. No, requiring someone else to be allowed to copy it would be "no copyright protection." (or "no copyright." If I have no legal ability to prosecute someone that's copying my works (and presuming I don't own any guns), I have on way of stopping someone... therefore, I am being more or less "required" to let that happen. You're right, people copy anything they please. Is someone being required to copy it? No. But by NOT protecting my "art," and presuming I can't personally protect it, you're requi

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by imamac (1083405)
            Sorry, but if I or CannonbalHead composes a 5-piece brass ensemble, NO ONE should be allowed to duplicate it without my permission. My composition is not some abstract idea.

            You only have rights to what you physically make

            By this you say my composition is only worth the paper it's printed on. I call BS.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              Sorry, but if I or CannonbalHead composes a 5-piece brass ensemble, NO ONE should be allowed to duplicate it without my permission. My composition is not some abstract idea.

              Then don't share it with anyone.

            • Sorry, but if I or CannonbalHead composes a 5-piece brass ensemble, NO ONE should be allowed to duplicate it without my permission.

              Why? What gives you the right to stop other people from playing that music? If you say someone is not allowed to play it unless they compensate you, why should they listen? They have the music, they have the band, and they're willing to play, and people are willing to listen. Why should you, a third party, have to give the go ahead every time? Just because you wrote the piece 5/10/20/50/100 years ago? Why should you get to sit on your ass forever collecting protection money from people who actually play music for a living?

              I mean apply your logic to somthing like "Happy Birthday". What you're saying is that if the person who wrote happy birthday, or their estate, was still around, people shouldn't be allowed to sing happy birthday without paying that estate a fee. What lunacy! ....Oh wait.

              By this you say my composition is only worth the paper it's printed on. I call BS.

              No, it's worth less than that. The paper needed would probably come to something like, say, 10c. On the other hand the composition itself would probably take less than 1MB to store, costing fractions of a cent. It would cost a fraction of that to copy the file across the world. The composition is effectively worthless.

              This isn't some abstract argument. The worth of data is going down and down. The forces of reality are slowly catching up with a concept that was always slightly artificial to begin with. You cannot reasonably expect people to treat data worth next to nothing as something worthy of sacrosanct protections. The modern surge in copyright infringement shows that people do not accept the status quo that abstract data has concrete worth and value. As our ability to store and copy ever larger data files increases, this attitude is going to become even more pronounced.

              The only parallel I can think of in history for the current effect of technology on copyright is the effect of the printing press on translation of the bible. The church maintained for years that teh bible could not, even should not be translated into the vernacular, and that to do so was heresy. But as printing presses came of age, technology improved, and slowly more and more "heretics"/criminals began to translate the book and printed copies came into circulation.

              Nowadays, we think nothing of a printed bible in the vernacular, or indeed someones right to make one. But back then it was a contentious issue. I think a similar fate awaits copyright. As technology improves, the status quo will slowly pass from unreasonable to nonsensical, and the whole concept of copyright will either have to go, or be amended so it can cope with the new reality of the digital age.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by syousef (465911)

              Sorry, but if I or CannonbalHead composes a 5-piece brass ensemble, NO ONE should be allowed to duplicate it without my permission. My composition is not some abstract idea.

              Why not? If you've released something publicly you might argue that you should be granted the right to profit from it and that work should be attributed to you, but the idea that you retain control while simultaneously releasing it is flawed.

    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      And copyright shall if anything belong to the creator and not be transferable. That would solve a lot of problems.

      In all - the copyright world seems to have a lot of weird unwanted results.

    • by moon3 (1530265) on Monday July 27, 2009 @03:35PM (#28842287)
      Copyright is vital, albeit flawed. Friend of mine made guitar lesson videos for YouTube, he spent half a year creating them, week after he posted them. Some dudes picked them up and uploaded them using their own YouTube accounts some of them have been placed above the original videos, gathering views, stealing credits, possible subscribers etc. Copyright is your only lever to prevent this from happening.
  • Cite? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by arizwebfoot (1228544) * on Monday July 27, 2009 @02:35PM (#28841361)

    I was always under the impression that you could, say cite the other work in your work and make comparison's and contrasts to the other work.

