Today Scientific journals can be cited on internet easily, moreover the research work is funded by the people through government as taxes. So why is there such commercial publishing of these research papers where people again need to spend money for their access when it was meant only for the people? It is not good for development of society and academic environment where people want access to these research works for free?

Some reasons like these may come in the mind but they can also be contradicted like:

  • Publishing house companies may suffer losses and people will loose their job. Well there are other things also to get published like novels etc.

  • The author will incur losses. Well most of these journals are written by authors which are on a public job, by transferring copyright they are creating a fortune. All the research materials here are provided by the government but still they are using it and publishing just for money.

Why is there such copyrights transfer law which promote commercial publishing of research works where it is not doing any good for public other than harm in my consideration and also there is an alternative?


Note that there is a difference between who owns the copyright to the content vs. the collection.

If the content was produced by the US government, under taxpayer budgets, then the content is typically considered free of copyright and enters the public domain. However, the organizing, collating, collecting, typesetting, designing, and publishing of that content can be copyrighted.

An analogy would be a classical song. The piece of music, itself, dating several hundred years back, is now public domain. However, if a specific orchestra decided to make a specific recording of it, they'd own the copyright to that particular recording. You could record your own version, but you can't use their recording without their permission.

As to why this often happens with government produced content, I can't give you an authoritative answer, but can offer soem insights from past experiences:

  • Many government agencies aren't staffed at the levels needed to handle publishing and archiving and the like. It's seen as more efficient to outsource it.
  • Government agency budgets can be fickle and change year to year. Instead of ramping up internal teams to handle this that may have to be furloughed, it's easier to outsource.
  • Some politicians want everything outsourced.
  • Just like the private sector, short term objectives often trump long term ones.

On a personal level, I've seen this work OK at times, and terribly inefficiently at other times. To be fair, this is true of both the private sector and public sector. Outsourcing is fraught with landmines and I see as many outsourcing deals fail for the consumer/end-user as succeed.

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