Should Copyright Be Abolished On Academic Work?
from the makes-sense dept
We’ve discussed a few times over the years how copyright gets in the way of academic work. Journals (who get all of their writing and reviewing totally for free) insist on holding the copyright for those works in many cases. 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.
However, at least some are recognizing the problem. Christopher points us to a new paper, which questions if copyright law should be abolished for academic papers:
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.
The whole paper is well worth reading, and it makes a very compelling case (admittedly, I’m already a strong believer in the harm done by copyright in many instances) as to why copyright makes no sense in the academic setting, and likely causes a lot more harm than good. Beyond showing why abolishing copyright on academic works wouldn’t decrease output, it also suggests that it would lead to nuermous additional benefits as well, that come with more freedom in sharing ideas, which speeds further ideas and innovation. The last bit, suggesting why the “open access” movement isn’t enough is also quite interesting. While I’ve always paid attention to the “open access” people, I hadn’t given it too much thought. The paper though, does outline some key problems with the open access push as it stands today, and shows how the goals of the open access movement would be much better accomplished not through such a system, but in getting rid of copyright on academic research entirely.