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Digital Culture Library Issues Master's Paper Personal

Perils of Strong Copyright, take 3

In reply to Commons-blog and Rick Emrich’s thoughtful response to “Perils of Strong Copyright” I’d like to address just a couple of points.

First: I fully agree with his statement that further research would be helpful in supporting my case. Had I more time to devote fully to the paper, and had I chosen a different research strategy, I could have developed a much stronger case than currently laid out in Perils. I don’t know that I necessarily agree with “research base is insufficient to deal with the range of issues he addresses.” The range of issues is broad, but the central issue is very simple, and very clear.

The ALA seems to be saying one thing, and doing something very different.

I think that the evidence submitted shows this.

I kept asking myself during the planning portion of the paper, and then through the research and into the writeup: “How far should I go in gathering information?” I made a conscious effort to rely on publically available information that the ALA provides, and NOT to contact members of the publishing industry. The statements that the ALA has made in regards to Open Access publications were public statements. Why is giving the copyright information the same level of focus a negative? I would expect there to be some measure of agreement between the information available to authors on the websites noted in Perils and the Open Access statements that the ALA has made. I found little to none of this agreement in the publically available information. That is what interested me initially, and thus what I focused on.

I was very surprised at the speed with which Perils was distributed. I was expecting to show it to a few people, gain some feedback, and revise it into something new. However, I am very proud of the fact that the vast majority of the feedback has been and continues to be positive. I am extraordinarily pleased that people are discussing this topic, and hope to play a role in these discussions.

In a reply on Commons blog, Eli Edwards suggests “a virtual symposium/defense of the paper for people to share opinions and ideas” on the topic. I hope that this happens, and I hope that the discussion continues long after the week or so that this stays on the radar. I would be happy to take part in something of this sort, if anyone out there is interested.

10 replies on “Perils of Strong Copyright, take 3”

jason, considering that a completed masters paper is intended to be somewhat definitive (though not so much as a defended thesis or disseration) and given the immediate feedback you’ve been given, how do you go about revising, augmenting, correcting it?

if this was just a web publication that was getting press, you’d probably make changes immediately. how are you going to incorporate any of this “web peer review” (if at all) into this document which is frozen in a sense?

I suppose my plan is to work with a portion of the paper and try to put together an article outlining the argument. This particular document, you’re right, is very “frozen.” But there’s more to do, and more to come.

As I said in some comment somewhere, I think that an interesting article would will come from an analysis of this process. More than a few of the comments I’ve gotten have questioned the “authority” of my web publication. This is yet another aspect of academia that I believe must change over the next several years. Where better to start than by analyzing how this particular “publication” of Perils differs from (or does not differ from) the traditional peer review process.

do you wish you’d gotten this “web peer review” prior to freezing it?

…but would anyone even have given it a glance (a link) if it was a beta masters paper? was it not the authority (of your calling it a masters paper–and paul jones backing you up) that caused people to refer to it and subsequently question its authority?

That’s a very good observation. I don’t know the answer to that…would anyone have read the paper if I had just released it. No “Masters Paper” label, no “University of North Carolina” label. Very interesting.

I’ve thought a lot about how I would change the paper given the feedback I’ve received. I’m not sure that I would change it in any significant way. Part of that is, unfortunately, just a raw time constraint. I didn’t have the luxury of being able to stretch this research over any time period I wished, and simply publish when I wanted. However, it does appear that a continuation of this research may be a worthy project, and without the time pressure of graduate school, perhaps I can move in that direction.

how does this mesh with your future plans? you go to sewanee, you get some techie-library job of some sort. you publish an article or two based on your mp. do you want to continue researching and writing/publishing?

(this question is related to what i’ve been asking myself lately. i’m wondering (a) what am i going to do, besides working, after graduation? how can i take what i’m learning at work and contribute something to the world at large (or at least add to an intellectual debate).

A paper with a tight deadline and only my review need not be the end of it all. We did talk about Jason’s taking the final chapters and revising it into an open journal article — and that’s not a bad idea considering the interest that the paper has generated so far. One might consider this the peer-review stage of the paper and that a revision would be the more final paper (or you could consider this a virtual acid bath ;->).

