Books, Commerce, Controversial Topics, Copyright, Economics, Ethics, Open Access

Looking for Pirates in the Sea of Content

President Obama and A Pirate

U.S. President Barack Obama (right) “meets” with speechwriter Cody Keenan, who dressed as a pirate for an Oval Office photo taken for use in the President’s humorous speech to the White House Correspondents Association dinner May 9, 2009. (Public Domain)

Elsevier has taken flack recently over the fact that they used a company to find unauthorized versions of articles online for which they hold copyright. The company sent take-down notices to universities, individual website administrators, file-sharing networks, and likely cyberlockers. Elsevier is not alone in searching for content online. Publishers large and small have also been engaged in looking for unauthorized copies of books and journal articles online.

The resulting outrage was less than subtle. Researchers, who signed copyright transfer forms and acknowledgements to the Elsevier policy about sharing published PDFs on the web, were distraught that Elsevier had decided to enforce these same agreements. After explosions on the Twittersphere and countless blog posts across academia, mainstream media started covering the story and mostly got it all wrong. Michael Clarke did a nice job of summarizing the issue and the comments there mirror what was happening elsewhere.

I kept reading about this “unwritten understanding” between publishers and researchers that it was okay to post published PDFs. Another excuse for posting PDFs was that while researchers confirm that they signed copyright transfer forms, they still feel that it is “morally right” to share their published PDF.

A clear distinction needs to be made here. Many, if not most publishers allow authors to post the final accepted manuscript version of their paper on the internet. Many, if not most publishers impose an embargo period for doing so. Some publishers simply ask that authors wait until the paper is published in the journal before a manuscript version is posted.

Despite arguments to the contrary, peer review does cost the publisher money. Publishers also spend a lot of time and money to format, copyedit, tag and typeset papers in order to present the work in the best light possible. In return for facilitating peer review, many publishers do impose an embargo period, even on the manuscript version to allow time for recouping these expenses. I wonder why this is such an unfair compromise.

With that in mind, I am still waiting for the rational argument about why researchers HAVE TO share the published version. What is the moral imperative? Do users dislike the manuscript version so much that only the published PDF will do? Is it a matter of the author preferring a cleaned up version? If either or both of those statements hold true, then what does this say about a future where OA mandates only require accepted manuscripts to be shared?

The publishing landscape is rapidly shifting and the traditional business model is being chipped away, one little dig at a time. Universities are exerting copyright authority over manuscripts that are to be submitted to journals. Theses and dissertations are falling under the same category which has led to questions about how to turn those into journal papers and books.

File sharing/social networking sites that encourage users to share their papers—such as Mendeley (now owned by Elsevier), ResearchGate, Academia.edu—are also chipping away at the traditional publishing model. These sites offer new services that publishers should take note of and try to work with or replicate.

While each sharing site has disclaimers and ways to report copyright infringement, they often very actively promote article file sharing. Despite a policy that users only share what they are allowed to share, I have not seen evidence that they are regularly policing their sites for infringing content.

Then there are the cyberlockers–huge illegal sites, mostly outside the US, that scoop up content and resell it. Publishers, particularly of ebooks, have been battling 4shared, bookos (also bookza, bookos-z1), libgen and docin. Google cooperates by removing them from search results and the US Federal government is involved as well.

When a publisher hires an anti-piracy company to look for content, scans of the internet look for direct hits that match the title, authors, maybe even abstracts and full text. It is even possible to train the system to find only published final PDFs as opposed to authorized accepted manuscripts.

Thanks to Google Scholar, it is not hard to find published PDFs online.  Publishers must then decide what to do about it. For society publishers, the answer may likely be to do nothing. Maybe this is the “unwritten understanding” to which some are referring. Ignoring this behavior does not imply permission but is simply done because society publishers lack the resources to do anything about it. Keeping constant vigilance would require a full time staff position which is beyond the means of smaller, not-for-profit publishers.

Technical solutions are improving. As hackers figure out how to scoop up content and resell it via cyberlockers, the antidote is to look for those copies and exert copyright to have them removed.

