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Political Scientists And Public Policy Affecting Computer-Based Research

Nicholas Henry

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A recurring irony among political scientists is that they rarely display an interest in public policies which directly affect them. An example is the current national effort to formulate public policies for new information technologies, notably those technologies which are vital to academic research in the sciences and social sciences, such as computer-based information storage' and retrieval systems, photocopiers, and microduplication techniques. For almost two decades, lobbyists, public bureaucrats, and congressmen have been engaged in a formal and continuing attempt to revise radically the present principal expression of public policy for new information technologies, the Copyright Act of 1909.It is my purpose in this essay to explain cursorily how the copyright concept affects the uses and users of the information technology that would seem to have the greatest utility for research in political science — the computer — and review the status of efforts to change the copyright principle in such a way as to accommodate more comprehensively the new information technologies. As we shall see, how copyright law is revised may alter traditional patterns of knowledge use and its generation in political science.