Thursday, July 13, 2006

Biopiracy and music piracy

What has biopiracy and music (or internet) piracy in common? Both have to do with the volatility and uncontrollability of their products, a gene and a digital medium respectively.

Once a gene is discovered, its origin can hardly be identified, and derivatives can be produced and sold far beyond the source of its origin. One a piece of music is on the Web, its dissemination can not be controlled. And in both cases, the "owner" fight tough battles to keep control to secure financial returns.

Just the roles of the players is changed. Whilst big industry is trying to fight an all out war against music piracy down to ruining individual students with well publicized court cases, big industry is opposing strenuously the declaration of the sources of genetic material. They even risk to have this as a cause that the current WTO Doha round is failing.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Blackwell Launches 3000 Years of Digitized Journal Backfiles

The current issue of Blackwell Publishing Journal News (July 2006, page 15) has an article about their strategy to opne up their huge archive.

As much as it is advantageous to have more and more digital journals, the more the divide between those having something and those having nothing widens, since hardly any of the content is free. Furhtermore, having access to 3,000 years of journals means, that in fact Blackwell opened for themselves another stream of income, this time not claiming copyright but the effort spent to digitize the content. In fact, this has the same effect as copyright.

Since Blackwell asks individual societies for paying the costs of scanning, if they want to have their journals open access, one could argue at the same time, that Blackwell ought to pay each society a royalty if they sell an article. All the content has not been generated by Blackwell, and thus this is not a fair deal. It might be there is more language hidden in contracts, but this is not to be found in the article.

I would also argue, that this development is undermining the success of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Finally, the advantage of open access is only on a very short time access to
pdfs: the real impact will yield tools such as open text mining, which are prevented by Blackwell's behavior - a behavior that could or ought to be changed.

An additional comment regarding open access is on Peter Suber's open access blog

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Should you open your mouth?

Read Noss recently made the point at the Society for Conservation Biology meeting in San Jose (California), that conservationists should approach law makers and suggest policies. Not everybody agreed, but about 70% of the participants questioned supported it. The reminder objected because good conservation and science is what is changing the world (Nature 442, July 6, 2006)

If conservation would be perfect science, and its policy suggestions would immediately become law, then conservationists ought to be very restrained in entering the field of policy making. However, there are so many other forces entering the path of the creation of a new law, that it is rather important, that policies should be drafted and entered from the conservation community. They even ought to be present and sreening emerging new laws on its impact on the environment. Why else is lobbying such an important instrument in policy making?

Within this process, it is clear, that poor science or biased conservation has its own corrective. If the industry or any body else can pick apart an initiative easily, the creator of it will loose quickly his credibility - one she had to build up over the years and of which she is probably very protective. Again, the conservationists do not have the huge financial interests and the necessary resources to be present in the policy making arena, which furthermore limits the influx of environmental interests: thus if one has the urge, one should go ahead.