Copyright – any alternatives?

Well before I go to the assignment, I want to tell you about an argument I had today – because of this course. It was not about educational material or copyright in general but about open access to scientific literature – still about the question why should sb do this – so maybe interesting for Teemu.

The argument was about OA and structures of the German scientific community – I talked to a friend of mine and why he would not publish his dissertation (history) nor his articles open access – not even parallel to a publication with a well known publisher (&even if his publisher would agree).

He said the structures in the historian community wouldn’t allow this, he would be out of business in his discipline, publishing OA would decrease his reputation. We were going further into it and he said that even if he was established, he would probably not advise any of his students to do so. Exclusiveness seemed to be really important to him – & he was afraid of cut and paste. Also his research would probably only be “important to some people in Germany as it is about an inter-German subject” and they’d certainly be able to buy or lent a book. Well at the moment – thank god – he doesn’t profit of any public funds.

The point I want to make is that we need to change structures and thinking. After this argument my conclusion was that faculties should – as Harvard FAS (with some waivers)- oblige their staff to publish OA – so that no young unestablished scientist would have to worry about his or her career (and sb. who thinks that research needs to be exclusive just has no chance to proceed with this thinking). Now – when I think about it, I’m in doubt – I believe in free will and free decisions – so is this really a way to go?

Right, back to the assignment:

What have I learned.

  • Copyright development was related to the birth of printing press – so technology that could reproduce writing industrially.
  • The Statute of Anne 1710 was the first ‘modern copyright’, it underlined the rights of the author (rather than the publisher). For 28 yrs (Lessings said 14). In the coming centuries publishers were fighting for a longer and longer period of protection.
  • At the moment we are at the highest level of copyright protection despite we think of us as being far further developed as in the past.

Some news for me

  • Copyright is to protect the rights of the author and his economic interests. In Germany that would be moral rights and exploitation rights, in some countries moral rights are not as extensive.

Anyway the most important point for me this week was this: we need to secure those who want to use their creativity and build OER and therefore we need to ease copyright.Β  Reasonable licences for those who want to give the rights to the public domain, Creative Commons licenses to distinguish what rights are given to the reuser.

BTW – I think Nichthus is right – of course we need to have authors and publishers who invest their creativity, time as well as money – honored. And this is why I can totally understand my friend – I would never asked him to risk his career and I can understand that he wants to make the most of his work. On the other hand I believe that publicly funded research needs to be accessible. I have seen prices rise for journal subscriptions – that is insane. Universities have to pay for publicly funded research results – that is insane.

But the question is – are there alternatives. Are there OA models that are sustainable.


5 thoughts on “Copyright – any alternatives?

  1. An interesting posting Barbara, which is both depressing and uplifting at the same time! That “open Access” equates to “unserious” in some countries/universities was the bad news; the good news was your information about the Harvard OA initiative.
    I agree with your comments on free will but don’t think this need to be a problem. The problem is that if authors feel their university is against OA then they will be understandably reluctant to publish in OA form. On the other hand if they feel their university positively encourages OA then they will (mostly) happily publish in that form, even if it is not obligatory.
    As you suggest, we need to change both structures and attitudes.

  2. Hello Barbara,

    thank you for your interesting posting.

    After reading about licences: did you think about under which licence do you want to release your blog posts ?

    As I see you also signed the “The Cape Town Open Education Declaration” πŸ™‚

    People from Germany seem not so much interested in participating 😦
    from 1512 signatures by individuals:
    31. March 2008: 108 signatures are from Germany

    (on 3. Feb. 2008 it was 89 signatures from Germany, see also here)

    Erkan YILMAZ

  3. Actually – I was impressed so many signed.
    Well and of course I’ll give my blogposts a cc licence – I never thought this would be used but you never know that what it’s about πŸ™‚ I will have a link in my blogroll – if nobody else could tell me a more reasonable way?

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