“Yesterday Brian Frye (@brianlfrye) (Kentucky) tweeted:
I am sad. @SSRN has decided that my article about Gremlins (1984), “In re Patentability of the Peltzer Inventions,” does not qualify for “public” status because it is “opinion, advocacy, or satire.” Why judge? Oh well. You can still download it here: http://www.ssrn.com/abstrac_id=3371989.
I followed Brian’s direct link to the piece. The abstract refers refers to the many inventions of the movie’s Randall Peltzer character, and explains, “This essay takes the form of an opinion letter valuating the patentability of Peltizer’s inventions.” I don’t teach IP, but I like Brian’s work and so I downloaded the essay. It struck me as funny and as an excellent teaching tool. But if you go to Brian’s author page on SSRN, you wouldn’t be able to access the paper. You wouldn’t even see it.
I myself have posted material that apparently doesn’t meet SSRN’s criteria for a “scholarly paper,” including this interview with the principal drafter of some important state trust legislation (and the interview itself has been cited in subsequent scholarship) and this short piece for Tax Notes reviewing estate and gift tax law review articles published in 2016 (even though SSRN published my similar pieces reviewing scholarship for the years 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010)….
Does the classification of publicly-available “scholarly” papers and privately-available “non-scholarly” papers as applied serve SSRN’s mission? To me, the answer is no. Brian Frye’s patentability piece, which strikes me as a great teaching and learning tool, has an easy home in the “Law Educator: Courses, Materials & Teaching eJournal,” if not the substantive IP eJournals (not my field). Oh, but wait, are “Courses” scholarship? They must be. So must be “Materials,” because they are publicly available and only “scholarly” works are publicly available. But Brian’s piece isn’t “teaching material” in SSRN’s universe? That doesn’t make any sense to me.
Like others, I have been (and remain) skeptical of Elsevier’s acquisition of SSRN. Since then, I’ve noticed that papers tend to take longer to get “approved” (the longest wait I’ve had is 6 weeks, and even then, I had to contact customer service to point out that it had been 6 weeks since submission, and could SSRN pretty please post the piece). I find useless the JEL Classificiation Codes (not an Elsevier invention), at least in the case of the “Law & Economics” (or “K”) codes applied to most law review scholarship. These sort codes are so blunt as to be useless for my research, at least. Maybe the codes work better in Economics (after all, the classification system was developed by the Journal of Economic Literature)….”