Hist 696: Copyright, Open Access and me

I am a strong supporter of the idea that ideas and knowledge cannot be owned and that both are most productive when opened up to others.

I am also a strong supporter of the idea that cultural products should be available to be remixed, reworked, and recreated.

I probably have a lower view of copyright than I should, having never produced anything that I felt I was due monetary remuneration for.

But, still.

I understand the value and necessity of copyright, ensuring that those who engage in creative pursuits are not left in the poor house, like so many of their artistic forebears.

But can we have some balance?

Questions of open access to knowledge are incredibly pertinent for all of our scholarly work, whether digital or not. Whether or not, and how, we can include images in our monographs is an issue determined by copyright and publishing restrictions. Who can read the work we publish in academic journals in order to qualify for tenure is determined by the open access policy, or not, of the journal we publish in? Is open access is important enough to risk ones academic career on it? Will we make publication choices based on who retains copyright and whether the work is made freely available?

The questions only increase in the digital realm. But many of the questions can be answered by actions taken. If scholars choose to think about copyright and access, if they choose to publish using a copyright such as creative commons that allows for sharing, some change can happen. However, as Free Culture and the current debates over SOPA reveal, this is a contested area in many arenas, not just within academia, and these are questions with large political and structural ramification.

The texts for this week did a great job of describing some of the questions and challenges being debated both inside academia with questions of publishing and open access (fyi: is no longer passively edited) and outside with larger questions of copyright and the structures underlying digital technology. Another text (and there are many in this general vein) that argues for keeping the internet open is Jonathan Zittrain’s [*The Future of the Internet and how to stop it*][2]. According to Zittrain, we should be a little more worried about the shift to mobile as the primary means of accessing the web.* Another interesting text is *From CounterCulture to Cyberculture* by Fred Turner. In the book, Turner traces the roots of what he calls “digital utopianism” to the counterculture movements of the 1960s. In some ways, it was a disconcerting text, in that I didn’t realize that I was a hippie. However, the text offers an alternative and not always sympathetic perspective on the open access, open software movements. That being said, I am very happy to be a hippie and to advocate for the potential of the internet.

As Megan already noted, these questions are not abstract academic questions. The current congress is again hearing arguments over a bill to increase regulation of the internet, this time in line with recommendations made by major media companies who are seeking to put an end to piracy of copyrighted material. Creative Commons is taking a stand against it, as is Google and others. And because of the stakes involved, this is a fight that will continue until either profit models change to better fit the digital structure or the digital structure is changed to information and content easier to control.

Geek fail – there is a distinction between web and internet and I forget how it goes. Please forgive. and advise.