[Open-access] [open-science] Open Science Anthology published

Mark MacGillivray mark at cottagelabs.com
Tue Jan 28 13:11:05 UTC 2014

I have a particularly relevant example for the members of these lists, in
regard to the topic this thread has now focused on.

We have seen in this discussion various points of view about whether or not
copyright of various (or any) sorts is good or bad for scholarship.

We have even seen questions arise as to the use of the content of the
emails on this thread as sources to quote or derive from.

And we have seen disagreement on whether or not copyright restrictions
harms scholarship.

So here is a concrete example:

My current research is about how people access and share information to
make decisions. As part of this research, I have taken the public archives
of these mailing lists and analysed the interactions between list members,
and I would like to publish these analyses in my research. What this means
is that the interactions I wish to observe in order to perform my
scholarship are interactions that - because of the definition of
intellectual property and copyright laws - have been polluted with rights
restrictions without the consent of those involved, despite the fact that I
can observe these interactions in a public forum and in a public archive
with no access restrictions and with no statement of restrictions of any

It therefore seems not only that the output of my research can be placed
under restrictions without my consent, but also that the observable events
upon which I wish to perform my scholarship can be placed under
restrictions with or without consent.

And here are two questions about what I should therefore do next:

If I were to publish my research, including the names of the people
involved in the discussions I analysed, would I be breaking the law? If so,
need I ask for consent from everyone exposed in the research - despite the
fact that they are already observably exposed by having voluntarily
contributed to a publicly archived mailing list? If so, why is it that
their comments made on a public mailing list using public identifiers and
archived in public were put under copyright restriction in the first place?

Secondly, if I were to publish my research but remove all identifying
features of the data, would I still need to ask for consent, or am I then
just performing an analysis of observable events without making use of the
reserved content of those events?

Finally, the key questions:

Is it right that our intellectual property and copyright frameworks should
make it possible for people to own the observable events upon which our
scholarship must be founded? Does it seem like a good idea, particularly
when so much of the interesting interactions between human beings is now
taking place in mediums that provide an opportunity to observe and learn
far more than we ever have done before, that those same mediums should be
the ones to carry such a polluting effect upon the observations we can make?

Regardless of any right that any of us have to protect our works, is that
right greater than the right of other scholars to make clear, accurate,
comprehensive observations? Should we be free to restrict our works and
still claim that we are scholars?

Could it be the case that intellectual property and copyright laws - in
their concept, rather than particular formulations of them - are (now)
fundamentally incompatible with scholarship?

Please note that these are not questions about privacy or making
observations into purposefully hidden events. I am talking here only of
observations that are occurring in a public arena, of people performing
public actions, without making any effort to hide their identities. Privacy
concerns may arguably override any right to make observations, but here I
am interested specifically in the cases where such observations are public.

I would greatly appreciate answers to these questions, along with a
statement explicitly placing such answers in the public domain so that I
may publish my observations and analysis of them in my research findings.


On Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 12:21 PM, Mike Taylor <mike at indexdata.com> wrote:

> On 28 January 2014 12:01, Tom Olijhoek <tom.olijhoek at gmail.com> wrote:
> > I completely agree with all that Jan Velterop said..
> Absolutely. The best post I've ever seen on this, or any other, mailing
> list.
> > If I remember correctly Mike Taylor at Berlin11 argued that many more
> > billions of dollars are in fact wasted by not being able to share
> > information to the full extent, than can be earned by protecting pieces
> of
> > info in order to be able to sell them.
> Exactly. The problem we face is that accountants can calculate the
> money that's to be made by hiding information, but the enormous
> benefits of NOT hiding it are much harder to estimate (and, really,
> impossible to know). The cost to worry about in academic publishing is
> not subscriptions, page-charges or APC. It's the incredible
> opportunity cost of NOT freeing our research.
> > I also particularly oppose the notion of protecting the taxpayers
> property
> > in one country from being used freely by citizens in other countries. The
> > idea of open access restricted to one country is non-sense. How
> shortsighted
> > can you be? People playing with these ideas probably implicitly suppose
> that
> > their country will produce all (the good science).
> I don't think anyone really supports this notion. It's a bit of a
> straw-horse that people sometimes throw in for rhetorical purposes.
> Even Kent Anderson can't actually believe that's a good way to go
> (even if it was possible, which it's not).
> -- Mike.
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