After ASCE launched ebooks online, we contracted with a company to find unauthorized versions of ebooks and sent take-down notices. There were a surprising number of infringements and little resistance at having the ebook files removed from sites. It made perfect sense then, for us to explore journal content. What was found was alarming, to say the least. Vast amounts of content are living in cyberlockers. There is a smattering of papers on university sites, mostly author profile pages. And the most recent scan returned a lot of published PDFs on networking/file sharing sites.

I know that for many in the Open Access advocacy world, the answer would be to set it all free. That is the easy answer and the one that would put many society publishers out of business. Publishers that spend millions of dollars a year facilitating peer review and producing journal content, should have some right to protect the published PDF, particularly when those publishers allow for the manuscript version to live openly on the web. Why isn’t that enough?

About Angela Cochran

I am the Director of Journals for the American Society of Civil Engineers, publisher of 35 technical journals. Prior to that, I was the Production Director at ASCE overseeing all production aspects of journals, a monthly member magazine, and book products. I was Managing Editor of Cancer and Cancer Cytopathology at the American Cancer Society and was Production Manager for Journals at ASCE. I am currently the Vice President of the Council of Science Editors. My views on Scholarly Kitchen are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

Discussion

32 thoughts on “Looking for Pirates in the Sea of Content

  1. “Technical solutions are improving. As hackers figure out how to scoop up content and resell it via cyberlockers, the antidote is to look for those copies and exert copyright to have them removed.”

    I do understand why some publishers think in these terms.

    What I don’t understand is why any publisher would think any researcher would sympathise. The lines here are clear. Researchers — like funders, teachers, students, doctors, businesses, legislators and pretty much any other group you care to name — want the copies to be available. There is palpable irony in the fact that the group designated “publishers” is the only one that does not want them to be public.

    Here’s the thing: whatever the motives of publishers, however much they genuinely want to contribute to the scientific record, when “exert copyright to have them removed” looks like a good thing to them, they’re setting themselves in opposition to everyone else in the world.

    That’s why such fundamental reform of academic publishing is absolutely necessary. It’s not in anyone’s interests (certainly not mine) that publishers should be our enemies. But that’s what’s being described here. It’s very sad.

    Posted by Mike Taylor | Feb 11, 2014, 5:45 am
    • I’m not sure that’s a fair characterization of Angela or her organization. It should be noted that they have an extremely liberal policy on authors posting a copy of their accepted manuscripts online, granting full rights immediately upon publication of the article with no embargo required:
      http://www.asce.org/Audience/Authors,–Editors/Journals/Journal-Policies/Posting-Papers-on-the-Internet/

      They go a lot further than most publishers as far as making the articles public.

      That said, is it wrong to want to be paid for your work? As Angela notes, and as I’ve pointed out elsewhere (http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2014/02/06/the-uk-government-looks-to-double-dip-to-pay-for-its-open-access-policy/), the arrangement authors make is that they pay for the services of a publisher in a journal of this sort by exchanging some rights to the article rather than laying out scarce funding dollars. The publisher then uses those rights to try to recoup the expenses incurred in performing those services.

      If an author knowingly signs a legally binding agreement and then immediately breaks that agreement, who is the one being unreasonable?

      Posted by David Crotty | Feb 11, 2014, 6:17 am
      • “I’m not sure that’s a fair characterization of Angela or her organization.”

        I’m quite sure that the state of affairs I described isn’t what Angela or her organisation intend. That’s the great tragedy here. No-one sets out to be the bad guy. I’m sure no-one goes into scholarly publishing for the money!

        But it’s true nonetheless that we have publishers who want to prevent research being public, while everyone else wants it to be.

        “That said, is it wrong to want to be paid for your work?”

        No. That’s why it’s inevitable that we’re going to end up with some form of Gold OA being ubiquitous. When publishers provide services, it’s absolutely right that they should charge for them/ What’s not right is that they should be reduced to trying to achieve the exact opposite of their mission (i.e. the suppression of what is published).