Apologies to all for the brevity of my comments on the paper at commons-blog. Apologies also to Jason for the verboseness of the comments I later emailed direct to him. Jason, I am a bit surprised to hear you say, “I made a conscious effort to rely on publically available information that the ALA provides, and NOT to contact members of the publishing industry.” As I recall, you contacted me while working on the paper to ask for names of people at ALA publications to email/call, and I specifically suggested that you should both contact ALA publications (for the publisher’s perspective) and ALA’s Washington Office. Perhaps you were only looking for more copies of contracts and not actually to speak with anyone?

In any case, I fail to see how not talking to people could benefit your study one bit (unless you were concerned that doing so would deter you from reaching a preordained conclusion). Were you worried people would lie to you? Did you assume you knew what “members of the publishing industry” would say if you bothered to talk to them? If time was an issue for the Master’s paper, it certainly wasn’t for web publication.

Your rationale for the decision provided here is circuitous. You presumed an array of forms from certain publications within ALA should have copyright statements that are consistent, in your view, with position statements on open access from another group affiliated with ALA. When you found they did not match *your* assumptions of how they should appear, that somehow justified accusing ALA of hypocrisy without ever contacting anyone for comment or perspective? I guess this is what really mystifies me …

Jason–I’d heard of the paper, seen Eli’s and Frederick’s comments (and others), and downloaded it. And read it, beginning to end. Carefully. Twice.

I ended up writing a fairly long comment on chapter 5. It’s fair to say it’s not wholly positive (nor wholly negative). And then I pondered: “Is it fair to comment at such length on what is, after all, a student paper?”

Which is why I’ve spent some time this morning reviewing web mentions of the paper. Given the widespread publicity and your clear intent to see it discussed as widely as possible, I now feel comfortable in including the discussion. The issue will probably come out tonight, tomorrow night at the latest.

I’m guessing that if you’d called the right people at ALA, you’d learn what I believe to be true–and what’s supported by Page 59 of your paper: That is, that most divisional journals (certainly ITAL) do *not* require that authors sign over copyright to ALA, but offer either of two alternative licenses. Neither license prevents OAI deposit.

I’ll discuss this at greater length in Cites & Insights (which doesn’t have all that large an audience).

Thank you for the comment, and I do welcome any discussion of the paper. To say that I have been taken aback by its spread would be an understatement…I’m completely baffled by it!

Given some of the extremely constructive criticism that I’ve recieved from people like Eli and Frederick, and many, many others via private email, I can very clearly see that there are issues with the paper as it stands. You’re correct in saying that it’s a “student paper” in that it was written under an extreme deadline, with various pressures beset on all sides. This is not to excuse the issues, simply to explain why I didn’t notice many of them. It was not until well after the completion of the paper that I was made fully aware of some flaws in various aspects of my reasoning, as well as things I just missed (like the JMLA being available on PubMed Central!).

My overall thesis, however, I still believe…that the ALA is not doing enough internally to make their own journals available in an open access manner. The copyright status of the articles in question was an attempt to find a link between strong copyright controls and a failure to see the contradictory nature of the ALA’s position. While I may have failed in the first, I hope that the bizarre popularity of the work has drawn attention to the second.

For a paper “published” on a personal blog, I think the most interesting part of the entire exercise at this point isn’t the paper at all…it’s the interest and commentary. This is feeding a secondary paper concerned with scholarly publication: where does “Perils” fall in the range of scholarly publication? Has the interest it has generated been because of its (admittedly) somewhat vitriolic tone? Is this commentary process a form of peer review? If so, what is the actual work…the paper? The paper with annotations from comments? A complete revision of “Perils?” All of this is incredibly interesting to me…much to think about.

I look forward to reading your comments in their entirety (both “not wholly positive” and “not wholly negative”).

I suppose my plan is to work with a portion of the paper and try to put together an article outlining the argument. This particular document, you're right, is very “frozen.” But there's more to do, and more to come.As I said in some comment somewhere, I think that an interesting article would will come from an analysis of this process. More than a few of the comments I've gotten have questioned the “authority” of my web publication. This is yet another aspect of academia that I believe must change over the next several years. Where better to start than by analyzing how this particular “publication” of Perils differs from (or does not differ from) the traditional peer review process.

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