    Example: If someone came up with a theory with supporting test results and ten universities duplicated those test results - proving the theory - then those ten universities could publish their results all the while citing the originating test results.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      Yeah, I imagine it meant something more like "include part of" rather than literally citing. Many publishers just ignore the issue, but some publishers are sticklers who complain if you re-use a graph of your own data that had already been published in a previous paper---and was therefore copyrighted by that previous paper's journal. So people end up having to do stupid things like re-graphing the same data in a different piece of plotting software so the figure looks different.

    • Example: If someone came up with a theory with supporting test results and ten universities duplicated those test results - proving the theory - then those ten universities could publish their results all the while citing the originating test results.

      The problem here is that it is not just a matter of citing. The person in question wants to use part, or all, of what he published in another paper to show how the various studies he/she has done support the conclusion they are reaching in the current paper.
      The problem as I see it is that they are able to surrender their copyright to their own work. That should not be possible. I should always be able to use material that originated with me. Ultimately the problem comes back to the fact that copyright laws

      • > The problem here is that it is not just a matter of citing. The person in question wants
        > to use part, or all, of what he published in another paper to show how the various
        > studies he/she has done support the conclusion they are reaching in the current paper.

        That's a classic example of fair use.

        > The problem as I see it is that they are able to surrender their copyright to their own
        > work. That should not be possible.

        Why do you want to take away my right to sell my copyright?

        > Ultimatel

    • Re:Cite? (Score:5, Informative)

      by interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday July 27, 2009 @03:32PM (#28842233)

      I was always under the impression that you could, say cite the other work in your work and make comparison's and contrasts to the other work.

      It's odd that the summary and article claim that without actually citing any examples. The article just says "I've heard of..." Makes me wonder if it's not an overstatement, a misstatement, a severe miscommunication, or an absurdly bad publication that told a researcher an outright lie which he believed. Citing your own work, saying "I found this and published it here" can't possibly be barred by any publication. For one thing, citing an article increases the impact factor of the article, it's worth. A journal that is trying to decrease it's impact factor by saying you can't cite your own work is a journal that is shooting itself in the foot about three different ways.

      I think what might be more likely is that the author of the article heard about a researcher who wanted to republish a figure he had published in another journal, and that journal wouldn't let him. And that's something that SHOULD be barred, you can't republish the same data twice, nor do you need to. BOTH journals would have problems with that, as would other researchers in the field. It's basically getting credit twice.

      One exception to that would be if a researcher was publishing a review type article and wanted to include a figure or diagram from the original paper, making it clear though that it was not a new result but was old data included in a summary of the literature on a subject. That again is a journal shooting itself in the foot and would be ridiculous if it happened. I've often seen figures from other publications in review articles, journals that published the original data seem willing to work out an agreement with whoever is publishing the review. I've never published one, so I'm guessing, it again goes back to the impact factor. If you run a journal and an important result was published in it, you want people to know it was both an important result and was published in your journal.

      This really seems like something that can't occour often to me. I could easily be wrong for other non-biological fields that I have no experience in though.

  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by commodoresloat (172735) * on Monday July 27, 2009 @02:36PM (#28841375)

    It shouldn't be abolished, but fair use should no longer be restricted. What these publishers get away with should be completely illegal under fair use provisions. Authors not being allowed to use their own works? And charging 75 cents a page for articles published in coursepaks is unconscionable, especially considering there is no economic loss to republishing in this form; it's not like the students in these courses would run out and pick up the September 1982 issue of Political Science Quarterly at the local bookstore if they didn't get this free version from their teacher. (I understand why publishers want copy shops to fork something over, but there should be an agreed upon reasonable limit in the area of a penny a page rather than a blank check, which is the way it currently is).

    Actually what would be nice to see would be that the copyright stays with the creator in all cases. Allowing the journals to acquire the copyright to this work in the first place is a bizarre economic fiction anyway; when the author can't even cite their own studies due to this fiction, it has been taken to its absurd logical conclusion. But the proposal here is unworkable without some kind of objective standard of what constitutes "academic work," and that's not likely to happen.

    • Re:No (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DdJ (10790) on Monday July 27, 2009 @02:59PM (#28841733) Homepage Journal

      It shouldn't be abolished, but fair use should no longer be restricted.

      I'll take this further: it cannot be abolished, because in this field in particular, tools to combat outright plagiarism are pretty important. But it should be dramatically altered in ways that promote the free flow of ideas. It should be converted almost entirely into an anti-plagiarism tool, within this domain. Some sort of mandatory "go ahead and use this as long as you give full attribution" license ought to do the trick I think.

      • Some sort of mandatory "go ahead and use this as long as you give full attribution" license ought to do the trick I think.

