Letter: Copywrongs

March 15, 2002

If the working paper on the exploitation of public-sector information is converted into a European Union directive, it spells the end of debate about copyright in higher education research ("Worry at access to fruits of research", THES , March 1). This is because there is, in effect, no copyright, but an open door.

There are many arguments against the proposal: it will reduce university research and development; companies will be reluctant to invest in HE-based research; how is commercial confidentiality defined?

It poses a potential legal nightmare. By effectively abolishing copyright, patenting is encouraged. The implications of this needs further exploration as does the complex issue of prior publication. A prior publication invalidates a patent application. If a third party demands, under the proposed law, to inspect documents (results, say) from a higher education project that might result in a patent later down the line, that is arguably prior publication, so no patent can then result.

The authors of the working paper have not thought their ideas through fully.

Charles Oppenheim
Loughborough University

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