        “If an author knowingly signs a legally binding agreement and then immediately breaks that agreement, who is the one being unreasonable?”

        I think we can all agree that authors shouldn’t sign such agreements. If anything good comes from the recent rash of Elsevier takedowns, it’s the educational effect that these stories have on authors who in the past have just automatically signed, in the same spirit as we all check the “I Agree” box on the iTunes terms and conditions. Hopefully, such authors will now be aware of what they’re signing away.

        As Angela points out, there is no “unwritten agreement”, and there never was — it’s just that publishers lacked the ability to prevent papers being disseminated. It’s good for everyone that she’s made this clear; I, like you, hope that authors quickly come to understand this.

        Posted by Mike Taylor | Feb 11, 2014, 6:25 am
        • I’m not going to get into “should” arguments with you. My position is that publishers are service providers and we will go where our customers want us to go. Right now, the majority of those we serve preferentially choose those arrangements where these sorts of rights grants are exchanged for services, rather than paying directly for them, despite the ready availability in the same journal, of paid alternatives. If it’s “inevitable” as claimed, then we’ll see the movement you hope for and publishers will adapt and continue to do our best to meet the needs of the community.

          Posted by David Crotty | Feb 11, 2014, 6:36 am
          • “I’m not going to get into “should” arguments with you.”

            Hey, you’re the one who asked “is it wrong to want to be paid for your work?” and “who is the one being unreasonable?”!

            I think these are good and important questions, and I don’t think we’re ever going to reach a real understanding without confronting these questions and others like them. It’s fine to let this particular thread lapse now — I think we’ve both laid our positions out clearly enough — but in the end, “should” questions are the ones that matter.

            Posted by Mike Taylor | Feb 11, 2014, 6:42 am
    • I disagree Mike. While a certain amount of lawlessness often accompanies social movements like this, I doubt that most researches condone the wholesale piracy that Angela describes. What some researches want is an alternative system in which publication is somehow paid for, the open question being how? That is a far cry from wishing away copyright which you seem to be claiming is a universal wish among researchers. Nor do most researchers want to see publishing disappear. You should not project your apparent lack of sympathy onto the community.

      Posted by David Wojick | Feb 11, 2014, 9:04 am
  2. I am a strong OA advocate but fully support publishers in enforcing their copyright and have little sympathy with authors who violate them. It’s simple, read the author agreement/copyright agreement before you sign it. If you don’t like it, publish somewhere else. Fortunately today there are lots of choices. Many publishers like apparently the American Society of Civil Engineers allow immediate dissemination of the accepted version of papers they publish.

    In a perfect world I would prefer to always publish in an OA journal but more often than not do not have funding and/or cannot find an OA journal that doesn’t charge a fee that is a good option. Publishing in a subscription journal that allows immediate dissemination of the accepted versions is a great alternative and I have never had a problem finding one that was a good option.

    Posted by David Solomon | Feb 11, 2014, 7:01 am
  3. I will be most blunt. What is happening used to be called stealing. If there is a moral imperative it is thou shall not steal!

    Further, authors are not stupid or naive, they read the contracts they sign. They should either be prepared to abide by them or not sign them.

    Additionally, publishers should make it very clear to authors exactly what they are signing and that they are prepared to and will defend the copyright they now hold.

    On another thought. What makes one think Gold OA is free? It is very costly to the author and to the public who is now picking up the tab for something very few will read. Why should I pay for some academic to publish a paper s/he needs to publish to keep their job?

    Posted by Harvey Kane | Feb 11, 2014, 7:16 am
    • “Further, authors are not stupid or naive, they read the contracts they sign.”

      Really? What’s your evidence for this?

      Posted by Mike Taylor | Feb 11, 2014, 7:24 am
      • I find this line of reasoning both frustrating and contradictory. Generally, advocates tell us that researchers are wise and know better than publishers what is needed as far as the publishing of research goes, and we need to listen to them and do as they ask. But when those same brilliant researchers do something that the advocate disagrees with, it’s because they’re “stupid and naive” and are so foolish that they can’t even understand the simplest license agreement. How convenient.

