Oh no, not again – academic publishers and copyright

I’ve found it hard to find time to write any updates these past couple of weeks what with getting back into the swing of employment in the NHS after many months out, as well as joining Quiztopher BigWins, London’s most consistently second-placed quiz team (currently two from two). To bring this neglect of Surrey Medieval to an end, over the next few days I’m going to try and fire off a series of posts about relevant things I’ve been reading/writing/doing lately.

I thought I’d begin with a topic I have posted about on more than one occasion previously (see here and here for what I’m on about). As with those posts this will be to draw your attention to an excellent article, ‘The disappearing virtual library’ by US academic Christopher Kelty, published on the Aljazeera website and brought to my attention thanks to a friend who posted it on Facebook. It details the closure of the free ebook website library.nu – the article’s title doesn’t lie, the site really has vanished from cyberspace – and the implications of this for all interested parties. The tone of the author is maybe a little OTT at times, but his main point regarding the commodification of knowledge for the financial advantage of the publishers, and the detrimental effect this will or may have on those outside of academic and governmental institutions or without the means to afford to pay for access, is well made. Even more unsettling is his argument that;

“what looked to everyone like the new horizon of learning – and the promise of the vaunted new digital economy – has just disappeared behind the dark eclipse of a Munich judge’s cease and desist order.”

Medievalism will almost always be a niche enterprise when compared with fields of profound importance and (potential) benefit like medical research – coincidentally, one of the first things I have been tasked with doing in my new job is investigating whether the amount paid for subscriptions to academic journals can be consolidated and reduced. But when almost every search I make for articles, book chapters etc. runs into paywall after paywall, it is clear that this is the product of the same set of circumstances; a publishing environment in which there is one winner (the publishers) and many losers (writers, researchers; the latter may include those with a passing casual interest in a particular subject).

To this end through this blog I will endeavour always to do three things. First, to abide by copyright laws at all times, even when they seem barking mad; there’s no point exposing yourself to the possibility of legal action even when your platform is something as innocuous as a WordPress blog. Second, to post links to reliably (i.e. legally) uploaded articles and so forth as often as I can – here’s a good one by Heinrich Härke entitled ‘Anglo-Saxon Immigration and Ethnogenesis’ from the latest edition of the journal Medieval Archaeology to start you off. Third and finally, to make freely available anything I write, no matter what publication (if any) it is intended for. “Do as you would be done by”, as my Mum says. She’s right you know.

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About Robert J S Briggs

Back to being a part-time early medievalist; Surrey born, London based, been known to travel
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One Response to Oh no, not again – academic publishers and copyright

  1. That is exactly why everything we write at http://www.medievalhistories.com is free of charge. The plan is a little later to charge for some books at the ipad… But that i think is ok!

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