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Copyright Law Is Killing Science 323

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the lessig-says-some-stuff dept.
HansonMB writes "Whereas copyright tends to focus on protecting artists' ability to make money from their work, scientists don't use similar incentives. And yet, her work is often kept within the gates of the ivory tower, reserved for those whose universities or institutions have purchased access, often at high costs. And for science in the age of the internet, which wants ideas to spread as widely as possible to encourage more creativity and development, this isn't just bad: it's immoral."
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Copyright Law Is Killing Science

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  • Patents as well (Score:4, Insightful)

    by StillNeedMoreCoffee (123989) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @05:56PM (#35947348)

    Government work should be public domain and PHD thesis I think are required to be. But the busness end of Academia is going whole hog into getting not only copyright but patents locked down. In my teaching they were trying to copyright all instructional material and video presentations with no benefit for the instructors. Certainly not only should schools add to the public domain but patents and copyrights should belong to the creators of that intellectual property.

  • by reebmmm (939463) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @05:59PM (#35947380)

    Look: copyright has nothing to do with it. If you don't want the publication locked up, don't publish in journals that make you give up all your rights or negotiate a different deal. The fact is, on this point, copyright isn't necessary because the terms of the contract would just take over. If the publisher didn't want you to publish outside its pay wall it could ask you via your contract regardless of the copyright in the work.

    This reflects more on the economic and business incentives of scientific journals than on copyright. The journals don't care about the copyright so much as they value the exclusivity and the first publication rights. Copyright is just a placeholder for a very simple non-publication clause and associated penalties (or liquidated damages).

  • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @06:04PM (#35947418)
    I'm interested in this. Not interested enough to watch a 50 minute segment on it. Is there a transcript somewhere?

    If this is about open vs closed access journals

    1. The situation is rapidly improving. While it's not where it needs to be, in the last few years we've seen a lot more journals providing open access.
    2. The practice has been going on quite a while and we have yet to see science die. I don't think it can possibly be "killing" science. Limiting its potential, sure, but there's no way pay-for-access is having nearly as much effect as cutting funding for basic research.
  • Killing Science? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TapeCutter (624760) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @06:09PM (#35947446) Journal
    Hardly. This practice is a minor parasite riding on the back of Science, it's been there for at least 100yrs.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @06:13PM (#35947466) Homepage

    For better or for worse, the "public option" probably deserves most of the credit for developing nuclear energy, the Internet, and space travel. Radio broadcasting as we know it was also large developed by the "public option," specifically university radio stations in the 1920s, a fact that was forgotten when radio became commercializable and commercial radio pretty well eclipsed the pioneers.

    I don't think anyone can say what would have happened if the government had not chosen to fund these developments. The fact is, in the particular parallel universe we live in, they were developed publicly.

  • by NoSig (1919688) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @06:20PM (#35947528)
    Pretty much the entirety of basic modern physics and modern cryptography. Companies are happy to turn government science into products they can profit from, they are not happy to fund basic research. Yet basic research is what those products come from in a longer perspective. Companies only do the last step of research because it is only at the last step that it becomes clear what the profitable outcome is going to be.
  • Not the point (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Chemisor (97276) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @06:22PM (#35947548)

    A scientist does not publish papers so they could be read. He publishes so he can put the citation on his CV for the purpose of improving his employment. Most of those "peer-reviewed" journals are not read by anybody; their value lies not in availability, but in prestige.

  • by SETIGuy (33768) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @06:27PM (#35947602) Homepage

    I know, I should avoid answering obvious trolls especially ones who see the world only in terms of a philosophy that, much like communism, doesn't ever work in practice.

    (2) is worse than (1) because not all science can produce a profit. Even if it can, it might not be an immediate enough profit. For example, how long did it take for the photoelectric effect to have a profitable application? How about quantum mechanics? General relativity? Heliocentrism? Modeling of stellar interiors? Sequencing genomes of lichen?

    If (2) worked the way you think it would, (1) never would have been developed because the rich wouldn't have allowed government to get in the way of their revenue generation.