        You can’t have it both ways. Either people with PhD’s who are doing cutting edge research at leading institutions are smart enough to understand a one page licensing agreement written in plain English or else they have no business dictating how the publishing business should be run.

        For the record, the licensing agreements for the journals I work with are negotiated with the researchers at the research society that owns the journal, and every single word is gone over very carefully, both by the researchers and by their lawyers. Our editorial offices receive a constant stream of questions and from researchers about these licenses, and our editors and lawyers are kept busy negotiating the minutiae of complex book contracts and licensing agreements.

        Posted by David Crotty | Feb 11, 2014, 8:53 am
        • “When those same brilliant researchers do something that the advocate disagrees with, it’s because they’re “stupid and naive” and are so foolish that they can’t even understand the simplest license agreement. How convenient.”

          I think it’s more that authors have assumed that publishers are doing what’s best for them (as of course they were back in the days of print). That’s true especially of more senior researchers, who grew up under a different regimen, and who I have often seen very surprised at the idea that publishers want them not to make their published works available. These are not by any stretch of the imagination stupid folk; they just grew up under one set of suppositions, which are no longer true.

          Posted by Mike Taylor | Feb 11, 2014, 9:05 am
          • So not “stupid and naive” then, just wistfully nostalgic?

            The researchers I have worked with throughout my entire career, both as a scientist and as a publisher, are incredibly inquisitive and painfully detail oriented. That’s how they got to where they are. I find suggestions that researchers don’t read the things they sign or that they are incapable of understanding them to be ludicrous.

            I also take offense at characterizing all publishers as working against the best interests of researchers as well as claiming that in the days of print, all publishers were entirely benign, but that’s a different argument for a different day.

            Posted by David Crotty | Feb 11, 2014, 9:19 am
            • I was recently presenting on the future of OA mandates to a governing committee made up mostly of academics. I mentioned that we were in compliance with many existing mandates because of our policy on allowing authors to post accepted manuscript. The people in the room started looking at each other with puzzled looks. One finally said, “that’s a great policy. I’ve published in our journals and I did not know that. How would a an author know that this is allowed.” I responded that the policy is clearly posted online and that it is explained in the copyright transfer form that they sign. The all literally laughed at me for assuming they read the form. To make matters worse, we actually make them print the form, sign the form in three places, scan the form and then upload it to our system. I don’t really know what to do when the information is right in front of their noses.

              Posted by Angela Cochran | Feb 11, 2014, 9:31 am
            • “So not “stupid and naive” then, just wistfully nostalgic?”

              Neither of those; they just have their attention focussed elsewhere. For many (most?) academics their mental model of publishers is “people who make it easy for other academics to read my stuff”. It just doesn’t cross their minds that this might not be true any more, and it comes as a jolt when they run into a situation where it isn’t.

              “The researchers I have worked with throughout my entire career, both as a scientist and as a publisher, are incredibly inquisitive and painfully detail oriented. That’s how they got to where they are. I find suggestions that researchers don’t read the things they sign or that they are incapable of understanding them to be ludicrous.”

              Since Angela has addressed this, I’ll pass on it :-)

              “I also take offense at characterizing all publishers as working against the best interests of researchers as well as claiming that in the days of print, all publishers were entirely benign, but that’s a different argument for a different day.”

              Note that here I am not trying to perpetuate an argument, just to clarify what I’ve already said. First, I most certainly do not characterise all publishers as working against the best interests of researchers, as my many, many positive comments about PLOS, BMC, PeerJ, Ubiquity and others testify. Note that I have also often had positive things to say about specific aspects of barrier-based publishers including Elsevier. The problem is with the natural tendency of any business that’s built on barriers.

