Do We Really Need Copyright For Academic Publishing?
from the worth-thinking-about dept
QuestionCopyright has an interesting article about the role that open access might play in opening up China to new ideas. But what really caught my attention was the following section:
Because copyright originated from publishing, it is is primarily concerned with protecting the expression of works – whereas the ideas expressed are not copyrightable. In other words, it is illegal to copy or reproduce a work without authorization, but perfectly fine to borrow one's ideas by paraphrasing. Yet, if you talk with any scholars or professors in China, you will find that most authors are more concerned if others borrow their ideas without giving them credit. It is not a big deal if their papers or journal articles are posted online by others without their authorization. Some of the authors may even be pleased to know their ideas are more widely circulated so long as the works are attributed to their names and are not altered without their permission.
I think this raises an important issue. Perhaps copyright protects the wrong thing for academics: what they really care about is credit for the ideas their papers contain, not how they phrased them.
This analysis echoes suggestions I've heard elsewhere that one approach to reforming copyright would be to abolish it completely for academic publishing. Not only do scholars not need copyright for their work, if it's ideas not expression that counts, it gets in the way by putting obstacles between them and the research of others.
Moreover, as the QuestionCopyright article points out, fully opening up research would also be the best way of tackling what seems to be the chief fear of academic authors: plagiarism. More readers able to access more works would mean a greater likelihood that unacknowledged copying between them would be noticed and exposed.