The September editorial raises a delicate issue -- paying for IP information in an era in which we expect free access. You can read it in full below:
"But who will pay?
I have recently received two appeals for funds from organizations which, in their separate ways, have greatly enriched the international IP community. Their lack of financial stability is not unique and reflects a larger problem which IP practitioners and their clients will do well to consider before they—and not the institutions in question—become the true victims.
The first appeal comes from Intellectual Property Watch, the Geneva-based information service and weblog which, for many of us, is the first port of call for all current issues facing WIPO, the World Trade Organization, the World Health Organization as it tackles live topics such as global health, the environment, east-west and north-south trade, bilateral and plurilateral relations between trading nations, diplomatic crises, administration, and budgeting.
While Intellectual Property Watch is too discreet to admit it, this service is more than a means by which a geographically distant world views goings-on in Geneva; it is also a means by which ideas, ideals, attitudes, and proposals can be aired, information circulated, and soundings taken off the record. And while its head William New is too modest to proclaim it, his service's accuracy and reliability make it a widely respected source of IP activity.
The second appeal comes from the British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII), which provides access to a vast online compendium of British and Irish primary legal materials. BAILII is part of a network of primary legal databases which cooperates under the aegis of the World Legal Information Institute to offer a remarkable 1166 legal databases of information drawn from 123 jurisdictions. Among databases frequently referred to in this journal are those of the Patents Court and Patents County Court for England and Wales, from which handsomely produced records of decisions are accessible online often within minutes of their having been published.
IP Watch and BAILII have each replaced an inefficient, unsearchable, and generally paid-for ragbag of a system (if system it could properly be termed). The former charges minimally for some of its services, providing the rest of its content at no cost. The latter makes no charge at all.
As a community, we IP lawyers, clients, teachers, and students have become increasingly used to free access and it is difficult to break the habit. Yet the availability of these services has greatly improved our own efficiency and, with it, our ability to take better control of our work routines and, with it, our lives. A new generation of young businessmen, legal professionals, and students is emerging, information consumers who will never know the inconveniences of books borrowed from library shelves and not returned or, almost worse, wrongly returned; of the pain of delay when waiting for the arrival by terrestrial mail of a replacement copy of a lost-in-transit journal issue or loose-leaf supplement; of having to read through the entirety of non-searchable documents and having to leave one's desk in pursuit of further references which now we casually click through as hyperlinks.
The prospect of losing information services such as these is unthinkable. Yet how should they be funded? In the short term, it would do little harm to bully their users into making a donation. If each user donated, each year, the value to his benefactor (in charge-out or quality of life terms) of just one hour of his working week, neither of these impoverished benefactors of our daily work routine would ever need go cap-in-hand again. Yet in the long term, any solution must be based on sound commercial principles.
All providers of online legal information, in specialist areas like IP and beyond, are asking themselves about the basis of their businesses. Blogging and individual content-providing websites have helped shake legal authors from the tyranny of legal journals demanding large subscriptions in respect of information and comment for which authors were generally not paid, the content often coming out in monthly or quarterly issues, sometimes months or years after that information was first sought by readers. Now authors can reach readers directly and interact with them. Publishers of law books are also asking where their profits will come from, now that purchasers are less willing to purchase stale texts padded with paid-for statutes and other materials which are available free on the internet.
The battle to find good working business models that users will pay for goes on. It may be as long as 10 years before a new pattern emerges, since popular old-style titles will be slow to die even when the new emerge and are offered side by side with them. When the smoke clears, we shall see who wins, who survives—and who pays".