Conflicts of interest between publishers and information creators

In an earlier article I floated some ideas about applying the concepts of peer production to intellectual products in the fields of NLP and Neuro-Semantics. On a related but more general note, David Gammel links to Copyright Contradictions in Scholarly Publishing by John Willinsky. If his conclusions are correct then we should expect a large take-up of Creative Commons licences by academia…

In his conclusion Willinsky says:

Scholars do not share the same copyright interests as commercial academic publishers. The financial incentive for the scholars lies in the cash value of recognition and reputation, which translates into salary increases, promotions, merit bonuses, paid speaking engagements, consulting contracts, more lucrative job offers, and counter-offer retention packages. The financial value of this recognition is also realized through the research grants and awards which provide their own form of financial independence for scholars. [in other words, indirect appropriation as per Benkler’s paper] The principal copyright (and financial) interest of researchers is to ensure that their work is properly credited when reproduced or cited, and that it is reproduced and cited as often as possible for as wide a readership as possible. Copyright protects this critical element of recognition for the author against plagiarism and other false claims to authorship. The economic interests of faculty are not furthered by preventing illegal copies of their publication. Just the opposite. Studies of “what authors want” within the academic community speak of the author’s over-riding interest in journals with the widest possible audience, while keeping an eye on its level of prestige and its inclusion in the major indexes, which are further ways of extending readership

So one might predict a high take-up of Creative Commons licensing amongst the academic community…

By contrast,

From their side of the coin, the interests of the commercial publishers lie in restricting access to scholarship, with technologies such as pay-per-view offering even greater control than provided by print. In the case of academic journals, the reputation of the editors, editorial board, reviewers, and authors is critical to securing library and individual subscriptions, restricting access to their work is a financial necessity in a way that it simply is not for the authors. [in other words direct appropriation] Journal publishers have not made their contributing authors financial partners, in any way, in the publishing economy. (The royalties paid to the author of a scholarly book set it apart from the journal.) It is not surprising, then, that the copyright interests of author and publisher stand in contradiction to each other in the case of the academic journal.


With the emergence of a new publishing medium [the Web], enterprising researchers and others have introduced a second economic model – open access – into scholarly publishers. This model invites and supports a wider readership, on a far more global basis, and is far more in accord with the copyright interests of researchers and those who would back such scholarly and scientific activities[my emphasis]

Julian Elve
Proactive application of technology to business

My interests include technology, personal knowledge management, social change

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