Some time ago Social Science Space published an article by Robert Dingwall daringly entitled “Why Open Access is Good News for Neo-Nazis”, where the author spoke about Open Access in the same breath as about Nazis. So let’s check: are his theories valid in a way?
Long story short, Robert Dingwall concludes that Open Access along with Creative Commons CC-BY license related to this model, is a simple way to deprive content creators of the historical rights to own and control the intellectual property.
In consequence, Open Access and CC-BY do not have to be profitable for small and medium-sized enterprises, but, in fact, they will be profitable for large corporations that can afford to analyze the results of scientific research. Moreover, the lack of control over intellectual property may lead to the misuse of research results (Hence Neo-Nazis in the title of the article).
This article presents Open Access as a phenomenon that deprives scientists of the intellectual property rights and portrays them as potential victims of copyright piracy. I beg to differ – these conclusions could not be more misleading and seem to underestimate not only the very idea but also a business model the OA publishing is built upon.
The idea of Open Access assumes that research results should be made freely available to the public for the benefit of society. If the research is financed from public funds, the results should be available to all citizens. Based on the same idea, governments publish information about their activities publicly. Open Access removes the barriers in this field, giving free access to scientific results, but not only for those who would use them in wrong way, but fore and foremost to advance further research. The benefits appear obvious: the scientists, businesses and citizens may use the research for self-development (I wrote about benefits for scholarly authors in the article “Benefits of Open Access for Authors”). No one requires that research funded by private institutions to be publicly available, it is the autonomous decision of companies / institutions that outsource the given study. Open Access is also a response to the evolution of contemporary societies, in which free and fast flow of information appears fundamental. It is also a matter of great importance for the development of science itself. But above all, Open Access is not mandatory, unless it has been a directive of a specific institution. The view that under the regime of Open Access, scientific work can be used in wrong way is incorrect in the sense that there is no correlation between publishing in OA and the malice of individuals. The above mentioned groups may reword article that appeared in the traditional model, and use it for their own purposes as well.
Open Access, as new paradigm, generates a lot of controversy and is still a subject of an animated discussion, but comparing OA to copyright piracy will not help to solve any problems.