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Your Money or Your Reputation

Any academic interested in getting their research disseminated should read Michael Jensen’s incisive essay The New Metrics of Scholarly Authority. Jensen gives the example of BoingBoing as “conferrers of validity and constructors of cool for a great deal of the technophile community,” and notes that, “as the online environment matures, most social spaces in many disciplines will have their own ‘boingboings.'” Jensen offers the following “preconditions for scholarly success in Authority 3.0:”

They include the digital availability of a text for indexing . . . the digital availability of the full text for referencing, quoting, linking, tagging; and the existence of metadata of some kind that identifies the document, categorizes it, contextualizes it, summarizes it, and perhaps provides key phrases from it, while also allowing others to enrich it with their own comments, tags, and contextualizing elements.

But in the very same issue of the Chron, a university press director basically makes clear her intent to try to limit the availability of her authors’ work–and urges other publishers to do the same. Alarmed by e-reserves, she’s saber-rattling:

[C]ase law is clear that classroom use doesn’t trump all other considerations. Nor should the 11th Amendment’s protection of the sovereign immunity of states shield public universities: Common sense dictates that a university can’t invoke protection as a producer of intellectual property (created in, say, its engineering or medical school) while ignoring those same protections as a consumer of intellectual property in its classrooms.

While legally savvy, I can’t see this strategy as particularly helpful to the press. Given the nature of Authority 3.0, will academic authors really want their work locked up behind fared uses and walled gardens? Are profs really that dependent on royalties? Or, rather, would a scheme of strict copyright enforcement on course reserves leave most professors net losers (as payors for materials) and only enrich intermediaries like the publishers?

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