              Finally, and this ties in closely, I’m not claiming nostalgically that Back In The Old Days all publishers were stout-hearted servants of the public good. I’m saying the pre-Internet, the business interests of publishers were fundamentally aligned with the career interests of academics and with the public interest: all parties were concerned with seeing research disseminated as widely as possible. With the emergence of the Internet as a far more efficient dissemination medium, publishers adhering to the old model find it in their interests to prevent dissemination: hence “the antidote is to look for those copies and exert copyright to have them removed”. Doing so is in the interests of barrier-based publishers and against the interests of everyone else. You can’t tell me that dissonance doesn’t bother you just a tiny bit?

              Posted by Mike Taylor | Feb 11, 2014, 9:46 am
              • Mike,

                I think what you’re seeing is the disappearance of physical limitations on distribution being replaced by legal limitations on distribution. It was easy to limit distribution in print — it was largely self-limiting. But even photocopies led to major court cases and fines when used illegally. Now, the Internet has removed these physical limitations and put an emphasis on legal recourse. There is no difference in publishers’ attitudes or roles necessarily. It’s just that we have to resort to legal enforcement more often now because natural physical barriers to copying have been eliminated by technology.

                We still want research disseminated as widely as possible, but the key phrase there is, “as possible.” There are trade-offs that all parties agree to beforehand that limit how widely research can be disseminated, especially for commercial gain by one party or with commercial damage occurring to another party. Those do not seem to be unreasonable limits.

                Posted by Kent Anderson | Feb 11, 2014, 11:00 am
              • “I think what you’re seeing is the disappearance of physical limitations on distribution being replaced by legal limitations on distribution.”

                Kent, that is an excellent and pithy summary. That’s it exactly. In the past, the world that we all wanted — everyone has immediate free access to all research — was prevented by the implacable universe. That was lamentable, but not easily fixable. Now the same barrier exists — but it’s there because it’s deliberately raised by people. And that’s a lot harder to swallow.

                As an analogy, in the days before email, it would take a week or more for my messasges to reach my colleague in California — a limitation imposed by the time to took to physically convey a letter across an ocean and a continent. Now we have email, that message takes maybe ten seconds to arrive. The frustration that researchers feel at artificially imposed scarcity of research papers is the same as we’d feel if publishers somehow imposed limitations on email so that it took a week to arrive.

                In both cases, technology has set us free, but people want to re-attach the old chains.

                “It was easy to limit distribution in print — it was largely self-limiting. But even photocopies led to major court cases and fines when used illegally.”

                I didn’t know about that. How sad.

                Posted by Mike Taylor | Feb 11, 2014, 11:13 am
          • I am perhaps lucky, then, to work in an area where the senior people go around saying things like

            “It is not well known, but Elsevier at least will accept a one-time license
            in lieu of a full copyright transfer. At least they did in 1995, which is
            the last time I published in a journal of restricted access (JPAA) [DR: Journal
            of Pure and Applied Algebra]. I don’t know if anyone has paid to download
            one of the two papers I published then, but if so they owe me the copy fee.
            Naturally, they’ve made no such attempt.” (Mike Barr 2011; http://thread.gmane.org/gmane.science.mathematics.categories/6850/focus=6851)

            Posted by DR | Feb 12, 2014, 6:56 am
            • Ah, here is the quote I was really looking for (took some time to find!):

              “In the olden days (say 25 years ago and older) the publishers did not ask for any
              copyright form signed, but just registered a copyright. They act as if I
              have no rights, but I believe that without a piece of paper, they cannot
              really stop me [DR: placing articles on his website].
              I have not signed over my rights since before 1995
              (including two papers in 1995 in JPAA, where I gave them only a
              right-to-print). So there is a ten or 15 year period where I really did
              sign over the copyright.” (Mike Barr, 2006 http://www.mta.ca/~cat-dist/archive/2006/06-10)

              Barr has been an editor of several journals, so is not ignorant in this regard. I’m curious to know if some authors who have been publishing for a long time started out reading the forms then stopped, and in the meantime the conditions have changed (explicit signing over of copyright etc).

