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Producer Give-Aways Vs. Consumer Rip-Offs (fwd)

Stevan Harnad harnad at cogito.ecs.soton.ac.uk
Thu Aug 16 12:18:59 EST 2001

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 16 Aug 2001 17:42:19 +0100
From: Stevan Harnad <harnad at coglit.ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Reply-To: September 1998 American Scientist Forum
Subject: Producer Give-Aways Vs. Consumer Rip-Offs

Dear Peter,

Your coverage of digital developments in Free Online Scholarship
through your newsletter and Forum is remarkable and admirable.


I just wanted to suggest that it might not be doing the cause of
freeing digital access the most good to make no explicit distinction
between consumer rip-offs of non-give-away products and producer
give-aways of give-away products.


It is a fact that there are some digital products (e.g., music
recordings) that their producers definitely do NOT want to give away.

So attempts to get them anyway, whether they are bending technology or
bending the law or both are in fact going against the wishes of their

That is an ideological/ethical issue on which you need not take a stand
if you do not wish to, but it needs to be classified as being what it
is: consumer theft of digital products that are not producer

In stark contrast to this are those digital products (e.g. refereed
research papers) that their producers (authors) definitely DO want to
give away. (The publisher's "value-added" component to the product is
another matter, and should perhaps be treated as a hybrid.)

So throwing together napster-style piracy with eprint-self-archiving
simply risks making more people (most of whom are in any case
profoundly confused about ALL digital developments) think that there is
something immoral or illegal about the latter.

I would accordingly suggest formally subdividing your coverage into
those developments that concern non-give-aways only, give-aways only,
and perhaps a hybrid section for developments that may impinge on both.

(For what it's worth, if I were myself covering Free Online
Scholarship, I would only want to cover those aspects in which the
"Free" is voluntary on the part of the Scholar, rather than
forced on him by the user...)

Best wishes,


Stevan Harnad                     harnad at cogsci.soton.ac.uk
Professor of Cognitive Science    harnad at princeton.edu
Department of Electronics and     phone: +44 23-80 592-582
             Computer Science     fax:   +44 23-80 592-865
University of Southampton         http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/
Highfield, Southampton            http://www.princeton.edu/~harnad/

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