The sharpest and most wide-ranging struggle in global capitalism today is over intellectual property. As a new social form committed to the open principle, the OAC is bound to be drawn into this struggle. Already I have received the following message from László Fosztó:
"I took the initiative of creating a Group 'Anthropology in/of Central Eastern Europe'. As soon as it started to work, I had a question regarding the use of copyrighted material: is there a site policy on that issue? Many of us in CEE do not have access to good libraries and cannot afford to subscribe to expensive journals; so it would help to be able so share articles etc. If open access posting will not be allowed, is there a technical solution to create a “private area” where members would be still able to share materials?"
Thanks Keith, I only knew the major principal, this was very useful. In the last instance does it turn out to be the process introduced by "Monsanto" but with a sincere/not so "evil" starting point? Farmers, seeds...
Although it might be hard to believe after the heated subsequent exchanges, my original posting on copyright was ironic. Clearly the unforgiving medium and the contentious topic made this an ill-judged move. I have since deleted that remark and consider this thread to be an ongoing discussion from which a clear OAC policy will eventually emerge. I would hope that we might avoid the language of schism, concerning who should leave and who stay.
I would be the first to admit that the flurry of exchanges on this thread at a time when we were launching the OAC as a public concern caught me off balance. My own ill-judged contribution reflected that. I have been encouraged by the constructive tone of much that has been posted since and believe a good policy will emerge from it. I agree also that this forum and others like it are the best places for such policy discussions to take place.
I was wondering why Eliza and her posts disappeared, but this conversation helps explain.... a little...
Sorry about that Stace, I didn't actually bail (I would have done a lot more shouting first); I was trying to solve a tech problem between two sites (this + TypePad) and figured I could fool around with my Ning profile without deleting everything on OAC - which worked, sort of: my friends list survived, my groups didn't, my activities history survived, my post content didn't; my inbox survived, my apps didn't, etc. I'll post the details on the OAC Help group in case anyone else is thinking of doing any "experimenting" with Ning's nested structure.
No idea how to restore my comments so I'll just carry on. I'm not suggesting there's any facile answer to copyright, either legally or ethically, and I've no wish to see the journals I love (especially the more obscure and interesting ones) run out of business through file sharing. On the other hand the question of getting materials to colleagues in resource-scarce places is a no-brainer for me. It doesn't mitigate by a longshot the vast inequalities which characterise anthropology as a global intellectual endeavor - and of course those aren't only geographical - but it's at least a start in acknowledging uneven development, and challenging the structures which maintain and reproduce it. This is one small part of anthropology's much larger crisis of exclusivity and elitism, and certainly the lesser problem compared to that which characterises the anthropological labour market, though they're connected. Neither will be dismantled on an ad hoc basis, but I'm not convinced (as per Philip's comments above) that circling the wagons and pressuring people to protect the group is viable either. Certainly such pressure simply won't "work" on a lot of us, so ultimately Keith's (apparently ironic) comment about banning might become a self-fulfilling prophecy under such conditions.
As to obeying the rules and regulations of sites such as this one - let's not forget that social networking sites from YouTube to FaceBook have made no small amount of profit through the exploitation of copyright liminality. I think we need to decouple accumulation from legislation, and acknowledge realistically that the latter gets taken seriously by capital (in both class and corporate terms) at the convenience of the former. At this point in time, a heavy-handed policing of a forum which attracts hundreds of new customers by the day is counter-productive to Ning, and you can bet your bottom dollar they won't crack down out of some heartfelt moral obligation to the law. What their risk-quotient calcuations entail I can't tell, but if they're anything like similar sites, they won't be looking to chase off anyone unless they become a problem for the bottom line. This is a game, and if they can work it, so can we.
Owen: If you were to post it online, with no copyright information, and someone used it, you could later call them on it and say "hey it's MINE don't use it". That's why if you were to post your book, using a CC license would make it clear to the reader that you are letting people read and distribute it.
Max: Your point about the CC license helps to clarify what common law does not, because whatever is considered common law is not going to be universal outside of Britain, while CC helps to establish a common framework of understanding.
I realize that I may be an old Whig fogey unaware of how ethnocentric my position is and I return to the issue with a genuine interest in clarifying the situation. But is it true that any CC licence says just "that you are letting people read and distribute it"? If so, why bother with CC? Why not just say "You can do what you like with this"? And if you say nothing, what weight would trying to prevent use of it have?
I also understand that a common law argument would carry little weight in Continental Europe where law is usually divided between lex and ius or loi and droit, state law and that between persons. But are you saying that, if you fail to fill in a guarantee contract and your purchased object fails, you get no redress under the law in the US and Canada? And, if we are fighting the intellectual property regime on a world scale, could there be some value in returning to a natural or civil or human rights discourse that has some affinity with common law?
I am looking to make my own approach less ethnocentric, not just picking an argument.
Max, you have made it very clear that you feel strongly about these matters, but I am surprised that you think your definition of "open" must prevail and define the collective. As we have seen there is a diversity of opinion. Perhaps the most important meaning of "open" is that we are open to discussion and to some kind of collective decision-making. I would hope that you would grant us the right to express our opinions, even if they disagree with yours.
I am somewhat familiar with "the question of getting materials to colleagues in resource-scarce places." Back in 1978, long before the internet was a gleam in Al Gore's eye (just a joke, guys), I produced a hardcopy journal called NOMADIC PEOPLES, and for ten years mailed hundreds of copies free to all members of the Commission on Nomadic Peoples (International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences) around the world, with many copies going to Africa and Asia. The Commission, by the way, was run as an "open" network, in the sense that any specialist could join.
In 1988, I passed the journal to a new editor, and eventually it came to be published by a publishing house that charges for subscriptions. Both energy and grant money were, I suppose, too limited to keep this up free distribution in pre-internet times. Now we have the possibility of free internet journals to which individuals can contribute to circulate their material, as well as other venues on the internet. This great and we should pursue it. Whether we should take people's work without their permission is, to my mind, another question.
That sounds brilliant, Philip. So what's different now? I realise it seems like a whole new world (thanks Al!) given mass technologies but if shifts in quantity (i.e., increasing access and speed) are adding up to a fundamentally different quality (i.e., an emergent remit regarding intellectual property rights), then I think we need to review the underlying principle at stake.
The sketchy thing about this argument (at least as far as journals are concerned) is the flow of value around certain types of academic production. Who really gets protected by copyright law? As far as authors go, I think the case is dubious. We don't make money in the immediate sense for publishing in this manner; allegedly there's an accrual of symbolic capital which we then cash in for jobs, grants, and the general goody bag afforded by peer review street cred. Journal articles are essentially scrip; you can only spend them at the company store. Yet they increase in value the more they get passed around, through citation especially, so I'm hard pressed to see how authors are harmed by any underground truck-and-barter in illicit texts.
If there's an anthropologist sitting on a hoard of their own journal pieces, valiantly fending off interlopers who want to read them - well, why? Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face. What else are we going to do with them? Sell them? A Critique of Anthropology article and dollar will get you a cup of coffee. Maybe. The dollar's a bit shite these days.
Hi Hülya. You're right to ask for concrete solutions. I'm not suggesting we turn this place into an anthropological Napster - at least without some forethought as to how far we're prepared to defend it should the text police come storming in and break up our little intellectual speakeasy - but there are other possibilities, some of which (walling off a part of the site through password protection, etc.) have already been discussed.
In the meanwhile, I think we could set up a more modest call-and-response system whereby requests are made here and then dealt with by those who can through private channels - as I suggested earlier, a kind of email black market. But many people here have much more experience with the open source movement and I'm only beginning to go through the literature, so I'll heed their expertise.