Thursday, February 10, 2011
How could scholars survive in a copy-friendly environment jeopardizing the established system of scholarly publishing in which scientific publishers seem to be authors' best friends? A backward itinerary across three German Enlightenment thinkers who took part to the debate on (unauthorized) reprinting shows us ways – usual and unusual - in which culture can flourish in a copy-friendly environment. While Fichte endorsed an intellectual property theory, took the function of publishers for granted and neglected the role of the public, Kant saw authors as speakers and justified publishers' rights only as long as they work as their spokespersons helping writers to reach the public. Eventually Lessing's project was designed to foster authors' autonomy by means of a subscription system that could have worked only on the basis of a free information flow and of direct relationships with and within the public itself. But such a condition can be compared with the situation of ancient auctores, with one difference: while the ancient communities of knowledge were educated minorities, because of the limitations of orality and manuscript media system, we have now the opportunity to take Enlightenment seriously.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.