  • by SETIGuy (33768) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @06:33PM (#35947654) Homepage
    The GPL license doesn't make it illegal to distribute software unless you comply with the demand you also distribute the source. It's already illegal to distribute software that you don't own the copyright to. The GPL makes it legal to distribute the software iff you also distribute the source. The distinction is important, and you have failed to notice it.
  • by Ozlanthos (1172125) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @06:54PM (#35947796)
    The only people who copyright and patents are really issues for, are those who want to utilize the IP of someone else (who went through the time and effort of conceiving, beta-testing, and proving a concept) without bothering with licensing the right to use it....and without any intention of compensating it's originators. I can't stand these bitchy leaches who can't be bothered with thinking for themselves and would rather just steal the fruit of your efforts and tell you to screw yourself when you ask them to pay for it.

    As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to suggest that it is these fucking leeches that inhibit science more than anything. I mean really, why go through the investment of time, effort, and even money to create original IP if some asshole is just going to walk up and snatch your ability to make money off of it for yourself?

    The only problem I have with copyright and/or patents is these fucking companies that patent and copyright their works then shelve them, and hold the patent and/or copyright just to keep other people from being able to utilize them. LICENSE THAT SHIT, AND SELL THE RIGHTS TO PRODUCE IT TO OTHERS!!!

    -Oz
  • Re:Patents as well (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @07:43PM (#35948170)
    Oh for mod points. This post is true. I've worked at three different universities and I own *none* of my work. In most journals (PLoS and the like might be exceptions but I haven't yet published there) you sign over your rights to the journal. Without a subscription, personal or through a university, I can't even read some of my own papers. For the one patent I'm on I got some cash from the university, but the university and not me is the patent owner. This is standard operating procedure and naturally the /. anti-intellectual property right trolls modbomb to oblivion a commentator who is 100% right. The oddity is that public ownership of published research that was done at public universities with public moneys is one of the rare areas where the typical /. anti-intellectual property right troll is actually correct and a position that the parent, probably my fellow academic, likely agrees with.
  • by c0lo (1497653) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @07:58PM (#35948318)

    Bingo. I would love to publish all of my papers in open journals, but can't afford the "loss of prestige".

    Easily gained back: just refuse the Fields Medal [wikipedia.org] after you publish a meaningful article on arxiv.org.
    What makes the "prestige" of a journal? Why an "open journal" would not be able to achieve the "prestigious" status? Who's to blame for the fact that anything "open" in science is associated with the lost of prestige... even if there are "prestigious open source projects"?

    If the academia doesn't like to contribute by at least a honest "open-source-like" peer-reviewing [wikipedia.org] the work of others, why should I give away the protection of the copyright laws for my GPLv3 open-source code?

  • by jc42 (318812) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @08:22PM (#35948500) Homepage Journal

    ...To prevent the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for unlimited Times to the employers of Authors and Inventors and Trolls the exclusive Right to all Writings and Discoveries.

    There; FTFY. ;-)

  • Re:Not the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bowling Moses (591924) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @08:38PM (#35948562) Journal
    "A scientist does not publish papers so they could be read. He publishes so he can put the citation on his CV for the purpose of improving his employment. Most of those "peer-reviewed" journals are not read by anybody; their value lies not in availability, but in prestige."

    Do I publish articles to stick on my CV? You bet your ass. Those articles are at-a-glance evidence that when I say I know how to do skill set X, I've really done it. It also says that I get stuff done rather than sitting on my ass all day long. Where do I publish? The best journal I can (fuck Elsevier though) since prestige matters. Everybody knows what Science and Nature are. Everyone in your field also knows what the solid 2nd tier journals are and if you've published just there, that's ok. If you publish only in "The Whoosit Journal of Whatsit," then you've got a problem.

