March 10th, I attended the Lewis and Clark’s Spring IP Symposium on Open Access Legal Scholarship my next three articles are going to discuss some of the ideas put forward at the conference.
Matthew Bodie, Associate Professor of Law, Hofstra University School of Law, put forward the very interesting idea of publishing academics materials through an open access environment. The basic idea was well illustrated with the example of case books, the back bone of legal text books. An online space would be created to house cases and legal articles, then professors could pick and choose which cases and article they wanted in their case book and create a the book online. Students could then go to the website and download the particular book while other professors could change existing case books to fit their needs or comment on other books.
I am in strong support of this idea for three reasons:
Customizable: The current system makes it difficult for professors to add their personal perspective to a class. I was concerned with the idea presented at the conference that controlling access to publishing case books allows certain academics to control the direction of certain types of law. This seems to be similar to problem with treaties controlling certain areas of law. A reference becomes the authority shaping laws to the authors will.
Furthermore the ability to customize case books may reach out to niche fields of research that are not being served currently. During my undergrad work in Informatics I explored the interactions of Human Rights and Intellectual Property, this is not an area that many if any case books are written on, if just one professor had the interest to teach a class on the topic the posting of the case book would have been extremely useful to my research.
Cost: I have to admit that as a recent graduate the cost of text books is very painful for many students. Extremely high text book cost are often subsidized through loans to the student that end up cost significantly more when they are paid off. If having professionals and lawyers, that are willing to work in public service areas is a goal of academia, these cost issues needs to be address. I believe that open access to case books is a step in the right direction.
Uses in a larger open access legal world: If the case book creation system was part of a larger open access legal network providing cases and article to the public it could be a way to make the volume of information more manageable to the public. A series of case book ideas with comments could be an entry point for non legal professionals to start research in a legal area.
Anyone who is interested in more information on this idea should look at Lewis and Clark’s pod casts of the Symposium at: