Thursday, 27 April 2006

Publish and be damned

Two news stories recently have highlighted another aspect of the tragedy of the commons. One on Copyright (artists petitioning government to extend UK copyright beyond 50 years): the other on a proposed EU community directive to require open access publishing of scientific results.

In both cases, there is lots of research to indicate that the greatest good comes from open access. In copyright terms, the issue is not the few famous things: it is the huge mass of copyrighted material which cannot be reproduced because the copyright holder cannot be found. This reduces knowledge transmission and empoverishes us all. In scientific research, the effect is acute: the massively beneficial effects of the theoretical physics archiv service are obvious to anyone working in the area, whereas those subjects without an open access publications server have a looser culture, slower dissemination of results, and are less open to paradigm shifts. Take a look at the archiv server front end to get some idea of what's available. So yes, limited copyright and open dissemination of research might be bad for a few copyright holders, but that is greatly outweighed by the massively positive effects for the commonwealth.

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