Sci-Hub, Library Genesis, and the Internet Archive lead the way
Digitally encoded cultural artefacts require organised preservation lest loss occurs. This includes academic literature in 'papers', learned books, and student texts. Digital 'content' is, compared to paper embedded equivalents, cheap to replicate, transmit, and store. Seemingly, unattended digital archives degrade more quickly than stores of paper and depend upon backward compatible electronic technology. On the plus side it is not too costly for digital archives to be replicated across the planet in sets of single storage locations and in distributed storage donated by users of Internet connected devices (e.g. as with the Freenet project). The fate of the ancient Library of Alexandria can thus be avoided.
To properly preserve digitally encoded culture and to make it accessible requires shift in thinking about the concepts of property and ownership. 'The Ten Commandments' seek to protect a man's oxen, asses, and wife, from appropriation by others; that seems reasonable but wherein lies justification? A little thought makes clear this arises from the physical nature of said 'property'. If oxen, asses, and women could be replicated for negligible effort no man could be said to have been deprived of use of his property by another.
'Intellectual property' always was a dodgy notion: ownership of abstractions known as ideas. With, for example, printed books 'ideas' and the substrate (paper) containing them were inseparable. A book was inevitably a physical object. Books can be traded in the same manner as widgets. The property of being tradable rests entirely upon that being traded possessing scarcity.
Modern technology demonstrates the inherent impossibility of imposing scarcity upon sequences of binary digits held on electronic devices. Increasingly vain attempts are made to prop-up ersatz markets in 'rights' through imposition of monopoly induced pseudo-scarcity. Fortunes continue to be made through distribution of 'content'. Yet, disobedience to copyright is growing. The legal concepts of copyright and patents can no longer be founded upon physical realities; copying a sequence does not deprive anyone of anything. But, one might say, it deprives the originator of income.
We live in a cock-eyed world where a couple of centuries or so ago it was ordained a creator could control and draw almost indefinite 'rent' from distributing his ideas embedded in physical substrate. Turning this on its head, and in light of our digital era, it is clear that digital sequences have zero intrinsic monetary worth regardless of the cost of making them. What can be traded is skill in constructing sequences others admire: not the sequences themselves. Leonardo da Vinci sought patronage, not 'rights'. These days, the internet facilitates seeking patronage (e.g. crowd funding) from across the globe.
The concept of intellectual property rights is arbitrary and persists only because hitherto nations have considered it advantageous. Challenge (i.e. disobedience) by one 'rogue' nation will be sufficient to collapse the entire rotten edifice. Said nation had better be beyond reach of USA military.
Academic literature exists under a tacitly different copyright regimen from that of, say, a caterwauling 'pop musician'. There are distribution 'rights' but authors cannot prevent other people from deriving fresh angles on an idea; nobody owns an equation and its logical consequences.
Academia depends upon derivation. Popular music relies on preserving each dire emanation in aspic: woe betide someone borrowing a sequence of musical notes and taking the idea forward. Thereby, general culture has innovation stifled: one may have to wait for 70 years after an originator's death before developing his idea. Meanwhile 'rights' to the originator's idea can be traded on a pseudo-market.
But one could opine entertainment as differing in intent from academic endeavour. Not so, each is based on the pleasure principle. Genuinely creative people innovate because they enjoy (feel driven) so doing. In all contexts of culture innovators may be judged by the satisfaction they give others; satisfaction encompasses indulging curiosity and aesthetic considerations (e.g. a deeply moving string quartet and an elegant mathematical construct).
Clear separation of freely mutable (with attribution) 'content' from distribution rights in academia paves the way for recognising general cultural malaise. 'Distribution' rules the roost. It is where money lies.
Academia is where the most successful opposition to the stranglehold of 'rights' is to be found. Sci-Hub and Library Genesis lead the way. The Internet Archive does sterling work too; it is under threat from avaricious holders of 'rights' angry about the Archive relaxing borrowing restrictions during the Covid-19 epidemic.
Creation of across the board archiving of digitally encoded culture, made freely accessible, must rely upon people contemptuous of so-called 'intellectual property law'
Released under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 international license.