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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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  • Limited resources (Score:5, Interesting)

    by diamondmagic (877411) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @06:02PM (#35947400) Homepage

    Under natural law, you typically only own that which is limited, in such a way you can control its use exclusively. But what about ideas? They aren't limited resources, anyone can create their own instance of an idea, an invention, a writing... http://mises.org/daily/5108/Ideas-Free-and-Unfree-A-Book-Commentary [mises.org]

  • Re:Patents as well (Score:3, Interesting)

    by reebmmm (939463) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @06:04PM (#35947420)

    Work at a different school or negotiate a better contract, if you can. At many universities, the inventors (typically the grad. student or principal investigator) are the owners of their own works, in the first instance, but they can always choose to let the invention be prosecuted and maintained by their TTO. The exception is for research done with Federal funds which is subject Bayh-Dole and, frankly, the terms of the sponsor agreement with the government.

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @06:21PM (#35947544)

    The paywall system wouldn't actually work without copyright. They could still manage to get anyone who signed a contract to agree not to republish it, but that would only bind the author. Other third parties might be bound by EULAs not to republish the version they accessed via a library, if the EULAs are enforceable contracts. But even in that case, if even one such third party leaked a bunch of PDFs onto the internet (violating their EULA), there would be nothing illegal about other people hosting it and republishing the articles, if they hadn't signed a contract (or agreed to an EULA). It's only copyright law that allows the publisher to demand takedowns of copies hosted by people with whom the publisher has no contractual relationship.

  • Re:Patents as well (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ClickOnThis (137803) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @06:31PM (#35947638) Journal

    Government work should be public domain and PHD thesis I think are required to be.

    That's news to me. My PhD dissertation is copyright by me, although I granted my university and my country's national library the right to distribute it.

    Some PhD dissertations can be classified Top Secret, if they involve state or military secrets. I know at least one person whose dissertation was such.

    As much as I favor the broad distribution of knowledge, ultimately I think the distribution of the results will depend on what the researcher arranges or negotiates with the institution who is paying him/her. Generally I favor the individual creator having copyright control.

    But the busness end of Academia is going whole hog into getting not only copyright but patents locked down.

    Don't be too quick to dismiss academic involvement with patents. As long as the patents themselves aren't "evil" I think academic institutions can provide valuable support to researchers who want to file patents, as long as the terms are fair.

    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.

    I agree that the instructors should be allowed to benefit freely from their own work. I confess I'm uncertain whether allowing a benevolent institution to hold the copyright (instead of the creator) is necessarily a bad thing.

  • by golden age villain (1607173) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @06:52PM (#35947780)

    Most science papers are put on free preprint servers such as the arXiv [arxiv.org] anyway.

    While arXiv and the like are popular in maths and physics, that is unfortunately definitely not true for science at large. In most of the life sciences for instance, papers are published in peer-reviewed journals with a paywall and only there. There is only a handful of publishers operating most journals in large portfolios and forcing the university libraries to cough up big bucks for the access even if they do not receive the journals in print. For Joe Sixpacks, it is even worse as the publishers sometimes ask as much as 40$ or 50$ for reading a single article.

    On the other hand, there are recent initiatives, like PLoS (http://www.plos.org/) and Frontiers (http://www.frontiersin.org/) which publish mostly online journals within a free-for-all access scheme. However, while anyone can read those articles, having them published costs quite a lot, around 2000€ roughly for both Frontiers and PLoS. So basically, while everyone can access those articles, only scientists from relatively rich institutions can actually publish in those journals. In all fairness, PLoS can offer the publication costs to some but still.

  • Re:Patents as well (Score:5, Interesting)

    by element-o.p. (939033) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @07:33PM (#35948088) Homepage
    The company I work for had similar language in the contract I signed. However, before signing that contract, I negotiated slightly different terms with the HR person. Bottom line, I agreed that all software or inventions I created *on company time or with company resources* would belong to the company; however, any software or inventions I created *on my own time* were mine. I also agreed that I wouldn't use my "insider knowledge" of the company to create a tool that I knew the company needed on my own time so that I could license it back to the company, nor would I create products or services in my off time to compete with the company I work for.

    So, yeah...the terms you mention are pretty much typical in the tech industry, but you can sometimes negotiate terms that will alleviate your employer's ethics or competition concerns while still allowing you to create and own things that are unrelated to the company's business interest.
  • Re:Patents as well (Score:4, Interesting)

    by element-o.p. (939033) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @07:37PM (#35948128) Homepage

    Similarly, telling people to "work for someone else" doesn't solve the problem either - they *all* do this, you have no bargaining power at all, they have all the money.

    Ummm...start your own business, then? My wife has done it twice in the last decade. It's a lot of work, and there are no guarantees that you will break even, much less earn the salary you earn as a cubicle drone in the tech sector, but if you don't like the terms of employment for anyone that's hiring, it IS an option. <shrug> I'm just not a big believer in the "I have no power at all" victim mentality.

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

    by dcollins (135727) on Wednesday April 27, 2011 @02:18AM (#35950270) Homepage

    "Are you really that fucking stupid??? *Every* university requires that their graduate students and professors sign away all their intellectual work while at the university."

    Bullshit. For example, CUNY policy on intellectual property (http://portal.cuny.edu/cms/id/cuny/documents/level_3_page/001173.htm)

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

    So clearly not "every university" and not "all intellectual work". Note that CUNY is the largest urban university in the U.S. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CUNY).

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