Big damned heroes, sir! (*)
This is old news but I just heard about it. MIT's faculty voted unanimously to put all their research papers online. That may not seem like a big deal outside of academia but let me assure you it's a huge deal inside the ivory towers. Professors can opt out if they want to - or more likely if they're forced to by publishers who want to profit off the publication and confuse dissemination with useful publication.
To my knowledge this is the first time an entire institution of higher education anywhere in the world has adopted this kind of policy and the fact that the vote was unanimous shows just how far the commercial constructions around scientific literature have drifted from the ideals of research, publication, and academic discourse that the researchers themselves hold to.
There are some times when I am really proud of my alma mater and this is one of them. Big damned heroes indeed.
(*) Firefly reference, for those wondering what the heck I'm on about.
December 7, 2009
In one of those "you gotta be kidding me moments", the dogged Canadian pursuer of matters online and intellectual, Michael Geist, blogs that the Cartel (Canadian version) may have pirated as much as CDN 60 billion in recordings. The admitted facts amount to at least $50 million in infringements, but you remember how the Cartel went for "statutory damages" (the maximum allowed by law) when it was suing its customers? Yeah, that. Well, if you count the statutory damages for the 300,000 songs involved in the suit? Sixty billion, baybee.
Geist has a blog entry summarizing the situation, but the full read is over at his Technology & Law column (read it online via the Toronto Star's site). I should also note that Geist publishes a free email newsletter with excerpts and updates on many cases of interest.
The issue at hand here has been long standing. In fact, the lawsuit itself is over a year old (filed October 2008) and that suit was only filed after the hundreds of artists involved got fed up with decades-long delays by the Cartel in paying what are called "pending" royalties. These royalties are due under law, but the situation in Canada is such that the Cartel doesn't have to pay before it uses the material, it just has to make a list of whom it owes what. And according to Geist, the list goes back to the 1980s. Which, I feel compelled to point out, predates even the original Napster.
In theory, the list should be paid off, but there are no penalties or deadlines in law for it, so the rights holders have to negotiate for what's due to them or if that fails, sue. And sue they are, thousands of them in a class action (PDF link) that seeks not only the back royalties that are due, but punitive damages because the Cartel has willfully stolen from these artist for so long.
Funny, where have we heard language like that before?
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