"Copyright laws historically exist to restrict the monopoly power of copyright holders ... Over time these consumer rights have been whittled away " Why Napster is Right


Elsewhere on this site Michele Boldrin and I have commented on the ill effects of current copyright law. We think that this is particularly the case in the textbook market, where rent seeking opportunities generated by a government enforced monopoly has led to the proliferation of proprietary, yet essentially identical, textbooks.

In the case of the market for economics textbooks, we as academic economists can take action. For some years, dvi and pdf files containing notes for our lectures have been available on-line. It is now our intention to release the word processing documents from which those files were generated under (amended) terms of the GNU General Public License. This means that anyone can modify the content, provided they make their modifications available under the same licensing agreement and give appropriate and fair credit for the source and the author(s) of the original material.

The open text initiative is an effort to encourage you to do the same. The first step is to provide a license that makes possible improvement and modifications. Inspired by the open source programming movement, the idea is to provide a variation of the "General Public License" adapted to course material. We our now in a "request for comments stage" with a draft of the amendment available for comments. We hope that you will show your support for the initiative for joining us in copyrighting the amendment.

Once we have reasonably broad agreement on an amended licensing agreement, it is our intention to release our own course material under the license. It is our sense that there is a great deal of course material, largely in the form of notes, that has little private value, but, in the aggregate, substantial social value. It is our hope that together we can produce a textbook, or textbooks and course material that will not only be freely available and customizable, but that will be superior to anything available on the commercial market.






Open Texts