The initial suggestion of a discussion along Foucauldian lines of this
question is a great one I think.
Foucault would be the first to remind us that 'copyright' is by no means
some *a priori *natural right of the author - and that rather it is a legal
framework set up in a specific historical moment, more of a discursive
operation which *creates *the very modern notion of author, than an
inherent right of authorship. He says pretty much exactly this in 'What is
an author?' if I recall, that the notion of an author comes into being at
the very same time as authorship is caught up in a highly elaborated system
of rights and property. And then of course this is by no means a 'universal
or constant' feature of writing... claims of the death of the author, &c...
and moreover much of the mainstream discourse about piracy and theft is no
more than an attempt to shoehorn morality and guilt into what should be a
question of legal utility.
So with morality and silly notions of a *natural right *to profit from
authorship *for all eternity* off the table, we can reflect on the actual
utility of copyright law. I think that the Copyright Clause of the U.S.
Constitution gives us a good starting point (though perhaps none of us here
are American, most of us live under copyright laws drafted by their
lobbyists and trade delegations). It gives government the right:
"To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for
limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their
respective Writings and Discoveries. "
Does the copyright regime currently in effect in your country serve the
noble ends which centuries ago drove the establishment of such laws? While
an entrenched content industry, producing mostly wretched rehashed crap,
fights tooth and nail to prevent anything from ever entering the public
domain? That's where those profits go - not eaten away by 'piracy,' but by
continuous lobbying of the world's governments to pass bad laws! Where an
academic publishing industry gives little to authors beyond mere credit,
sometimes even asking *them *for money, and then turns around and charges
exorbitant amounts? (And then when academic books go out of print, which
happens very quickly, they become very difficult to purchase at any price.)
Where you need institutional affiliation or absurdly deep pockets to have
any hope of accessing up-to-date journals? Where in most cases the would-be
downloader is not even a potential *purchaser *of the book but at most a
potential *library borrower*?
Individuals have to work out the ethics here on their own. Personally I
feel no moral qualms about sharing information, and little desire to
support a dead writer's estate or a publishing industry that seems
generally hostile to both authors and readers. I'd far rather download a
book than either waste my limited funds padding profit margins, or waste an
hour travelling to the library. I'd like to support the work of academic
authors and translators, but what - if any - funds do they actually see
from the sale of a book? I'd far rather access the work for free and - if
it is well done, and if it were possible - compensate them directly, in a
kind of 'tip jar / reputation bump' scheme. I think that any moves toward
open access in academic publishing are laudable, and I think that
filesharing, insofar as it harms for-profit publishers, can only further
the aims of openness. If academic publishers start going belly-up en masse,
academic writing is not going to abruptly cease. As open-access publishing
develops a robust peer-review system of its own and begins to be a source
of academic credit on par with traditional publication, the relevance of
copyright and commercial publishers to the academic author will steadily
approach nil. But of course this will be a difficult and drawn-out process
- really the process of creating a whole new author-subject, rather than
simply bemoaning the 'death' of an older iteration.
Ph.D III / Graduate Assistant
Graduate Program in Science and Technology Studies<http://www.yorku.ca/sts/
Bethune College, York University
4700 Keele St.
Toronto, ON M3J 1P3
On Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 10:26 AM, Allen Miller <pamiller@xxxxxx> wrote:
> It certainly is true that working in French libraries is not like working
> in American university libraries. We tend to take our almost universal
> access for granted.
> I think Tiffany's good faith effort to use libraries and buy books when
> possible is reasonable. It makes publishing economically possible. But
> the idea that she should not read books she would otherwise not have access
> does not seem to have any benefit other than for those who profit from
> restricting information.
> On Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 7:58 AM, Tiffany P. <princeptiffany@xxxxxxxxxx
> > Here responding to Timothy, but also following the general comment
> > initiated by him. (sorry again for my english, still working on it)
> > The aim of the debate was first to allow me, as a french student, to get
> > access to english e-books, may they be free or not.
> > Of course it's always thrilling to download the latest version of a 50$
> > book for free, as a searchable pdf file. (I recall of my first online
> > orgasm : when I found Le foucault électronique, a multi terms searchable
> > file containing almost all of Foucault's books, including Dits et Ecrits.
> > Talking about Foucault's opinion about free e-books (if one may say so),
> > while downloading this treasure I immediately thought I was violating
> > Foucault's own ethics about the concept of oeuvre. All of Foucault's
> > and articles and talks, within the same file ? With electronic data
> > processing allowed ? Oh gosh, it was almost blasphemy. Anyway, I own a
> > whole drawer overflowing with Foucault's books, which I invariably buy.)
> > For me and my french collegues, the problem is the very access to english
> > books, may it be in libraries. French libraries aren't known worldwide to
> > be the finest place to work. We also have a translation jet lag problem.
> > my field, history of sexuality, there are 1980's essential books that
> > aren't translated yet.Furthermore, I live in Lille, and every single
> book I
> > find to be available in a library is in Paris.
> > In the end, what choices do I have ?- move back to Paris- buy every
> > book I have to work on, even if it concerns only one chapter, and find 10
> > 000 euros each month to work on my thesis - download e-books.
> > What do you think I should do ?
> > Joking.
> > Anyway, may internet collaboration live long.
> > Best,
> > Tiffany P.
> > > Date: Mon, 30 Jan 2012 20:14:22 +0800
> > > From: autrement@xxxxxxxxx
> > > To: foucault-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
> > > Subject: Re: [Foucault-L] Online versions — General Comment
> > >
> > > Dear Foucault-philes,
> > >
> > > Following this discussion of where to download Foucault-related books,
> > and
> > > in light of the recent sudden demise of Megaupload, I wonder if
> > > has considered what Foucault himself would say about the (illegal) free
> > > downloading of published books?
> > >
> > > We all know the interview in which he says he'd like to see a year of
> > > publishing anonymously - but I don't recall the year of free books!
> > >
> > > I ask because I have found my own books on some of these sites and I
> > > to admit that at the time I told my publisher about it. Informing on
> > > free flow of information is shameful isn't it. Or is it? The problem is
> > > that if my publisher didn't get paid for their books then they wouldn't
> > be
> > > offering contracts to me (or anybody else), which would cause serious
> > > problems for us all - esp when it comes to getting jobs, tenure, etc —
> > not
> > > to mention putting citations in your bibliography.
> > >
> > > I understand that access to philosophy shouldn't be dependent on
> > financial
> > > means, esp for graduate students. But isn't that what libraries are
> > > But, of course, it's so much more convenient to have a searchable pdf
> > file,
> > > isn't it? I actually illegally downloaded my own books just so I could
> > have
> > > a complete pdf version - the publisher didn't give me one.
> > >
> > > So I'm not necessarily condemning the practice - perhaps it's just the
> > > first move in a major epistemic shift - but I do think it would be
> > > interesting to discuss it from a Foucauldian perspective.
> > >
> > > Regards,
> > > Timothy
> > > _______________________________________________
> > > Foucault-L mailing list
> > _______________________________________________
> > Foucault-L mailing list
> Paul Allen Miller
> Chair, Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
> Carolina Distinguished Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature
> President, Southern Comparative Literature Association
> Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
> University of South Carolina
> Columbia, SC 29208
> Foucault-L mailing list