Academics turn to web to escape copyright curbs

November 9, 2006

A growing number of academics worldwide, disenchanted by increasingly restrictive copyright practices, are turning to websites that give wide access to their work and offer it to users for free, writes Philip Fine.

The most successful site is Creative Commons, which allows users and creators legally to share and reuse cultural, educational and scientific works. It is the brainchild of Lawrence Lessig, professor of law at Stanford University, and it licenses intellectual property that would formerly have been copyrighted material, allowing free dissemination and non-commercial use.

Other popular initiatives include the Science Commons, the Education Commons and the Academic Commons.

Andy Kaplan-Myrth, one of the project leads at Creative Commons Canada, said academics may not want to exercise all the IP rights the law affords them.

"Copyright laws are stronger than some creators want," he said, speaking at the recent Controlling Intellectual Property conference organised by the Canadian Association of University Teachers.

He said his organisation helps to build a commons of resistance against increasingly restrictive IP protections.

A number of examples of online resources where academics have been sharing their wares were cited by Michael Geist, a Canada research chair in internet and e-commerce law. These include:

Professor Geist said these examples showed that academics often found dissemination more important than cash rewards. "The currency of academics is the currency of ideas."

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