Science, Copyright, and Free Inquiry


We primarily talk about copyright policy in the context of things like music and movies, but it also has an important impact on learning and scholarship. That’s the subject of this great Lawrence Lessig presentation:

The Architecture of Access to Scientific Knowledge from lessig on Vimeo.

As he observes, the extent to which bad intellectual property policy stymies inquiry and science can be easily obscured to members of the faculty of an American university. These universities generally pay for subscriptions to JSTOR and all the rest on behalf of their professors. But there are lots of people in the world who might like to know things—and might even contribute to the world’s stockpile of useful knowledge—and who aren’t in a position to benefit from these institutional memberships. One of the perks of having over 20,000 Twitter followers is that if I ever want to read something that’s behind an academic paywall somewhere, I can normally just tweet that I want to read it and someone will email me a copy. But that’s illegal, even though enforcing the law more rigorously would generate nothing but deadweight loss.