        Would a well-known license like Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0 work as is, or would it need significant adaptation to cover the scholarly use case?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Delwin (599872) *
        Academic rules against plagiarism have nothing to do with copyright.
    • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Monday July 27, 2009 @03:16PM (#28841987) Journal
      I agree. Without copyright every OSS product with significant academic contributions would suddenly lose GPL protection. There would also be huge legal fights for faculty over whether work was done on your own time (and therefore copyrighted) or done at work (and therefore public domain). You will also have trouble finding people to write academic textbooks - why write something if a publisher can just rip it off and make a (relatively small!) profit from your work? In addition you may see a significant brain drain from the US as faculty who make money from copyrights (authors from all disciplines, artists etc.) move to countries where their work is protected.

      Indeed it would likely curtail sharing of material since I am more than happy to share my reserach code and educational material to those who ask for it under the CC non-comercial, share-alike license but would be far less likely to share if I knew some publisher could get hold of the material and sell it for profit (assuming they thought it worthwhile which is doubtful!) without my say. As you suggest what we really need is sensible fair use rights defined and enforced. Just because the current copyright system is being abused does not mean that the solution is to abolish it!
  • by nyet (19118) on Monday July 27, 2009 @02:37PM (#28841389) Homepage
    As long as others can copyright things, the public domain will always be susceptible to looting. The appropriate fix is to choose a *license* that makes sense.
    • by MrHanky (141717)

      How about this instead: banning unreasonable licenses, ensuring fair use and that the original author retains his/her moral rights.

  • "I've even heard of academics who had to redo pretty much the identical experiment because they couldn't even cite their own earlier results for fear of a copyright claim."

    Pretty sad when an academic doesn't learn the relevant details of copyright as pertains to their work.

    You can't copyright a result, only the work that contains it. The results can always be expressed and referred to elsewhere. The ideas can be expressed elsewhere as long as they are not presented in the same words (apply 'fair use' here;

    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday July 27, 2009 @03:41PM (#28842395)

      Pretty sad when an academic doesn't learn the relevant details of copyright as pertains to their work.

      Some of us are so busy trying to teach relevant classes, get the results to publish, write the papers, get them approved, get our work funded, pass tests, give lab meeting, and/or manage our non-academic lives that we don't give much thought to the subject.

      And then there are those few of us who waste so much time on /. and other websites that it really invalidates the points we are trying to make on those websites...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Absolut187 (816431)

      This is all true, and the above deserves +1 informative.

      But really this isn't about copyright law. Its about the academic world letting itself be held hostage by publishers for no legitimate reason.

      Publication can be achieved for free on the internet.

      The fact that academics give more respect to research that is published in certain "respected" journals is just silly. Start judging scholarly work on its own merits, and stop judging it based on who decided to publish it in print. Then scientists won't feel

  • by peter303 (12292) on Monday July 27, 2009 @02:44PM (#28841519)
    MIT is encouraging every faculty member to deposit an electronic copy of their published papers into a free library server. And MIT is providing free software and hardware resources to do this. MIT is one of 50 universities that now do this, but made the biggest splash announcing it earlier this year.

    However a faculty can opt out a paper if a journal absolutely refuses making a paper open as some do. A more common compromise is the journal has electronic rights for 12 months with faculty rights after that. All in the name of financing the journal.
    • A more common compromise is the journal has electronic rights for 12 months with faculty rights after that. All in the name of financing the journal.

      Interesting - some journals have the same deal with databases for university libraries, which I find ludicrous. The library subscribes to the database, which includes a subscription to X journals online... But it turns out, many of those journals are incomplete, the most recent issues are not available. This forces the library to subscribe to the print journal as well, at least in any field where there is a department who wants to stay current at that university. Why bother to offer online subscriptions

    • Are scientists really at the mercy of these journals?

      If a journal won't publish you under acceptable terms, find a different journal?!?.

      This is more about understanding and negotiating contract terms than it is about copyright law.

      • Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

        by commodoresloat (172735) * on Monday July 27, 2009 @03:16PM (#28841999)

        Yes, they are at the mercy of these journals, at least until they start their own, and it gains recognition in the field as an acceptable outlet for peer reviewed scholarship. The problem is that many of these journals have a monopoly on peer recognition in specific fields. And when scholars do open up new journals they usually go with one of the major publishers who set the terms anyway. See, scholars don't see themselves as providing a product to a market -- they are interested in advancing knowledge through their research, or getting tenure, or whatever. They're not trying to make a profit, but their work has been coopted by people who are. That's not inherently a bad thing -- obviously it allows for these nice paper journals to be published in the first place -- but the publishers have taken advantage of the situation and turned academics into a captive labor force. I simply don't believe they should be allowed to set such terms in the first place -- they should make known their peer review criteria and process, and publish anything that survives that peer review. Authors should retain the copyrights to their work.

      • (inclduign grad school publication)
        You get much more recognition and brownie points for tenure if you publish in certain journals in your field. Its a racket.
    • by BitZtream (692029)

      I thought these people were supposed to be educated, why the fuck are they letting themselves be taken advantage of?

  • If you read the PDF on Harvard's website instead of just the linked techshit (er, sorry, techdirt) article you will be well rewarded.

    One of the things I found unpersuasive in Professor Shavell's article was the following:

    Furthermore, universities should not face great difficulties in financing publication fees, for they would no longer have to purchase journal subscriptions or books.

    I am wholly unpersuaded that the savings of having to purchase a small number journal subscriptions would in any meaningful way offset the costs of having to pay for printing (for physical distribution) and bandwidth (for digital distribution).

    I don't disagree with the article in gener

    • by FroBugg (24957)

      Do you have any idea how much journal subscriptions cost? And any institution with more than a handful of fields is subscribing to dozens and dozens of them.

  • The original article violates copyrights on the Webster Dictionary. Please refrain from using words in future articles.
  • by Profmeister 3000 (926684) on Monday July 27, 2009 @02:49PM (#28841595)
    Many academics are rewarded by publishing in journals with top reputations. It takes time to develop alternative, low-cost, online journals that use better copyright regimes AND have a solid reputation. Creating a new journal with a decent rep takes years (best case 2-3, to get indexed and earn a healthy impact factor, and likely much, much longer). Worthwhile goal, but progress will be slow.
  • by netruner (588721) on Monday July 27, 2009 @02:49PM (#28841605)
    The example in the summary could be easily handled by disallowing the transfer of copyright ownership for academic materials - making the originator always the owner with the option of allowing others to use their work.

    We have to remember the purpose of IP law - when it ceases to protect creators of intellectual works, it is no longer serving its purpose.
    • We have to remember the purpose of IP law - when it ceases to protect creators of intellectual works, it is no longer serving its purpose.

      I think that should be "We have to remember the purpose of IP law - when it ceases to encourage the production and publication of intellectual works, it is no longer serving its purpose."

      Not that this changes your conclusion significantly... the journal would get a non-exclusive license to the work, rather than copyright, with possibly some embargoed period of exclusivity

    • just eliminate that "for academic materials" in your sentence. Why allow any transfer of rights from the creator. Set a specific limit on the rights that may be transferred from the creator to another entity - say exclusivity is banned, or is banned for any period exceeding (1,3,5) years. That, for one, would fix the death plus 90 years, since the rights wouldn't extend after the death of the creator (okay, that was just wishful thinking).

      Would this mean that the content industries would no longer "discove

  • by MLCT (1148749) on Monday July 27, 2009 @02:49PM (#28841611)

    I've even heard of academics who had to redo pretty much the identical experiment because they couldn't even cite their own earlier results for fear of a copyright claim.

    They can cite them, i.e. "we have previously found [REF]", without infringing anything, so I think you have gotten mixed up there. What they cannot necessary do without infringing is reproduce data/figures without gaining copyright exemption. It can be handled two ways, both involve citing the earlier work along with the reproduction to be absolutely sure that you are nobody thinks you are plagiarising yourself, and if you want to be proper about it then you can get a copyright exemption (which happens all the time for review articles). It will almost always be granted, but it is just a bit of a hassle to get sometimes. These points don't negate any discussion about the moral or ethical repercussions of being forced to sign over copyright - that is different - but practically there are no great repercussions.

    I have had to sign away copyright on work I have done, and it does feel wrong. But on the other hand the journals are relatively relaxed about the situation, and you don't see legalise copyright warnings being posted to anyone. If journals annoy authors then said authors don't publish in those journals so they have to be careful. If academic establishments stopped paying subscriptions to journals then it might also be different - as at that point all of the copyrighted works the publishers hold become a rather more active asset to exploit since they may not be making any money from subscriptions (in some open access models for example).

