Weak intellectual property and economic catch up – the German case

In Der Spiegel, Frank Thadeusz reviews Eckhard Höffner’s work. The story: 19th century Germany had far better dissemination of new scientific & technical ideas, in part because weak copyright enforcement forced publishers into aggressive pricing & paperback editions. In England publishers thrived but most people couldn’t afford their products. This difference helped Germany catch up.

What Höffner describes in 19th century Germany is a sort of open innovation system – not one without intellectual property protection, but one with weak protection. Continue reading

Open access publishing and not-for-profit publishing

Is the UK government’s new requirement of (slightly delayed) free access to publications based on government-funded research a blow to the extortionate power of commercial academic publishers, or will it just entrench them further? Continue reading

Open source Pentagon?

The most visible aspect of the US military is its role as what Tom Lehrer called America’s “number-one instrument of diplomacy“. Whatever your views of it in that capacity, it is best not to overlook the fact that this very large, well-funded and technologically ambitious organization also affects our lives through its procurement and management practices. You know some of the stories: the invention of the Internet; bringing the production of transistors quickly to a commercially viable scale by mandating their widespread adoption; creating the ISO 9000 quality assurance system for use by its contractors – who, since they included many of the world’s largest corporations, passed them on to thousands of other companies upstream on the supply chain; or, if we go back a couple of centuries, roughly fifty years spent making the concept of interchangeable parts – until then, an un-implementable item of French military doctrine – into an industrial reality (for details on this last, see Hounshell’s great book From the American System to Mass Production, 1800-1932).

So if the Pentagon really is shifting toward an open-source approach to software development, you know where to lay your bets.