I believe that Lawrence Lessig is absolutely right when he says that our most pressing issue isn’t whether copyrights and private intellectual property should exist; the issue is how we strike a balance between control and freedom, and the effects that each have not just on our private fortunes, but on our society as a whole. Overly dogmatic followers of Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek might argue that “spontaneous order” will yield optimal outcomes.
I disagree. Spontaneous order can be relied upon to yield some outcome, but not necessarily one that serves all, or even any, of the interests that a democratic community might have. But the alternative isn’t to yield to centralized control, either. Frankly, we don’t yet know what the best answer is.
How to proceed? Experiment with many ways of handling the trade-off between control over property and freedom to use and innovate. See what works. See what fosters the best balance between the need for publishers to cover their costs and stay in business, and the needs of scholars, students, and the public to access the fruits of inquiry.
In that spirit, the content posted here is made available under the Creative Commons NonCommercial-Attribution-ShareAlike license. This means you are free to make use of it, change it, use it for any non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge the source.
To the extent possible, I will also post PDF versions of my publications, whether in preprint or final form. Sometimes, especially with older publications, I may not be able to do so, and in those cases I simply link to the journal or publisher’s website. In the future, again to the extent possible, I will prefer to publish work in journals that allow open access, or at least author’s rights to distribute author-formatted copies from a personal or institutional website.
I also recommend looking at the SHERPA/RoMEO database, which provides information on the open access policies of each publisher of academic or scientific journals. Those journals rated “green” by SHERPA/RoMEO best match the open science goals described here and in the work of Lessig and other “open culture” advocates.
Software and tools I write for generating scientific results will always have a free, open-source version available for use by scholars, students, and the community. I’m not saying that I won’t also do software in the future that is commercial, or that I won’t take research results and find ways to create products. I probably will. I am saying, however, that if I work on a piece of research, and communicate those results to the community, members of the community need a way to see what I’ve done, replicate it if desired, refute my claims if I turn out to be wrong, and use those tools and software in their own work to do something better.