Publishing is the final product of a series of human motivations.I take as an axiom the desire to know. This is a instinct encouraged and guided to serve a culture. Many people express this only by seeking information of obvious relevance to their work-a-day lives. Others realise both the impossibility of predicting future utility, and the ability of the human brain to create new concepts seemingly greater than their knowledge base. The seed of many important discoveries has been in the ability of some person to put together many disparate pieces of knowledge in a new way. The breadth of knowledge of these individuals is often as important to sparking this discovery as the depth of knowledge about theis speciality.
Humans are a technological curiosity in part because we seem to have broken the evolutionary chain that links curiosity with obvious survival value and we desire to know everyone elses business as well as our own. We study the most esoteric subjects for the pure joy of speculation and the exercise of reason.
The desire to express one's view is a basic instinct born at the same moment we discover communication tools whether they be vocal cords or the internet.If you can grunt you grunt in a personal style using (or helping to create) some recognised system of meaning by which others can receive your message. If you can, you will grunt something new (or nearly always, something built on the work of others to which you have contributed some new element).
Some expressions become socially important by chance or design - immediatelly or in a hundred years. Examples abound in writing, painting, music and other modes of expression. In the same way, some expressions become ecomomically important by chance or design sooner or later.
Economics truly raelises its epithet as the "dismal science" when it attemps to discount the importance of all motivations other than profit. This is a philosophical hangover from the mechanistic beleifs of the key prophets of economics in the 1700's. In areas of the world where its hollow offers of rationalism and "world best practice" are heeded, it rapidly erodes any expressions of human culture that cannot be used to generate profit.
A corollary of the desire to express one's view is the desire to influence others and the world, and to be recognised for doing so.The desire to be remembered (for good or ill) becomes more and more addictive the closer the person comes to acheiveing it. More commonly, this motivation can appeal to anyoine whose life options may depend on recognition by others - that is, everyone ! Ted Gannan's career may be greatly assisted by large scale (illicit) copying of his article and its subsequent citation all over the world. The World Wide Web (WWW - a much more organic and poetic label than the "Internet") allows a huge number of people to attempt this, and thus it reads like a textual Babel, or as Hilary McPhee puts it "a gigantic slush pile in hyperspace".
The economic motivcation for creativity is a potent force indeed, but tertiary to the above human desires.
An analysis of the history of key published works in all fields would reveal this, as it does in mathematics and science.
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) is a fascinating case showing how all three motives are usually competing within he same complex human (in contrast to the image of the simple mechanistivc economic animal). His work on the movement of planetary bodies was motivted by the religious desire to know the mind of his god more closely than through the reading of god's text (the Bible) alone.
He desired to celebrate this by communicating to the world. He knew that such important knowledge was dangerous, but the enduring laurel of "first to know" was worth the risk. He paid a heavy price.
He also knew that important publications in both cosmic and earthly subjects would improve his authority, his career and, yes, important, but last and least, his finances. He did take great pains to defend his authorship of good little earners like his miltary comapss and its instruction manual. Again his motives seemed to include both the outrage against plaigarism (i.e. absence of citation) as well as the effect on the sales of his own product. But he spent as much energy ensuring that he was accknowledged as the first to see the moons of Jupiter. Unfortunately for publishers, there is no copyright available on that type of vision.
The most important issue is not the republishing of digitally stored materials, but the need to ensure citation of those materials.
This seems like a minor issue because there is (currently) no charge for citation. It's importance lies in its human cultiral value. It acknowledges and usualy compliments the work of others. Imitation is a sincere for of flattery (Who said that first ?). It puts a social constraint on copying where the purpose may be turned to profit. It is good manners - and what are manners other than attempts to avoid unnecessary conflict - legal or otherwise ?
Most importantly, citation satisfies the human desire to communicate (the author experiences the delights of seeing his words, images, sounds etc. multiply and spread under their own power) as well as the desire to be recognised and remembered as an influence on the world.
Copyright may be the bread and butter of the publisher, but it is the icing on the cake for the author.
The Author: Stephen Digby, Bachelor of Science Degree (Monash University); Diploma in Education, (Victoria College), Graduate Diploma in Computer Education (Victoria College). Stephen has worked in primary, technical and high Schools in Victoria as a teacher, computer education, maths and science consultant for 16 years. His other career experiences include managing a Computer Education Teacher Training Centre, working as a writer for the Information Technology Study of the Victorian Certificate of Education, and teaching mathematics in the USA. He is currently Maths Co-ordinator of the Castlemaine Secondary College, Victoria.
Digby, Stephen. From Stephen Digby, 8 January 1997 [online]. Publishing Studies, No. 4, Autumn 1997: 5-6. Availability: