The Role of Copyright Law in Academic Journal Publishing

The Role of Copyright Law in Academic Journal Publishing



This comment responds to Professors Bergstrom and Rubinfeld’s chapter, Alternative Economic Designs for Academic Publishing. Their principal argument is that most prices for academic journals are inefficiently high and that open access accomplished by authors placing copies of their articles on the open Internet is one means of creating competition to improve efficiency in this knowledge market. Carroll applauds and provides supplementary support for both the normative and prescriptive elements of this claim. However, from the perspective of copyright law, which is at the root of these inefficiencies, he argues that they do not go far enough. The primary argument for open access is not to improve the efficiency of journal pricing. Instead, scholarly authors must use their copyrights to advance the normative goals of copyright law – to promote the progress of science and useful arts. In the digital environment, that goal is best promoted through open access to the scholarly literature even if journal prices were otherwise set at the efficient level. Authors of these articles do not need the lure of exclusive rights to perform research or to publish their results, and free online access serves to benefit multiple audiences.



Publication Date


Book Title

Working Within the Boundaries of Intellectual Property


Oxford University Press


Copyright law, Open access, Journal pricing, Scholarly communications


Intellectual Property Law | Law

The Role of Copyright Law in Academic Journal Publishing