    • by datababe72 (244918) on Monday July 27, 2009 @03:05PM (#28841853)

      Yeah the bit about not being able to cite your own work is just wrong. In fact, journals compete partially on impact scores, which are based on how many citations their papers get. The would have no motive to go after people citing papers they published, even if they had some legal basis to do so- which I don't think they do.

      Copyright on academic papers is to provide some financial reward for those who edit and publish the paper, not the person who created the paper. There are other models emerging to pay for this work (e.g., PLoS), but it is real work and it won't get done for free. Just abolishing copyright is unlikely to be a productive approach.

  • by Goalie_Ca (584234) on Monday July 27, 2009 @02:53PM (#28841653)
    Basically journals get academics to edit and review for free, to write for free, they force you to sign over copyright, and they charge you to access your own paper. Generally university libraries fork over tons of money to get a campus wide subscription to each and every journal. Everyone has to publish or perish (even masters students). Most of the research is probably government and publicly funded anyways. Anyone see anything wrong with this??
  • by peter303 (12292) on Monday July 27, 2009 @03:01PM (#28841779)
    One of the leading science journals Nature just had an editorial [nature.com] requesting that scientific societies establish policies on tweeting an blogging of talks at conferences. They recommend either complete openess or complete closure. Much of this now done by tech-savy excited grad students chatting among themselves. But some scientific societies consider this a form of competitive pre-publication, particularly in biosciences where commercial speed is important.

    This concern is not new. I've been at conferences in the pre-digital era where sneaky people tape record the talk and film photograph every slide. New technology in every cellphone make this much easier to do.
    • So what? Once something is presented at a conference, as far as any patent or "commercial" issues are concerned, it has been publicly disclosed. It's possible a conference that intends to publish abstracts might object to the prepublication but that's their problem - if they want to try and stop it, good luck to them.

      Yes, if you decide to go to a conference and present your "secret" results, then you've potentially got a problem. You should have thought of that before submitting the abstract. No, you ca

    • But some scientific societies consider this a form of competitive pre-publication, particularly in biosciences where commercial speed is important.

      This is insane. I don't go to Bioscience conferences, but the conferences I go to usually ask that as many people as possible in the audience videotape, tweet, and blog about their event. It's not competitive pre-publication. It's free advertising. And if you do it constantly enough, people start sending you free full passes for their conferences, and plenty of

  • Maybe they should make a special copyright for academic works. Allow the schools to create a copyright but its a limited copyright of sorts. People could freely use it, reference it or copy it for their personal use but if they ever want to sell it they then have to talk to the institution that holds the copyright for it and get permission or setup a deal.

    Personally though im of the mind that if something was created in the academic world it should be fair game for everyone not looking to make money be
  • Shorter Copyright? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bob9113 (14996) on Monday July 27, 2009 @03:06PM (#28841879) Homepage

    Why abolish? Why not simply shorten?

    Originally copyright was 7 years plus 7 years (if you filed for an extension). That might work better than either abolition or the current situation.

    Or how about logarithmic payments? Free for the first five years, $1,000 for the next five, $1,000,000 for the next five (or whatever).

    Black and white debates, all or nothing, strike me as mimicking our current political trainwreck of two sides hating each other and refusing to consider the middle ground. Academics should be able to profit from their work (or their sponsors should) for a limited period of time, then it should enter the public domain.

    FWIW, I think the same approach makes sense for all copyright -- a period to make a profit, an extension period where you can choose to pay to keep your monopoly, with the cost increasing over time. Seems to capture the best of copyright (giving the creative the opportunity to turn a profit) and also captures the increasing cost to society over time of monopoly.

  • by John Guilt (464909) on Monday July 27, 2009 @03:25PM (#28842131)
    Academic information should be free. Scarcity is bad; we won't get to post-scarcity (which only the very mean, in the literal sense, shouldn't want) if we continue to allow for artificial, weapons-enforced, scarcity. Neither should the Academy become like the Market---societies work better when there are multiple power centres, multiple ways of gaining status.... One whose only allegiance is to what's so (as opposed to whatever the State or the Market would value) is a great reality-check for the others.
  • by BitZtream (692029) on Monday July 27, 2009 @03:35PM (#28842289)

    If the school is funded in any way by tax money, then its public domain. Take one dollar in tax breaks or tax money into the school and you're public domain for everything, period. No exceptions. No loop holes. Don't like it? Go to a completely privately funded school that gets nothing at all from the government. If you want to enjoy the benefits of using my tax money then I get to enjoy the benefits of you using my tax money. This bullshit of schools selling stuff I paid to research to companies which then charge me a fortune to buy it back from them needs to end.

