[EAS] Jeffersonian Commons?

pjk pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Fri Jan 21 02:24:20 EST 2005

Subject:   Jeffersonian Commons?

(from INNOVATION, 19 January 2005)

      Patents have suddenly caught the attention of the general
public, as increasingly they're viewed as an impediment to
scientific, technological and creative advancements. "The real
story here is that we are in the midst of a huge revolution because
the patent system hasn't kept up with technology and changes in
society," says intellectual property attorney Bruce Sunstein. And
while some companies have almost made a business out of enforcing
patents they've acquired, others -- most notably IBM -- are making
headlines for their move in the other direction. IBM recently 
announced it was releasing 500 of the company's 10,000 U.S. patents
to the open source community in an effort to boost innovation among
the scientific community. Dovetailing with IBM's announcement is
the launch this month of the Science Commons -- a public domain
repository of scientific works. Sunstein predicts that the advent
of the Science Commons, along with Google Scholar and IBM's patent
release, will push publishers of scientific journals to move toward
a more open copyright and dissemination system. "Many scientists
now see paper publications as an impediment, since the Web is a
faster and cheaper form of dissemination of information, one that 
might well foster a greater and better community of scientific
endeavor. This technological communications environment requires a
new set of rules to assure the fair exchange of scientific ideas
and a reasonable way of monetizing this exchange," says Sunstein.
(Technology Review 12 Jan 2005)

The realization of a Jeffersonian intellectual property commons may
be slower than the above would suggest in overcoming its opponents.
E.g. how long is it now that Paul Ginsparg, now at Cornell,
has been advocating that kind of scientific publishing? About 15
years. E.g. see <http://www.library.uiuc.edu/icsu/ginsparg.htm>, and
its references to earlier work. A "whole generation" of theoretical
physicists has grown up on his Los Alamos Preprint Archive
All progress in the direction of wider such practices is of course
much to be commended.  --PJK

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