Who’s The Dinosaur In The Room?

This week I’m using PowToon and ScoopIt to present my thoughts, backed up with some old-fashioned text.


The Open Access ethos equates to making material publicly available, so that it can be freely read and used. As highlighted last semester by Lucy Hewson, in the case of academic papers this enables academia and industry to use and build on such publications. However, as there are reduced controls on these dissemination routes, it can result in poor peer review and hence there may be an accompanying reduction in the quality of published work. Further, in the case of science and engineering, the funding body – a country or a business – will want to see an economic return on their investment. Here, the cost of turning a University’s idea into a product is generally so high that the investment will only take place if the core idea has been kept secret or patented.

As Unesco note, the conflict between publication and secrecy is reflected in the system of Intellectual Property, which seeks to balance the needs of the author/inventor and the needs of society.

So, does the system of intellectual property rights match today’s need? Patents protect inventions for up to 20 years and can cost £100,000 pounds. In contrast, copyright which protects music, costs nothing and lasts 70 years after author dies. Unsurprisingly, many regard current system as flawed, including the European Commissioner for Telecom and Media, Viviane Reding.

Indeed, it could be argued that internet piracy is a natural response to unfair legislation that has led to the accumulation of massive wealth by pop-stars, footballers, and alike. But as Viviane Reding highlights, we not only need changes to intellectual property legislation, but also the business models used to generate money from people’s work.

  • Perhaps music should be made freely available online and revenue sought from radio plays, product endorsements, concerts and alike; Ed Sheeran seems to reflect this view, as shown in this Guardian article.
  • Similarly, as highlighted by Calum Burgess last semester, the online game League of Legends is free to use, but generates income by selling optional clothes and alike for the online characters to wear.

So, for me, science and engineering need secrecy and intellectual property rights; otherwise companies will not invest. But the creative sector, the arts, media and social sciences need to embrace Open Access and develop new mechanisms to benefit from their work – this may mean pop-stars have to accept a reduction in income, but I don’t see them giving up their careers because they are destined to be very-rich rather than mega-rich.


Australian Open Access Support Group, Benefits of Open Access,


Calum Burgess, Spotify, USOSM2033: Living and Working on the Web,


David Willetts, Open, free access to academic research?, The Guardian, 1st May 2012.


David Y. Choia and Arturo Perezb, Online piracy, innovation, and legitimate business models, Technovation 27, pp. 168–178,

John Paul Titlow, Why 3D Printing Will Be The Next Big Copyright Fight, Readwrite, 2013


Lucy Hewson, Open Access for all, USOSM2033: Living and Working on the Web.


Stuart Dredge, Ed Sheeran talks Spotify royalties: I’m in the music industry to play live, The Guardian, 30th September 2014


United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, The ABC of Copyright, 2010


Viviane Reding, Internet Piracy is a “Wake-up Call’ for Policy Makers, YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-rE1KuhZQc


Topic 4: Reflection on Ethics

This topic was ostensibly about the ethical issues that are attached to business and educational use of social media. Oddly, at the end of the exercise, I’ve concluded that it is we, as individuals, who have the critical role in ensuring companies, individuals and educational establishments act appropriately. Companies respond to their customer’s demands – if their customers use the internet to call for change, then I suspect this will result in quicker action than any government or legislative pronouncement. We have a moral imperative to criticise the wrong doer. However, last semester Nabeel Siddiqui took a very different view, noting that ‘businesses, whether they are present online or physically, are not people. Morality and ethics are secondary concerns to most profit-seeking businesses.’ https://nabeels7.wordpress.com/2014/11/30/am-i-smarter-this-week/. Personally, I agree with Din J’s views, who stated that the root cause of the problem is that ‘humans are known to be lazy and naïve’ https://dinj18hoursaway.wordpress.com/2014/11/30/topic-4-reflection/. In other words, we have the tools to improve internet’s morality – but do we care enough to do so? (Din’s blog also likened his ability to blog to an elephant’s ability to skip rope.)

As a result, the questions that I posted on Hayley Matthew’s and Leigh Ravenhill’s blogs were designed to check if they thought that they have a responsibility to ensure that employees (companies, after all, are nothing more than a collection of people) are challenged when they act inappropriately.

Otherwise, I find myself staggered by the variety of approaches our community has taken to the same question. That said, a common theme that cropped up was the need for companies to provide their employees with guidance on what is appropriate/inappropriate use of the internet. Again, I was amazed, this time, because my generation, that is supposed to be enjoying expanded freedoms because of the internet, is looking to be told how to behave. If we don’t know, deep down, what is right and wrong, then something is very wrong with our moral compass. So in a sense one of the key learning points I’ve taken from this module concerns human behaviour.  Humans have always wanted to look outside themselves for guidance on what is right and wrong, and we don’t seem not to have changed much.