Putting the Documents Back in the Castle?
Sub Specie Aeterni reported that the academic freedom, file sharing website AAAARG.org was taken down under the threat of legal action by a Mark Taylor. AAAARG.org is basically the Napster of published intellectual essays and books. Because there is no internet resource for this story we wondered for a time if professor of religion Mark C. Taylor had become the Lars Ulrich of academic thought. It turns out NOT to be the case. Instead, it seems safe to conclude that it was anti-piracy officer Mark Taylor, come to Macmillan publishing from the music industry. He is looking to apply the lessons learned in music publishing and piracy to books and essays an in the interest of this model it was apparently he who threatened the action. You can hear him speak on the general issue at the May 5th 2010 UCL Publisher’s Seminar (for a nominal non-member fee of £92.00):
Mark Taylor, newly arrived at Macmillan from the music business, will explore how the music industry’s experience of piracy could inform publishing’s anti-piracy strategies.
• What parallels are there between the music and publishing
worlds? What could publishing avoid and what should it adopt from the music industry’s example?
• What pointers are there within publishing to future
AAAARG.org has been the lone positive whole-text source for texts that allows intellectual work outside of the highly commercialized restrictions of JSTOR and other academic monopolies of intellectual creations. Unlike the music industry, many if not most of these intellectual products are produced through State – that is the public’s – non-profit funding. UC Davis is not Capitol Records. I am not prepared to argue against the absolute unethical nature of copyrighting and gatekeeping academic intellectual products and resources, but the manner in which academic institutions have become primarily recursively organized text producing (and text consumer) factories is decidedly problematic on a number of ethical levels, many of which call into the question the substance of those products themselves, and thus ultimately the service that colleges and universities offers to our society.
This threatened legal attack on AAAARG.org is vastly under-reported among the electronic para-academic types who likely relied on its freedoms, and deserves at the very least our notice. Though I did not personally use the service, its existence was applauded by many whose work was no doubt of value. Macmillan seems to be quite busy organizing its electronic publishing assets, perhaps much of this having sometime to do with its recent partnership with Apple’s iPad. Just think about it. One day you can be paying for my essays in order to have the luxury of reading them on the subway on a device and services you have purchased from Apple. Who said academia isn’t looking up?
Update: Adrian over at Immanence in comments reports that the site is functioning as of now, without hint of a dust up. Curious.