It seems to me as though the debate revolving around open access is a debate between the symbolization of “free content” in a capitalist system and the incongruity of capitalism itself and intellectual property. The first thing we need to do is establish terms–effectively we have two terms implied by open access: there are closed access and open access journals. Closed access or course refers to the “pay” schemes of most scholarly journal, creating an industry.
The main difference between closed and open access journals is for me rooted in the difference between commodity and intellectual property. A commodity, as defined to us first by Karl Ponanyi in the sixties, is something that is produced for the purposes of consumption. A non-commodity, however, is something that is not produced, such as “land” or “labor.” As regards intellectual property, we must now ask the question: is intellectual property a commodity? As such, intellectual property is something, as far as I am concerned, not captured in the idea of something “produced.” Sure, intellectual property is a production process; it is produced, but not in the same sense as a bottle of shampoo.
Intellectual property is a process is more akin to an image created by the forces of collaboration that subject enters into than it is an opaque product. In this sense, there is no specific author to intellectual property, but a consortium of authors from which the “creator” of any said unit of intellectual property draws. Intellectual property extracts new histories from old facts. Intellectual property is most certainly about ideas, but it is not about the commodifiable unit of information that contemporary ownership schemes wish to assign to it.
Consider the genre of advertising, certainly a knowledge producing discourse. An advertiser would never think to include images and/or phases from a competitor’s imagery; this would result in a lawsuit. Scholarship, on the other hand, is full of direct extractions from those one would “oppose” or those who would seek to outdo one’s own scholarly vogue. At any rate, “quoting” ones adversaries in advertisement results in advertising for one’s adversaries. This is the definition of “bad press is good press,” the idea that any attention nowadays is good.
Open access seems natural to the field of intellectual property, save one caveat: legitimacy. Closed access journals are considered more legitimate than their “free” counterparts. This is a psychological category rooted in faith. It is through faith that subjects accept the idea that a paid journal is more legitimate than one that is unpaid. One problem I see emerging with this new paradigm: the process of legitimization through payment has or is dissolving with no alternative.