On the Net* and the liberation of information that “wants” to be free** - A call for action by the United Nations, Universities, researchers, and development agencies, with reference primarily to international trade law, Ralph Amissah
1 - Introduction
“Thinking is not just being right and avoiding error. Thinking is exploration, new concepts and design for a better future.” - Edward de Bono
There are several possible ways for the Net to be used, one of which results in the creation of a vast domain of valuable public information. With the Net we face something new and rapidly developing, that is completely different from the tools that have been available to us before. Mildly put, the Net redefines the rules for the dissemination of information. To take advantage of the Net, it is necessary to examine its potential and the array of new opportunities it brings with it, and then to work towards the realisation of the goals that are most attractive. The focus of this article is not on the way the technology of the Net will develop, but rather on the opportunities the Net opens for the publication of writing undertaken for non-commercial purposes.1 In the past such publication has been largely through commercial channels, without a realistic alternative. This article suggests that there is much extremely valuable information that “wants” to be free, and how it now can be made so. It also suggests that the acts of individuals and institutions interested in non-commercial publication, can make a difference in this happening, and in fact “are” the difference. For those interested in the publication of information on a non-commercial basis, the Net is able to deliver today.2 Will the non-commercial publishing sector create a valuable public domain of information, or must the temptations or necessity of commerce as before, subsume it. Most problems named in connection with the Net are details that have solutions, technical or otherwise, which others and I would be prepared to take up in other writings.
1. Non-commercial motives for publication might include for example: many scholarly writings - for peer review, achieving higher qualification, gaining tenure and critical acclaim; working towards harmonisation of a given area of law; development assistance. These examples are developed further in this paper.
2. The same is not true of commercial use. Massive investments are being put into the Net to make it usable for commercial purposes. Net commerce requires a number of additional elements to be put in place, amongst them payment systems, and encryption. Commercial publishers are aware of the possibilities of the Net, and will play a major role in publishing on it when the additional technology required by them is fully in place. Developments during the course of writing this paper in relation to user interfaces, suggest that commercial providers now also deliver conent over the Net with similar utility and user friendliness, namely: the announcement by Lexis-Nexis® of its latest offering developed together with Microsoft® (29.01.1997); and the latest version of the Norwegian law database Lovdata®.
Copyright: 1997 Ralph Amissah
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