This paper explores the nature of, and justification for, copyright in academic texts in the light of recent developments in information technology, in particular the growth of electronic publication on the internet. Copyright, like other forms of property, is best thought of as a cluster of rights. A distinction is drawn within this cluster between first order 'control rights' and higher order 'commodity rights'. It is argued that copyright in academic texts is founded on its role as a means to allow academics to fulfil their role responsibilities. While the possession and exercise by academics of commodity rights can be thus justified in the case of mechanical print-based publication, since this helps make possible the reproduction and dissemination of academic texts, they cannot be so justified in the case of electronic publication. There are nevertheless good reasons to retain various control rights.