Producer Give-Aways Vs. Consumer Rip-Offs

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 16 Aug 2001 17:42:19 +0100

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
Professor of Cognitive Science
Department of Electronics and phone: +44 23-80 592-582
             Computer Science fax: +44 23-80 592-865
University of Southampton
Highfield, Southampton
Received on Wed Jan 03 2001 - 19:17:43 GMT

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