Author/s:Ann Okerson
PDF-file. Pagination as in the original proceeding.Okerson.pdf
Title:Copyright in the Year 2010:
No longer an issue for scholarly electronic publishing
Abstract:So much time and so much energy have been devoted in the 1990s to debating issues of copyright that it seems as though the quarrels are eternal. It is relatively easy to imagine that we could find ourselves in the year 2010, still wrangling over fair use, transfer of rights, and the high cost of information. It is indeed sobering to realize how much time has passed since, for example, since the North Carolina Research Triangle Universities' proposal for retention of copyright ownership by academic faculty and researchers was first floated in the early 1990s, or even how much time has elapsed since the U.S. Government's "white paper" on copyright of 1995. And the arguments linger on.

But I will here argue that copyright will not be a nearly as serious an issue for producers or consumers of scholarly electronic information in 2010. Insofar as copyright has a story in the early 2000s, it will be marked by continuing moves towards greater protection of owners' and producers' rights -- for we must remember that the great driver behind all governmental involvement in the copyright ownership issue is respect for the huge economic engines that derive national and global billion-dollar revenues from "intellectual property" of sorts that have nothing to do with science or scholarship. That is, creations such as popular music and literature, film, video, and magazines are the chief concerns of the intellectual property business.

That realization should give us great confidence that the copyright issues that currently consume our societal energies will, in fact, be resolved by 2010. It is too strongly in the interest of too many powerful economic and governmental forces that an electronic market be successfully created, for there to be any realistic chance of continuing uncertainty or impasse vis a vis copyright. The mass-market entertainment and information producers will assuredly find a way to profitably sell their wares. The national and international laws and treaties will certainly be constructed to protect these industries, and in the marketplace it is precisely the huge infotainment vendors who will find it in their interest to deliver their product in a way that responds to the needs and practices of their consumers. One need only remember, for example, the failure of software producers in the 1980s to establish "copy protection" on their products to realize that the market does have power in this regard.

Opinions will vary as to whether the eventual but assured triumph of the commercial information providers is a good thing for scholarly and scientific information producers. My own belief is that two main streams of development will extend from now to 2010 and will define the academic electronic information landscape ten years from now. The only real question is in which stream the preponderance of information will flow. Neither of these streams will rely heavily on the copyright regimes that are in place in 2010.