    Journal prestige aside, do I want people to read my papers? HELL YES! Does it matter if people read my papers? HELL YES! Why does it matter? If people read my papers it's because they're either interesting or relevant to their own work, or both. If they read my paper, they may cite it when they write up their own results or review article. Citation indexes exist, the most well known is probably google scholar. What the hell do you think journal prestige comes from if not from the citations the average paper published therein gets? The higher the rank of the journal, the pickier they are about what they let in, and the higher the expectations that it will get read, get cited, and influence people! Journal aside, if your paper has been out more than a year or two and nobody's cited it, your stuff doesn't fucking matter--expletive required. If your paper has been out five years and is still getting a half-dozen citations a year, you got a middling paper that fills in some important details in your field--good for you your research matters! If your paper has been out for five years and gets two dozen citations a year and you've got another half dozen just like it, then in your field you're a force to be reckoned with and everybody and their dog knows who you are. Even stepping out to related fields your name is familiar, and if you're out job hunting it's easy to check and see how influential you are by asking around your peers or checking citation indexes (google scholar again). If nobody cites your stuff, then nobody reads your stuff, and then your stuff might as well be published in "The Journal of Shit Nobody Cares About." Who wants to spend years doing shit nobody cares about? God damn right I want people to read my fucking work--expletives absolutely required.
  • Nice advice, but that doesn't help me as a researcher right now.

    Every day, as I search for papers to research, I encounter pay-walls asking for $30, $40, $50 for a single paper. If I had paid for every paper I wanted to read of the course of my academic career, I the bill would have run into the tens of thousands.

    Multiply that by the number of researcher in the world and you begin to grasp the scale of the legacy problem that the world research community is facing. The last 75+ years of published papers are locked up forever in what is essentially an extortion racket.

    Bottom line, following market philosophies and greed, the academic publishing industry has hiked prices to unbelievable levels. $40 for a 200KB pdf is by now, the industry standard price. True, researchers need not pay such costs up front if their library has paid for a subscription to the required journal, but this merely passes the cost to the library and the institution to which it is attached. (I suspect researchers at wealthier institutions are utterly oblivious to the problem of academic pay-walls as their libraries have subscriptions to everything.)

    My position is simple. We don't need the academic publishing industry(Except for their illgotten trove of past papers). Papers are written, reviewed, and edited by academic volunteers for free. What should simply happen is that universities should publish their own journals, online, using the simple, cheap web distribution methods.

    The academic publishers would kick and scream about government monopolies and such rot, but they are nothing more than parasites who are stifling legitimate academic research and progress and should be ignored. Their "services" cost no more than pennies for each journal annually, yet we are expected to pay a significant percentage of our national GDPs to access research which was originally funding by the public purse anyway. Scams like this make me wonder if something is pathologically wrong with western society.

  • Wrong (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sqrt(2) (786011) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @09:54PM (#35948942) Journal

    Whereas copyright tends to focus on protecting artists' ability to make money from their work

    Nope. Stop right there. It may be said that it is supposed to do as such, but today we see copyright being used by PUBLISHERS to control the artists and restrict users. Copyright as it is today is immoral, and no one has an obligation to recognize it as legitimate. We're all free to disregard it as much as we can reasonably get away with without personal harm from the enforcers in government who slavishly back the copyright cartels at the expense of our freedom and culture.

  • Re:Patents as well (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Phillip2 (203612) on Wednesday April 27, 2011 @08:33AM (#35951610)

    > General Rule:
    > 1. The Creator shall own all rights in Copyrightable Works.
    > 2. The University shall own all rights in other Intellectual Property.

    You missed out the entirety of the next paragraph which define the exceptions. As these cover almost all of the
    most likely scenarios, it's a little empty. The policy does mean that if you write a text book, or you might be able
    to retain copyright, although under normal employment law, the university would own that.

    So the original poster was a bit strong in their statement, but he is not far wrong. For the individual scientist,
    there is very little value in intellectual property; it's just a burden. And as anyone who has had to wade through
    IP agreements with any regularity will tell you, it's a substantial one.

    The interesting point is that the same most Universities also; in practice, they make very little money from third
    strand activities, including IP rights. There are, of course, the occasional exceptions, where a single piece of IP
    make a phenomenonal amount of cash.

    In the case of the original article, however, he is referring to scientific research outputs. The only people who make
    cash out of this are the publishers, who don't actually do anything useful any more. Scientists have kind of shot
    themselves in the feet here. I expect it will stop eventually, but it's currently tied up with our promotion and grant
    awarding systems.

    Phil

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