yet another reason open source is the way to go

Barbara Fister makes a great point in her July 11 blogpost,

Nothing Personal: How Database Licenses Make Pirates of Us All:

personal use? What does that even mean in a scholarly context?”

She reports using JSTOR and other databases for her academic purposes. She writes books & blogs using the articles she finds on databases which require her to sign a statement that she will only use the articles for personal and non-commercial use. Sometimes these books and articles make a little money. *gasp*. Imagine the gall of making money with other people’s ideas (properly credited and non-plagiarized of course!)  Wait?  Isn’t that the POINT of academic research–to build off of earlier research?

The copyright system is so broken–this agreement is entirely useless in an academic context. It’s entirely useless when people want to share articles or information. Can I send an article to a friend? Not according to many databases.

Information may not want to be free, but we need it to loosen its chains. Many of the databases licenses are so restrictive that in fact the user is the one enslaved, not simply the information itself.

At the risk of sounding socialist, I think there has to be a model in which we can pay a tax on information that supports the content creators while allowing others to re-use information for their own purposes. Perhaps just on academic research information? After all, a lot of this research is funded by tax-supported universities, so there must be a way we can require such funding to provide information other academics can use freely. Until then students and researchers alike may be inadvertently breaking the database license agreements–which can have profound repercussions for universities.

More use of institutional repostiories can alleviate this problem if the repositories are open to the public.Or Lynch’s ideas.  For general intellectual property problems involving remixing and sampling others’ work, I likethe 5-dollar Friday idea.  Vouchers for supporting information creation! It’s a start anyway.

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2 thoughts on “yet another reason open source is the way to go

  1. What is the library of tomorrow?
    A multimedia theme park?
    A brain for hire for those who need specific knowledge quickly in a formal format? (We have our personal internet now for “informal” info gathering)
    A museum to look at what form information used to be in?
    A free Blockbuster/Red Box?
    Seems to me that the library as an institution is on the brink of an evolutionary jump either to a new life form or extinction.
    I am interested in your response to this potential conundrum, Shannon.

  2. Oddly enough, I posted on this very question just before I got your comment. I think “all of the above” is part of the answer. I don’t think library extinction will occur, simply because too many people are invested too deeply in insuring free & open access to information. It would take a major political shift, which we may very well be in the midst of, but which I prefer to think will end well.

    Certainly some major evolution needs to occur. This can be a problem in a profession where many (certainly not all) people love history and tidiness and the systems they’ve gotten used to. But it’s that way in most professions, isn’t it?

    I think that as long as library administrators, funders, and users keep clear the idea that libraries are about ideas, not the medium by which the ideas are transmitted, than we’re better situated than ever to be an important institution in the information age.

    What do you think? What do you want your local library to look like?

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