6.0686 R: Gopher and Copyright (1/41)

Thu, 29 Apr 1993 15:46:25 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 6, No. 0686. Thursday, 29 Apr 1993.

Date: Thu, 29 Apr 93 14:07:43 EDT
From: David Sewell <dsew@troi.cc.rochester.edu>
Subject: Re: 6.0676 Gopher and Copyright

James O'Donnell's complaint about the proliferation of incomplete and
out-of-date issues of the Bryn Mawr Classical Review just confirms that
Gresham's Law applies to cyberspace. Specifically, bad gophers tend to
drive out the good.

But I don't see this as a problem that is really any different in kind
from the very old scholarly need to distinguish between good and bad
editions. We don't blame Signet (a US publisher of cheap paperback
"classics") for wind-sowing lousy editions of public-domain literature;
we do blame a professional scholar who cites, say, the Signet Classic
"A Connecticut Yankee" instead of the Iowa-California edition in an
article meant for publication. The scholar is supposed to know
better. Not because there is some centralized agency that confers
authority upon "best editions," but because there is almost always a
consensus agreement within each community of scholars as to the best
sources (and where there is disagreement, the grounds for choice are
usually well known).

So I think the problem will solve itself as certain repositories of
e-texts come to be acknowledged as the "authoritative" ones, whether
because they originate the texts or because they maintain archives
scrupulously. I suppose one could add to a footnote something like "all
citations from the BMCR are from authorized issues archived on the
University of Virginia server."

Heck, we already have models of a sort in Internet and BBS software
distribution, where archives like SIMTEL and CompuServe make some
commitment to maintaining complete and virus-free copies of programs.
And Before long we will probably have Internet Scholarly Virus Checkers
to insure the integrity of quotations:

WARNING: This quoted paragraph from THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
is infected with the PROLIX BINDER MANUSCRIPT virus! Please
obtain a more sensible edition of the novel from the archive
at library.alexandria.eg!!

In the meantime, I'd trust scholarly self-policing, one of the
most ruthlessly efficient homeostatic systems ever developed. ;-)

David Sewell
dsew@troi.cc.rochester.edu (dsewell@ccit.arizona.edu after 30 June 1993)