              Posted by DR | Feb 12, 2014, 6:31 pm
              • In the U.S. before 1978 copyright transfer forms were not required to effect assignment of copyright, so it wouldn’t be surprising if no one remembers signing any forms before that date.

                Posted by Sandy Thatcher | Feb 12, 2014, 6:47 pm
              • Probably worth mentioning that conditions continue to change. Many publishers no longer require assignment of copyright, instead opting for leaving copyright with the author and requiring a license to do the things a publisher needs to do. This has been a growing movement and I expect to see it more and more become the norm.

                Posted by David Crotty | Feb 12, 2014, 8:06 pm
              • Thanks for that info, Sandy. I find that a bit odd, but then again there are lots of things about copyright law that are not precisely what common sense would indicate :-)

                David – yes, and that is welcome, depending on the terms!

                Posted by DR | Feb 13, 2014, 6:51 am
      • I was an acquisition editor and publisher for commercial STM publishers and a VP of publishing for two large societies. I worked on journals for at least 4 major STM Publishers, I signed about 40 new journals and managed over 100. I signed over 1200 books. I can assure you that the authors and editors read the contracts and in many cases had their lawyers read the contracts.

        What evidence do you have that authors/editors do not read what they sign?

        I am curious as to where you get the notion that publishing OA is less expensive and in some way “better” than the traditional model? The only cost savings should be in PPB – that is if one puts in the same quality controls as subscription journals.

        With the drop in IF of PLOS it would seem that that model is beginning to fail and for the journal to maintain its status they will have to begin a real reviewing process. If they do, how will that impact the cost to the author to publish?

        Mike, you make some bold statements and wonder from where you get you ideas? I see no evidence that you have been involved in publishing.

        Posted by Harvey Kane | Feb 11, 2014, 10:29 am
        • No, Harvey, I’ve never been involved in publishing from the publisher’s side — only as an author.

          I defer to Angela (see above) in the matter of whether or not academics read the copyright transfer form. All I’ll add is that I know that I, back in my pre-open-access-only days, didn’t read them: I just did what my senior colleagues told me: “you’ll need to sign this”. And indeed publishers do seem happy to push the no-choice-about-it attitude, with their “We will be unable to proceed with publication until you return this signed CTA” messages.

          My notion that OA publishing yields better results than traditional is rooted in the online-only nature of articles, which allows them to ignore arbitrary limits on word-count, number of figures, use of colour, etc., and to exploit online-only formats such as video, 3d models, CT-slice stacks, etc. In my own field of vertebrate palaeontology, it’s now routine to see in PLOS ONE descriptive articles that are many times more comprehensive than their equivalents in traditional journals — see for example the recent description of the frog Beelzebufo at http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0087236

          Of course there is nothing specific to open-access about this: there is no technical reason why an online-only subscription journal shouldn’t publish similarly detailed articles. But my experience so far has been that they don’t — perhaps because they are tied to the mindset that pages and illustrations are limited resources.

          And for why I think OA is cheaper: there are two answers. First, it’s what I observe in practice. The average cost to the community of a paywalled paper is about $5000; even legacy publishers’ OA APCs are only 60% of that amount; PLOS ONE’s APC is about one quarter; Ubiquity’s is about one fifteenth, and PeerJ’s is on the order of one fiftieth. (Note, the exact PeerJ amount is impossible to compare directly due to their unusual pricing model.)

          The second reason I think that OA is, or more importantly will in the long term be, cheaper, is that Gold OA publishers are competing for custom in a more efficient market than subscription publishers, each of which has a monopoly on the distribution of its own journals. If I want to read an article in Cretaceous Research but I think Elsevier’s subscription/PPV price is unreasonable, I can’t go and read that article at a lower price in a different publisher’s journal; but if I want to submit my own article to Cretaceous Research and I think their APC is unreasonable, I can take it to a different publisher that offers a better service, a lower price or both. In an efficient market like that, true competition will drive down prices (in part by reducing the untenable profit margins that the legacy incumbents have got used to).

          “Mike, you make some bold statements and wonder from where you get you ideas?”

