Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Matt Blaze takes a brave stand

I think that Professor Blaze makes some excellent points, and has the issue exactly right when he says:

These organizations, rooted in a rapidly disappearing print-based publishing economy, believe that they naturally "own" the writings that (unpaid) authors, editors and reviewers produce. They insist on copyright control as a condition of publication, arguing that the sale of conference proceedings and journal subscriptions provides an essential revenue stream that subsidizes their other good works. But this income, however well it might be used, has evolved into an ill-gotten entitlement. We write scientific papers first and last because we want them read. When papers were disseminated solely in print form it might have been reasonable to expect authors to donate the copyright in exchange for production and distribution. Today, of course, this model seems, at best, quaintly out of touch with the needs of researchers and academics who no longer desire or tolerate the delay and expense of seeking out printed copies of far-flung documents. We expect to find on it on the open web, and not hidden behind a paywall, either.

I've enjoyed studying Professor Blaze's work for many years, and I'm hoping to continue to do so in the future, so I hope that others hear his well-written criticisms and act on them.

Update: Professor Steve Bellovin has written a great essay about some recent experiences he had doing research, and how he experiences policies like these.

It drives me absolutely crazy that there are seminal publications in the computer science field which are now 35 or more years old, and yet they cannot be read by young students in the field without paying ridiculous fees to these societies. Here's one of my favorite examples: The design and implementation of INGRES, published by Professors Stonebraker, Held, and Wong of U.C. Berkeley, was published in 1976. This work was done at a public university, funded by public money (yes, my own taxes), and yet the crummy Association for Computing Machinery demands $15 to allow anyone to read this article.


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