Restrictive copyright practices

I referred in an earlier post to increasingly restrictive copyright practices. These practices are like a tightening noose around the neck of everyone in search of knowledge.

Here’s one example:

Most online academic journals have been charging academics, researchers and students to download individual articles ever since new technologies made this possible. This is an extension of the older practice of charging for individual copies of articles on academic journals. Of course, once one had a copy of the article, whether in print or in digital format, the copy could then be shared with colleagues, passed around, photocopied and so on, in the usual way we all share things with each other. This is how knowledge gets disseminated after all, so that other may build on old knowledge and the search for new knowledge may continue.

In the Dec. 6-10 CopySouth meeting, one presentor rued a new and much more restrictive practice by some online journals: when you download and pay for a copy of an article, the digital file has an expiration date, after which the file erases itself! The logical extension of this highly restrictive practice is pay-per-view, which is now standard practice in the video industry. In addition, users are prohibited from disabling this automatic self-destruct mechanism and are threatened with a lawsuit, should they try to do so.

Similar highly restrictive practices are now finding their way into university and school libraries, especially where librarians have come under the spell of the ideology of knowledge monopolists. Fortunately, most librarians still recognize that their work is about disseminating, rather than restricting the dissemination of knowledge. They therefore balk at prohibiting, or even warning library users against, the photocopying of library materials.

This combination of technical and legal padlocking of information, so that information rentiers like journal publishers may strengthen their monopolistic hold on knowledge, is also the subject of my article Undermining Abundance.

Mechanism like these prevent ordinary people like us from taking full advantage of the promise of abundance made possible by digital technologies.


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