Should there be no copyright for academic publications?

By Kristopher A. Nelson
in July 2009

400 words / 2 min.
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Worth reading and considering is a new draft article by Professor Steven Shavell that proposes abolishing copyright on academic works.

Please note that this post is from 2009. Evaluate with care and in light of later events.

Worth reading and considering is a new draft article by Professor Steven Shavell (author of the excellent law and economics text Foundations of Economic Analysis of Law) that proposes abolishing copyright on academic works:

The conventional rationale for copyright of written works, that copyright is needed to foster their creation, is seemingly of limited applicability to the academic domain. For in a world without copyright of academic writing, academics would still benefit from publishing in the major way that they do now, namely, from gaining scholarly esteem. Yet publishers would presumably have to impose fees on authors, because publishers would not be able to profit from reader charges. If these publication fees would be borne by academics, their incentives to publish would be reduced. But if the publication fees would usually be paid by universities or grantors, the motive of academics to publish would be unlikely to decrease (and could actually increase) — suggesting that ending academic copyright would be socially desirable in view of the broad benefits of a copyright-free world. If so, the demise of academic copyright should be achieved by a change in law, for the ‘open access’ movement that effectively seeks this objective without modification of the law faces fundamental difficulties.

via “Should Copyright Of Academic Works Be Abolished?” | Berkman Center.

An interesting proposal that I look forward to reading in more detail. My gut feeling is that, as an academic author, I would be comfortable with this, provided attribution was mandated (as with Creative Commons, which is really based on copyright). After all, while I do not expect to profit directly from any academic work I produce, I need the attribution to me to stay in order to survive in an academic profession that rewards publications and writings. If I lose the attribution, I lose that.

As I said, I look forward to reading Professor Shavell’s draft article in more depth.