One step forward, two steps back

2007-01-08 3-minute read

I was excited when a colleague forwarded to me an email about a new journal called Journal of Information Technology in Social Change. This is exactly what we need, and it’s being headed up by Michael Gilbert, who I know first hand has a lot of experience in the world of social justice and technology. Looking through the titles of the articles interested me and made me want to read more. But wait, where are the links?

The Journal of Information Technology is not available on line. Or, it is available but by subscription only. I can understand wanting to re-coup from the expense of publishing - I know that’s expensive and don’t expect people to work for free. On the other hand, there’s no indication of whether issues will become available at a later date. Will they ever be available for the public? I really hope so!!

Looking further, I saw the copyright and subscription notice:

Personal License:

If you have purchased a copy/subscription to the Journal with a personal license, this means that it is for your personal use. You may make copies for backup purposes or to allow you to personally use this report on more than one computer. You may also print copies, but not for circulation of any kind.

Corporate License:

For most of you, we recommend a corporate license. If you have purchased a copy/subscription to the Journal with a corporate license, this means that it is for use by people within your organization. You may make paper copies for internal circulation. You may post it to your intranet, so long as access to that intranet is restricted to those who work for your organization.

Yeesh. This sounds like the ravings of the music industry execs who have no understanding of the Internet.

I don’t want to over simplify the situation: just making everything free is not a viable solution in all cases. We need to pay for labor!

On the other hand, how can we use licensing to build community? Quite honestly, and maybe just for childish reasons, whenever I’m debugging someone’s Windows computer and that pop up asks me if I want to send a bug report to Microsoft I say no. I don’t want to contribute to a corporate software community. On the other hand, I do, whenever possible, seek out the issue tracking system for any free software that I use. Why? Because it’s about more than getting good software - it’s about developing and building communities around that free software.

The person who forwarded the email about this journal suggested that we submit a piece about our experiences working on the Social Forum. I’m sure, given the subscription system in place, that if accepted we would be paid for the piece. But, given my time and politics, I’d contribute for free to a project with the primary purpose of sharing information then contribute for money to a project that a subscriber can’t even forward to their mother!