Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Copyright and Blogging

Jim Davila, over at PaleoJudaica, posts some very sensible comments about certain copyright issues brought up by the recent 2004 SBL Seminar Papers that were made recently available. Mark Goodacre and Stephen Carlson also make some useful follow-up comments.

The whole problem seems to arise from the interpretation given to this sentence: "Because these papers represent works in progress, they should not be quoted or otherwise cited without permission from the author."

Jim thinks, and I agree, that it is important to challenge such interpretation of copyright regulations, and concludes: "If copyright really worked the way the writer of that paragraph quoted above seems to think it does, the Blogosphere couldn't enjoy the vigorous interchange of ideas which characterizes it."

It seems to me that there are two different questions involved here: one is the legitimate right to receive credit where credit is due, and to be treated with "academic courtesy" (as Stephen puts it). The other, less understandable, IMO, is the fear I perceive on the part of some to open up one's thoughts and ideas, so that others may discuss them and interact with them in public forums such as blogs.

I wholeheartedly agree with the first concern, but find the second unacceptable. This is the Internet, and if you don't want any feedback, any interaction, any criticism, any review, simply don't post. It's as simple as that. BTW, I hope Mark Goodacre's questions prove to be unfounded - though I think he's got a good point - when he asks: "Is there an implied distinction working here between proper publication = print and temporary, work in progress = web? Is this the end of an era?"

Incidentally, I don't mean to open Pandora's Box here, but I'm afraid copyright laws are a necessary evil. Perhaps not many people dare say so in public, but I know for a fact that many think this way. Furthermore, I'm sad to see that they are sometimes (mis)used in a way than hinders academic exchange and research, and seriously detracts from the potential of Internet-based communication. This is one of the main reasons, I think, that accounts for the increasing popularity of the open-source movement/ideal.

Okay. Now you are free to have your say and ignore, agree, or disagree with all the above. You may quote at will. I only ask that you do not misrepresent what I've just said. And yes, this is also a work in progress. I may change my mind on the subject ;-)