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RE: Copyright as Cudgel

Siva Vaidhyanathan's article is a most important one! Thank you, Bernie
Sloan, for bringing it to wider attention. A few brief quotes:

- "...fair use, while not quite dead, is dying."

- "...everyone who reads [...] does research, or teaches should be up in

- "The real question is why so few people are complaining."

- "...the DMCA [...] has managed to stifle [...] beneficial uses of
material for research and teaching."

- "...we academics have been painfully slow to argue against abuses in and
of copyright law."

- "Academics have more to lose in the copyright wars than most people do."

- "We [academics] have a vested interest in keeping information flowing as
cheaply, widely, and quickly as possible."

- "...while academics have slept, the content industries have
systematically stifled flows of essential information, created artificial
scarcity, and made certain areas of basic research potentially illegal."

The apparent indifference to these issues in academe is no less than
astonishing. Librarians may have a clearer interest, but they could and
should do more to inform the actual researchers of the imminent dangers
and rally them to the cause. References like this one to Vaidhyanathan's
article simply do not appear on academic research listservs. But they
ought to. Academic researchers have the most to lose and are in one of the
best positions to make changes happen.

At least for primary research there is potentially a solution, even if
efforts to change copyright law fail (the most likely outcome,
unfortunately). That is to change the way scholarly communication is paid
for from the currently prevailing system in which 'information' is sold,
to one where the 'service of publishing' is sold. The former system
requires transfer of copyright to the publisher (or at least requires an
exclusive licence to publish), whereas the latter can leave copyright
unreservedly with the author. As it is in the academic authors' interest
to have their research articles disseminated as widely as possible, they
will want to be acknowledged as authors, but otherwise remove all
restrictions to the use of their aticles. For this material, 'all use is
fair use' would apply.

Some - although unfortunately very few - publishers already work along
this principle which results in 'open access' to the research material
they publish on the internet. BioMed Central (of which I am the publisher)
is one. But the practice should be far more widespread if the dangers
presented by the restrictive trends in copyright law are to be averted.

What needs to happen?

- Tenure committees, funding bodies, assessment bodies, et cetera, need to
stimulate authors to publish in open access journals rather than thwart
it, as still happens too often by requiring them to publish in
conventional journals (the ones with a strong vested interest in reducing
fair use!).

- Academic authors need to stop transferring their copyright to the
journals in which they publish, and at least reserve the right to make
their articles freely available on the internet (for instance on their
institutional public server). If this is refused, they should offer a
payment to the publisher for the 'service of publishing' in return for
full, free, open access to their article (about $500 emerges as an
acceptable and realistic amount) and request their funding body or
institution to pick up the bill for that (a very small amount if compared
to the amount currently paid per article - in the aggregate, in
subscription or licensing charges - by academia, which is in the order of
$3500 to $7000, or 7 to 14 times as much, depending on the discipline).

- Librarians can help, drawing the attention of the above constituencies to
the urgency of these issues.

Jan Velterop
BioMed Central Ltd.
Tel +44 (0)20 7323 0323

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Sloan, Bernie [mailto:bernies@uillinois.edu]
> Sent: 31 July 2002 03:41
> To: 'liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu'
> Subject: Copyright as Cudgel
> There's an interesting opinion piece on copyright and the Digital
> Millennium Copyright Act in the August 2 issue of the
> Chronicle of Higher
> Education:
> Vaidhyanathan, Siva. Copyright as cudgel. Chronicle of Higher
> Education,
> 48(47), pp. B7-B9. August 2, 2002.
> http://chronicle.com/free/v48/i47/47b00701.htm
> The author is an assistant professor of information studies at the
> University of Wisconsin at Madison.
> Bernie Sloan
> Senior Library Information Systems Consultant
> University of Illinois Office for Planning and Budgeting
> 338 Henry Administration Building
> 506 S. Wright Street
> Urbana, IL  61801
> Phone: (217) 333-4895
> Fax:   (217) 265-0454
> E-mail: bernies@uillinois.edu