Sadly, only 10% of texts from the ancient world come down to us, the rest infringed not so much by copyright but by folks like Attila the Hun. Still, if Attila could hold copyright for ransom, he would have preferred that method to a bonfire. After all, if there's gold to be had in intellectual property, it's just as good as the real thing. Ironically, for the common man, surveying the knowledge of the past is a whole lot easier than surveying the knowledge of the present, which thanks to modern day Attilas, is 'freely' available, for a little gold of course.
Consider present day psychologists and their research. First is the problem of publication. Good articles are published in academic journals for no one to see except those solitary folks who haunt college libraries, and stupid articles are published on internet and are meant to appeal to our stupidity. (Yup, that includes a lot of my stuff, but they are supposed to be stupid!). And if you want a particular article without having to make a trip to Podunk U, its only $42.50 plus tax, an extortionary bill that would do Attila proud. Luckily, many psychologists say the hell with APA (American Psychological Association) copyright restrictions and publish some of their stuff anyways on the Net. You can find these papers scattered across the web with no particular organizing principle. And that presents yet another problem. For psychologists of note or those who think they should be noted, you would expect that they would use the internet to aggrandize their popularity and repute by organizing and summarizing their meager extant scribblings so as to communicate better to the great intellectually unwashed like you and me.
And you would be wrong.
Go the website of almost any psychologist, and you will invariably read a vitae filled with endless literary accomplishments, but usually neither its explanatory context nor its content is available to you. In other words, they present to you not their wisdom, but their resume! Consider the web site of the distinguished neuro-psychologist Jaak Panksepp. Reading his vitae, you know he has written many great articles, but chances are you'll never read them in your lifetime. Compare him to the ancient Greek playwright Euripides. Like Panksepp, Euripides was an eloquent expositor of the affective nature of the human condition. Of Euripides eighty two plays only 18 come down to us, the rest are fragments. Compare this to Panksepp's over 300 articles of which only 1% come down to us, or more accurately, can be loaded down by us. Ironically, we know more about a fragmentary Greek playwright than the fragmented and hidden works of psychologists, of whom Panksepp is only one small example. In sum, we live in a new dark age, or should I say an age in which we are kept in the dark.
For more on Jaak Panksepp, take a look at my new e-book on the psychology of the internet:
As an exemplar of how to make the most of the fragmentary, the sites of the psychologist Pawel Lewicki and behavioral neuro-scientist Kent Berridge are some of the few that get it right. Both represent mini-educations in themselves.