When looking into the advantages and disadvantages of a content producer making their material freely available online I initially focused on academic content producers of research articles, such as lecturers and academics, whereby the main advantage I found was that of exposure. When work is made freely available online it is arguably more easily accessible, particularly to those who have limited capital, as papers published through journals can cost thousands of pounds. Academics thrive on exposure and providing work online for free may boost the profile of researchers through increased readership, downloads and citations, enhancing their reputation. Subsequently, this leads to increased opportunities for that individual, which is where the capital reward/pay-off is achieved in the long run, often in the form of increased demand for paid academic talks and project involvement.
In terms of disadvantages, there is the obvious lack of initial payment and risk of plagiarism, misrepresentation and misquoting. Furthermore, although costs for publishers have decreased due to the internet in terms of not having to print and physically distribute papers , they argue that the benefits of publishing work via a journal are vital, at a time where research is increasing at 3% annually, publishers are needed to skilfully manage the abundance of work , ensuring accessibility by the right people. Furthermore, the author and work itself is likely to acquire higher status due to the process of academic review, thus if an academic content producer provides their content free and not through a third party/journal/publisher, they are at a disadvantage in these respects as skilled publishers do not work for free!
On further contemplation, I realised that content producers of anything creative or original were exposed to similar advantages and disadvantages as academics, online or offline. Copyright is a big issue, it is very easy to pass a story off as your own, as there is often no way of proving who wrote it first – it is a regular occurrence that story lines are imitated but changed slightly in movies and films, for example Pride and Prejudice in Bridget Jones! Although there are ways of limiting the use of works, such as photographs and paintings by other parties through copyrighting, once online – particularly for free, there is no foolproof way of avoiding the misuse of your content. I feel that perhaps this is something we, in this digital age, have to come to terms with and work around, innovatively finding new ways to benefit financially or otherwise from content creation. My thoughts turned to the great changes experienced in the music industry whereby people today expect music to be more or less free. Music artists however still exist and are finding new ways of creating revenue, changing the traditional business model of the music industry as we know it.
I can see that content producers need their rights protected however, much content development and research for educational purposes is paid for by the tax payer and thus we should have a right to access it, instead of being charged thousands of pounds more to do so – certainly not an option for the majority! Encouragingly, I learnt of the RCUK Policy on Open Access which, as of April 2013, applies to peer reviewed research articles that have been funded by the Council . The license requires these research papers to be re-distributed, remixed, manipulated and built upon as long as the authors are credited. This benefits the Authors in that they are much more widely distributed and cited, while there work is built upon and therefore will get seen by a much wider audience.
Furthermore, with the costs of tuition fees rising, people are expecting more from their university experience. Open access university resources can really add value to the educational process, allowing students to get more from lessons and lectures. This is reiterated by Wiley (2012) has he argues the importance of OER (Open Education Resources) to guide learning today.
Lastly, I feel it is important to consider the great advantages, of open access and free online content provision, not only to the content producer but to society as a whole. Some say that learning is sharing, in order for knowledge creation to be more efficient, there is great benefit in making content freely available online, decreasing unnecessary repetition of research, allowing for anyone to explore new ideas and create knowledge more easily, without the need of vast capital and resources. This has to be a good thing for society as knowledge creation grows and this is something that I believe really needs to be taken into account!