Re: Science 4 September on Copyright

From: Irwin D. Bross <idbross_at_WORLDNET.ATT.NET> <harnad_at_COGSCI.SOTON.AC.UK>
Date: Thu, 10 Sep 1998 07:25:30 -0400

[Note from the Moderator: In the interest of open discussion,
      this piece is being posted to the American Scientist September
      Forum, but please note that the ideas expressed are those of the
      author, Irwin D. Bross, and do not reflect the views of either
      the American Scientist, the author of the target article, Thomas
      Walker, the authors of the Science article, S. Barchrach et al.,
      or the moderator of this discussion, Stevan Harnad. Further
      comments are welcome. A longer paper by the author, Bross,
      was attached but has not been posted. Please write to the
      author for a copy. Perhaps the author can provide a URL in
      a follow-up posting. -- S.H.]


1. Gist of this Response

The paper by Bachrach et al. in Science

argues that copyrights should remain with the authors so authors "can
freely archive their work on the Web" and is consistent with the view
that the primary purpose of copyrights is to protect the intellectual
property of those who create it. The response of the editor of Science,
F. Bloom,

reflects the current reality that the interests and property rights of
the owners of copyright must take precedence over the interests of
those who created this intellectual property.

Bloom offers the usual rationalizations for the long-standing customs
and practices which "justify" the theft of intellectual property from
the creators of that property. While some idealistic readers apparently
reacted to the completely self-serving character of the Science
rebuttal as well as its intellectual dishonesty, they may not realize
that these are characteristic of academic or scientific or medical or
other intellectual establishments. It is an unpublicized fact-of-life
that leaders of professional establishments always serve their own
interests when they conflict with the interests of rank-and-file

Anyone who is seriously concerned with implementing the Bachrach
proposals should realize that talking about such issues is a futile
approach in dealing with establishments. As an editor, Bloom would
almost certainly be willing to modify some of his statements to sooth
the sensibilities of the critics; but he will almost certainly take no
action that would give copyrights on intellectual property back to
those who create it.

2. What Actions are Feasible?

Perhaps the only strategy which has any chance of success is to take
direct action on the Web to raise the traditional cry: "stop thief!"
Establishments and their allies in the publishing business control most
of the avenues to redress (e.g., letters-to-the-editor) but they do not
yet control the Web. The key to what actions are feasible is this: None
of the traditional lines of protest will work; if the strategies are
modified to apply to the Web they may work.

It is essential to understand just what you are up against to find
effective strategies. You are not up just up against an editor;
you are up against a history of institutionalized theft of intellectual
property that goes back to medieval times. I have attached my 1997
paper on this broader topic which shows the dirty tricks you will
face. [This paper is not attached; please email the author,
Irwin D. Bross <idbross_at_WORLDNET.ATT.NET> for a copy; URL may appear
in a follow-up posting. -- S.H.]

The only reason to waste any time with apologetics such as those of
Bloom would be to read them carefully to learn the strategies of the
stonewall defense which will have to be overcome.

Finally, you should know that there is a technological fix using Web
resources to the quality control issues. I have a paper under review by
a statistical journal which shows how far better "quality control" of
the scientific statements in publications is possible by using "global
quality control" (new, largely automated statistical technologies)
instead of the highly subjective and grossly unscientific "quality
control" by editorial peer review used in Science. By objective
standards the quality of elite technical journals is not a great deal
better than elite "lay" media.

Bross, D. (1997) Feudal Customs that Plague Graduate Students:
The Theft of Intellectual Property Rights.

Irwin D. Bross, Ph.D.
Biomedical Metatechnology Inc.
Received on Tue Aug 25 1998 - 19:17:43 BST

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