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Re[2]: BioMed Central Authors to retain copyright

I must disagree that copyright plays no part in academic publishing of
monographs and journals. It is vital to protect the expression of an
author's ideas or research, because unfortunately, dishonesty exists in
the academic realms just as in the trade. The copyright law is very
specific in its intent, which is to protect the expression of a creator's
work for a limited period of time (which Congress has just extended) so
that the author may enjoy some income or other benefit from his or her
labor. Originally the period of time was to be one generation; a renewal
extended the time for two generations (28 plus 28 years). The 1976 law
extended that to life plus 50--presumably because we all live longer. It
is now life plus 70, in my opinion an absurd state of affairs.

The creator of a work is protected in the expression only; all the ideas
and research are open to others to discuss, to use in further research, to
build on and extend so that "Knowledge and the Useful Arts" continue to
grow. All of this is healthy.

The issue of the publisher making huge amounts of money through charging
huge amounts for the information is a different matter. Where we have gone
wrong, I think, is in blindly trusting that a free market for information
exists. Wherever you have one or a few (oligopolistic) firms that control
a market segment, prices will reflect what the market will bear rather
than a fair price and a fair return. Authors go unrewarded; buyers who
must have the information pay a huge price; and the ruling firms enjoy
unprecedented prosperity and growth.

Traditionally, publishers take exclusive rights from the author and create
a product that sells at a fair market price and reward the author from
their revenues. It is true that this occurs in the trade markets because
there is intense competition for authors' works that bring large sales
(Clancy, Grisham, as well as others whose work sells more modestly,
including popularized versions of academic monographs). And academic
publishers DO exist who publish monographs that sell only a few hundred
copies, and who pay royalties once a breakeven point has been reached.
There are still others who believe in paying royalties on everything they
publish. There are also journal publishers whose outside editors are
remunerated and whose article authors are paid a (small) fee. These
publishers are neither large nor well-known, because their profits do not
make them the lions of industry that monopolistic publishers have become.

In a market where one publisher has established a near monopoly on the
expression of critical information, competition scarcely exists. This
allows that publisher to charge enormous prices for its material, keep the
copyright tied up for the duration, and not remunerate authors in the
slightest. Granted, costs are incurred in the refereeing process, the
editing process, and the production process. But in a market with limited
competition, a "fair" market value for the information can't exist. Just
because this situation exists in a few segments of academic publishing,
there is no reason to condemn all publishers, because many of us do indeed
add value through judicious outside review and editing--and bring works to
market that are needed, that are priced fairly, that add to our knowledge
and further academic discourse, and we even pay our authors.

Shirley Lambert
Associate Publisher and Editorial Director
Scarecrow Press
4720 Boston Way
Lanham, MD  20706
Direct line: 301-731-9514
url: http:www//scarecrowpress.com