Open Networks and Open Society: The Relationship between Freedom, Law, and Technology
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Hal Abelson wants to deliver a one-two punch against the privatization of academic discourse. His weapons of choice? New global initiatives based on MIT’s own OpenCourseWare (OCW) and DSpace. Abelson owns to a “real anxiety that people are quick to talk about academic exchange under the rubrics of property and ownership,” along the lines of the motion picture, recording and publishing industries. He sees a profound threat -- that of eventual monopoly control -- to scholarly publishing. Out of self-protection, Abelson says, universities must pursue initiatives to ensure free and open academic publishing. Two coordinated initiatives would “strengthen the information commons,” the body of knowledge on which thinkers continually build and which “forms the progress of science.” One, modeled on OCW, would provide “global access to raw material from which the world’s great learning institutions create educational experiences for their students.” The other, like MIT Libraries’ DSpace, would produce an interoperable and virtual collection of research from the world’s top institutions. Abelson exhorts universities to pursue their true mission of generating, disseminating and preserving knowledge, and defend against the encroachments of the commercial publishing industry, with its near stranglehold on journals and increasingly on ideas themselves.
John Wilbanks hopes to expand on this vision with Creative Commons, an attempt to permit authors and artists around the world to copyright their material with “some rights reserved.” His website provides free tools for licensing music, photos, video or written works, while permitting the dissemination of this work for noncommercial or shared use, for instance. Eventually, Creative Commons may encompass data and datasets, as well as patents and the transfer of biological material.
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