Late last year, I attended a continuing legal education seminar which addressed the growing issue of copyright in the age of the internet.
The seminar wasn’t all that unusual from the hand wringing that I’ve heard before.
But then they brought out a professor from California, who is also head of a software company which is creating software which would be a short term technological fix. In short, you would be able to post material that couldn’t be copied from the web and, if it was, would be watermarked or blurred beyond usefulness.
He then said something which I did find interesting, and I wanted to raise it here because I’ve alluded to it a few times in recent weeks. He said, in some ways, the technological fix is becoming moot, because the human response to copyright issues is to preclude posting in the first place. In short, academic institutions for whom their papers and ideas are the lifeblood of their grant money have simply stopped sharing their material on-line, and have aggressively pursued those in court who violate that policy. The effect is that a “gap” is growing on the internet, in which the most current thinking in history, sociology, humanities and politics, is simply not reflected on the internet. Meanwhile, politicians, journalists and some of you on this blog continue to get your information from the internet rather than tracking down the academic articles and journals that are only available at libraries. As a consequence, a gap has been created, and is growing, between what constitutes state of the art thinking and research, and what is available on line. He points out that the internet today is great for following the “what” of stories, but not “the why.” I’ve seen this a bunch of times, when Rick or others quote studies or articles from 2008-2009, and I have a journal on my desk which debunks those studies for whatever reason. His concern is that the gap is growing rapidly, and he assumes that eventually it will become someones “law” that the longer the web is in use, the less current and accurate and reliable it will be. The more convenient the web becomes, the less reliable it is.
In the meantime, it has become a horrendously dangerous problem, as policy based on internet knowledge is fundamentally flawed from the outset. Read Professor Longlan’s entire article on this, in the Journal of Contemporary Academic Concern, Vol X, Spring 2013, available at all major academic libraries but not on the web.