Another excellent post from Barbara Fister: Rent Control. Inside Higher Education (Apr 27, 2015).
Although Fister is writing about copyrighted information, much of what she says pertains to public domain government information if we continue down the road we are on of “partnering” with the private sector and promoting “digital collections” that we neither acquire nor control. In that model, when we give corporations and agencies both control of the content and the right to distribute it, “we forfeit the right to ensure equal access to the digital public square.” We do not have to do that; there are alternatives. But we have to step up and take the responsibility.
The short article is worth reading in its entirety, but here is a taste:
…In the academic library world, we’ve seen what happens when we give up ownership. We have a lot of convenience (one big bundle o’ stuff, one invoice, no more fiddling around with acquisition decisions) and seemingly more choice, but the rent goes up steeply and if we can’t pay it, we lose every cent we invested. Publishers consolidate and our intellectual heritage becomes intellectual property that we neither own nor control….
When we give corporations both control of the content and the right to distribute it, we forfeit the right to ensure equal access to the digital public square. If we assume that we cannot pool our resources to ensure the preservation of those rights – because raising funds through anything other than market forces is off the table – then we’re handing our freedom off to corporations to decide for us what is in the public interest.
…When it comes to the ways intellectual property ownership is reshaping our right to speak and our right to access information, including the ways we are allowed to use the devices we need to create and access information, It’s not just that the rent’s too damn high. It’s that when the choice is between paying the rent or nothing, it’s no choice at all.
There are alternatives. We have to consciously take them.