The Guardian and @timbuckteeth are asking if all the papers and dissertations you so painstakingly craft at university should be available free to everyone else. You did the work. You may have paid for the right to submit your work to an esteemed journal. Is it fair that your work gets given away? Alternatively: who paid you? Did you have a scholarship or grant(s)? Should the people or organisations or government that supported you have the right to determine who (if anyone) gets paid? Even more controversial: what makes your paper any more commercially valuable than a research paper from a non-university industry expert – especially when the industry expert is at the bleeding edge and the university researcher (you) is still finding out what knowledge exists? Ultimately, who pays and how for the curation, editing and storage?
Nothing is free. At the moment, much in the publication of research is donated and, proportionally, very few of the donors are making a living from making research available. Is it ethical – or even academically sound – to rely on donated opinions? Personally – and I do review for free! – I do think donated reviews can be academically sound but if money is being made, should it not be shared? If industry is giving research to academia, shouldn’t there be company tax breaks or individuals awarded PhDs? And if websites are being created, money must be being made somewhere, somehow.
The Open Access movement still has many questions to answer.