The conventional model of scholarly publishing uses the copyright system as a lever to induce commercial publishers and printers to disseminate the results of scholarly research. Recently, we have seen a number of high-profile experiments seeking to use one of a variety of forms of open access scholarly publishing to develop an alternative model. Critics have not quarreled with the goals of open access publishing; instead, they've attacked the viability of the open access business model. If we are examining the economics of open access publishing, we shouldn't limit ourselves to the question whether open access journals have fielded a business model that would allow them to ape conventional journals in the information marketplace. We should be taking a broader look at who is paying what money (and comparable incentives) to whom, for what activity, and to what end. Are either conventional or open access journals likely to deliver what they're being paid for? Law journal publishing is one of the easiest cases for open access publishing. Law scholarship relies on few commercial publishers. The majority of law journals depend on unpaid students to undertake the selection and copy editing of articles. Nobody who participates in any way in the law journal article research, writing, selection, editing and publication process does so because of copyright incentives. Indeed, copyright is sufficiently irrelevant that legal scholars, the institutions that employ them and the journals that publish their research tolerate considerable uncertainty about who owns the copyright to the works in question, without engaging in serious efforts to resolve it. At the same time, the first-copy cost of law reviews is heavily subsidized by the academy to an extent that dwarfs both the mailing and printing costs that make up law journals' chief budgeted expenditures and the subscription and royalty payments that account for their chief budgeted revenues. That subsidy, I argue, is an investment in the production and dissemination of legal scholarship, whose value is unambiguously enhanced by open access publishing.
Litman, Jessica D. "The Economics of Open Access Law Publishing." Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 10, no. 4 (2006): 779-96.