Re: Napster: stealing another's vs. giving away one's own

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 20 May 2000 18:25:44 +0100

On Sat, 20 May 2000, sterling stoudenmire wrote:

> the difference between stealing all the farmer can grow and stealing (or
> using without costs) the copyrights is that the farmer employed capital,
> manual effort and took risk to provide the productive output while the
> copyright owner merely translated that which he was taught in a public
> funded school and which, in the case of reporting on public sector
> sponsored research, was learned at the expense of the taxpayers. Hence all
> such copyrighted materials are public property anyway..

I don't think fallacious support does any service to a good cause. I'm
all for freeing the scholarly research literature, and a fortiori the
publicly funded scientific research literature, but NOT for reasons like

Publishers DO invest capital, take risks, and add value to produce
journals. The trouble is that not all those investments are NEEDED any
more in the PostGutenberg (online) Era, and research access is still
being held hostage to those unnecessary add-ons and their costs:

The publisher's Quality-Control/Certification (QC/C) service continues
to be necessary, indeed essential, for the production of refereed
research. But the publisher's production of a text as a product
(whether on-paper on-line), and all its attendant investments and
costs, are no longer necessary. Author self-archiving in Open Archives
can now take care of that in place of the publisher.

THAT's the point. The farmer/grain analogy was being invoked against
the Napster model of consumer-end theft. Self-archiving is
(co-)producer-end give-away, not consumer-end theft. It will force a
decoupling between the essential and the inessential costs and
services, and once it prevails, it will free the (institutional)
Subscription/Site-License-Pay-Per-View (S/L/P) savings to pay for the
sole remaining service, QC/C, while at the same time freeing the
literature for one and all.

> In the case of privately funded farm produce, the product itself can be
> used by the user only once and he/she cannot carry it forward, reuse it or
> sell it to others. Hence, the farmer is reaping the rewards of private
> capital, private labor, entered into for gain without government subsidy,
> hence, the production is entitled to a profit... but in the case of
> intangible properties... funded from the public purse... work performed in a
> public instution... by a worker trained in a public instution... noone is
> entitled to a profit.. and everyone is entitled to the results.

I don't think this is the place to debate the general merits of
capitalism for re-useable products and services (books, records, films,
software, patents). (And the public funding is a red herring in such
arguments, especially concerning farming and its subsidies.) Let's not
take on the Whole System. Keep it simple: If the PRODUCERS want their
product to be accessible for free, it should be accessible for free --
especially when, as in the case of research, we ALL stand to benefit
from it.

Stevan Harnad
Professor of Cognitive Science
Department of Electronics and phone: +44 23-80 592-582
             Computer Science fax: +44 23-80 592-865
University of Southampton
Highfield, Southampton

NOTE: A complete archive of this ongoing discussion of providing free
access to the refereed journal literature is available at the American
Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00):

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Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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