          I arrive at my ideas the old-fashined way: observation and cogitation.

          Posted by Mike Taylor | Feb 11, 2014, 10:51 am
    • Violating copyright isn’t stealing; copying has long been a part of culture and learning. Merely malum prohibitum, if you will.

      Words like “piracy”, “property”, and “stealing” are often used as political framing, but this isn’t why we have copyright laws and interestingly just recently a judge in an infringement case (Disney/Hotfile) ordered the plaintiffs to avoid using these kinds of words. It’s pretty clear in US law, at least, that copyright infringement is not like stealing.

      “They should either be prepared to abide by them or not sign them.”—Absolutely; I think Mike’s right that if nothing else these developments should serve to educate authors about the seriousness of what it means to hand over copyright.

      Posted by ech | Feb 12, 2014, 12:11 pm
  4. One aspect of this surveillance that bears mentioning is author advocacy. Not all copies of an article are in places an author would approve of, and not all contexts are contexts that fairly represent an author’s work. In some cases, text is changed or amended to further ideological or commercial goals. Publishers are more likely to catch these things and can pursue them (or notify the author, who may have more sway in particular instances). It’s not always about seeking pirates or enforcing copyright or license agreements. There is an aspect of this surveillance that is also about maintaining the integrity of the scientific record, curtailing misrepresentations, and advocating for authors.

    Posted by Kent Anderson | Feb 11, 2014, 8:11 am
    • Excellent point! What the copy-of-record, obtained from the legitimate publisher, provides is certification. And, if errors have been found, the resulting errata are linked. If you get the paper from another source, you have no guarantee it’s the real deal.

      Yet another service provided by publishers!

      Posted by Ken Lanfear | Feb 11, 2014, 5:53 pm
  5. To Angela’s question about why researchers think they need to share the final published version of papers, I would reply that it is only this version that is suitable for quoting in one’s own formal publications. The accepted but not copyedited version might be fine for many purposes, even including assignment for courses one teaches, but it cannot reliably be used for direct citation.

    Of Mike Taylor I would ask the question about those who see no problem in ignoring contractual agreements, what kind of behavior do they think they are modeling for their students? Cannot a student who plagiarizes respond to such a professor that plagiarizing is no more illegitimate or morally offensive than violating a contract?

    Posted by Sandy Thatcher | Feb 11, 2014, 11:18 am
    • “Of Mike Taylor I would ask the question about those who see no problem in ignoring contractual agreements, what kind of behavior do they think they are modeling for their students?”

      My guess is that most professors in this situation aren’t aware, or at least consciously aware, that they’re in breach of contract. As noted above (and see Angela’s anecdote in particular) a lot of academics see the CTA as an opaque bit of verbiage that has to be signed because it just has to and that’s the way it is.

      As for professors who do understand that they are in breach of contract but continue to post their articles anyway: you’d have to ask them what their own thinking is, but my guess is that they subscribe to something along the lines of the thinking laid out in Aaron Swartz’s Guerilla Open Access Manifesto. I realise that not everyone will agree with this. I’m honestly not even sure whether I do. But I hope we can agree that it is at least a coherent philosophical position.

      Posted by Mike Taylor | Feb 11, 2014, 11:50 am
  6. We should look into the motivations off academics who publish in journals. Why do they do so for free or even pay to be published. What is their payoff?
    Of course we already know a lot about that. Academics exert great effort and then give the fruits of their labor away because they hope and expect to enhance their reputation or credibility in their field. That, they hope, will enhance prospects for promotion and tenure on the one hand and funding for further research on the other. Indeed, the one feeds the other.
    So, why would anyone be surprised that they want their work to be disseminated as widely as possible to audiences that will contribute to those repetitional goals?
    These events may simply hasten the day when a majority of academics say, “We don’t need no stink in’ intermediation. We can run our own show.”
    Artificial scarcity is counter-productive in this case.

    Posted by Frank Lowney | Feb 11, 2014, 7:54 pm

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