This year, several announcements and blog posts combined to focus my attention on a slightly different question. What problems can open access solve? The answer seems obvious; open access will solve the problem of highly restricted and limited access to scholarship. A somewhat different problem that OA can help solve is the problem of scholarship locked up in the hands of badly run businesses that have come to believe that their inefficient and ineffective ways of doing business must be preserved at all costs.
Black Elk Speaks has been published by three different publishers in the U.S. The rarity that this movement creates is the availability of different editions of the book from different publishers. That is, there is a semblance of competition in the publishing of Black Elk Speaks. This anomaly brings into relief the normal effects of the copyright monopoly. It offers an opportunity to reflect on what alternatives to the strict publishing monopoly might look like.
Having written a column a couple of weeks ago expressing skepticism, even cynicism, about the prospect of the international diplomatic conference sponsored in Marrakesh by the World Intellectual Property Organization actually producing a treaty on copyright exceptions for the blind and visually impaired, I was both pleased and surprised to hear that such a treaty was agreed to by the delegates in the wee hours of June 25.
During these last two weeks of June, delegates to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) are meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco, to negotiate around a proposed treaty on Limitations and Exceptions for Visually Impaired Persons. Such a treaty would require that each country allow copies of copyrighted materials that are compatible with assistive software to be made.. Such an exception would be very limited, and would serve a very laudable purpose. So it is fair to ask why it has taken so long, seen several reversals on the part of the U.S. administration, and remains controversial.
Why would one decide to publish a journal on public health? It sound like a rhetorical question, but it may be more serious than we think. The obvious answer is to improve the health of the public. But if that really is the goal, a publisher in public health would need to try to reach the largest audience of the public that was possible. So a recent announcement from one prominent public health publisher casts doubt on that intent, and the purpose of the journal overall.
Recently I was talking with a Duke faculty member and editor of a prominent scholarly journal about ways to improve access to the journal he edits. In the midst of the conversation, I found myself being lectured on the need to get scholarly publishing out from under the control of commercial publishing firms. What were libraries going to do, I was asked, to break the stranglehold that commercial publishing had over scholarship? Fortunately I had some answers for him, and a great deal of sympathy for his perspective. But it was very odd to have the tables turned on me like that; I am usually the advocate for open access and new models of scholarly communications, so it was strange to be treated, even briefly, as a defender of the status quo.
Do librarians really get sued, or threatened with lawsuits, all that often? It is hard to say. My initial impression is that they do not get haled into court very often, but it is very difficult to know about threats. There may be more saber-rattling than we know about, and if such threats actually prevent librarians from taking the challenged action, we might never know about it. That is called a “chilling effect,” and there is a website devoted to cataloging such threats, which librarians should be aware of and, I think, contribute to when appropriate.
Planning and executing a MOOC, a Massive Open Online Course, is not an easy undertaking. It involves a lot of work, including a thoroughgoing reevaluation of pedagogical goals and methods, lots of planning, and extensive technological support to get each module in the MOOC just right. It also involves lots of “new” decisions about copyright.
A quick search of the Libraries’ catalog at my university shows that we have lots of books about how to talk with different groups. The target audiences for these improved conversations include children, liberals, teens, Christians, senior parents, and physicians. We even have a book (which I haven’t read) about how to talk about books [...]
We have seen several decisions in the past few months about fair use and libraries, and so far libraries are coming out ahead. The Georgia State case offered a limited win for libraries, with a decision holding that most of the challenged excerpts provided digitally to students were fair use, but also rejecting the idea [...]