4.1291 Copyright Discussion?/(ACH/ALLC session) (1/31)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Sat, 27 Apr 91 14:04:47 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 1291. Saturday, 27 Apr 1991.

Date: 25 April 1991, 17:05:48 EST
Subject: Copyright, again

We haven't really exhausted this subject, a very frightening one for the
history of publishing, a liberating one for the friends of knowledge who
want to get it all out there in the public domain, for the use of all.

Though the session devoted to copyright was organized and run very well
by Mike Neuman at the ACH/ALLC conference in Tempe, it settled very few
questions. The legal point of view was counteracted by the practical
voices of successful electronic publishers (CD-WORD, InteLex and
Chadwyck-Healey), and the commercial interests of the publishers
sometimes was countered by the demands of scholars or by the demands of
those who wanted not only a text but a good text and not only an encoded
text but a well-encoded text. I for one sat in the audience worrying
from all three sides. The lawyers would make out well no matter what,
since everyone would be arguing the issues in various courts, so never
mind them for the time being. The commercial publishers had to worry
about charging enough for their products so that potential losses from
piracy or illegal copying could be obverted before they occurred. The
scholarly publishers had to worry about generating texts that were good
enough to satisfy a fickle audience of perfectionist scholars (who also
like to complain). The encoders of text, some interested in texts as
great works of art and some interested in text as linguistic databases
or samples of writing, had to worry about what the commercial and
scholarly publishers would publish along with their texts, about the code
itself and the software engines that would interpret the code.

Is it time for a group like the Humanists to start helping to set the
standards for copyright of electronic data, so that it won't be done for
us either on the bases of the profit motive of commerce or of "national
security" or of legal greed? Can we decide what we want and tell the
world what our standard is? May we talk about this? Roy Flannagan