    I have no problem making our children and future generations more intelligent and throwing into the pot to better the future for all man kind. I have a distinct problem with throwing into the pot to make some asshole professor more money while he rides the coattails of the students that he cons into doing all of his research for him in exchange for little pay (in the case of a phd student) or the students actually helping to pay his salary as well!

    If they take ANY money from the government then I'm paying for the research and I expect access to it. I don't give a damn if someone else donates money to the specific project, if the the school takes any money what so ever from the government then you can not disassociate that money from the project. So if they got government funding for something specific, such as paying for some other building on another campus, you still can not disassociate the funding from the entire school because money the school would have spent on its own for the now government funded building is used for these other projects.

    The school IS NOT A PROFIT CENTER. Its an educational center.

    A completely privately funded, doesn't get any tax breaks, doesn't get any government funding, doesn't get any of my money or benefits of the government which are sponsored by my money, can do whatever the hell they want to at their school. Anything that has ever seen a dime of my money however, should not be allowed to do research that I can not use for myself.

    University research is public domain, sorry if that pisses some douche bag professor off because he can't use someone else's money to make a name for myself, he should have got a real job.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zsau (266209)

      Wait. So if I pay a researcher a trillion dollars to do some research that interests me, and he also got a single cent from the government, I should suddenly lose all my interest in the matter? Why is my trillion dollars worth less than the government's cent? If you had've given that researcher that one cent, you probably would be pleased to get an email letting you know it's done but wouldn't expect anything in return. No-one would ever pay for research again; it'd come down to government money and philant

  • new technologies change societies. the wheel, the sail, the arrow, the printing press, the gun, the locomotive, the radio, the a-bomb... each sets in motion dramatic changes in how societies are organized and the rules of that society, written and unwritten. basic human truths don't change, but how they are interpreted DO change. established orders are upset and are shuffled

    and now the internet is dramatically changing how we view "intellectual property". the entire set of laws concerning intellectual prope

  • http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1200 [phdcomics.com]
    http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1201 [phdcomics.com]

    These cartoons really help to know where the work and the money goes.

  • License to publish [nature.com] at Nature Publishing Group (publishing house of "Nature" series of journals, really big payer in the field of natural sciences) draws my favorable attention. The point is that the aurhor isn't required to give out the copyright of their published contributions, instead authors grant NPG a license to publish their paper. As it comes to reusing parts of published papers in future work, prior publishers' permission isn't mandatory. This doesn't work in case of review papers, which are commissioned by the publisher, where NPG is granted full copyright.

    Does license to publish do any difference? Yes, because six months after publication the author has right to archive the manuscript in a free-access repository, even on NPG's server.

    There's one more thing, which however applies only to biological sciences. Since 2008 those papers in Nature which publish organisms' genome for the first time are copyrighted under Creative Commons attribution-non commercial-share alike unported licence.

    To conclude, it's worth noting that the academic world is pushing publishers towards less strict publishing policies, thats a big example.

  • Shoulders of Giants (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rlseaman (1420667) on Monday July 27, 2009 @05:26PM (#28843929)

    This is a familiar discussion, although the assertion about not being able to cite your own work is bogus. I suspect that everybody in academia expects a new online publication model to emerge, but this is certainly taking a long time to converge.

    The issue of so-called "intellectual property" is another recurring discussion, even outside the rabid FOSS ranks. See, for example (to cite myself as well as others): http://thunk.org/tytso/blog/2008/11/29/an-ethical-question-involving-ebooks [thunk.org].

    The absolutists here may want to consider a couple of complications. First, what about the very frequent case of multiple authorship? Without a third party such as a journal to whom to reassign copyright, the authors would constantly have to squabble between themselves about who - jointly, severally or individually - would retain copyright and in what proportions. Second, most corporate or educational institutions require their staff to sign over ownership of intellectual work products as a basis for employment in the first place.

    There is no simple Platonic ideal of "property", let alone something called "intellectual property". The laws that exist (at least in origin) were primarily intended to defend the rights of the body politic, not of the individual "creator". Further, the notion of a truly individual creator is a fantasy. Newton saw further because he stood upon the shoulders of giants. (Or should I have quoted that 382 years after his death?)

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