Scientific publishers bent on self-destruction by using SOPA, thus making Open Access the way to go?

openaccessby dullhunk

The stupidity of SOPA in Scholarly Publishing
[Via Science in the Open]

Edit and update – I’ve been told that the Macmillan supporting SOPA is the Macmillan US and not the holding company of Nature Publishing Group. NPG are however explicitly listed as members of the Association of American Publishers who are listed as supporters. The AAP list includes American Chemical Society, American Institute of Physics along with a lot of smaller society publishers. The Springer listed is apparently not the Springer that owns BioMedCentral.

It was Michael Kuhn who pointed out to me over the holiday break that both Elsevier and Macmillan (parent company of Nature Publishing Group) were listed as supporters of the Stop Online Piracy Act. If you don’t know about SOPA and why it is one of the most politically and legislatively incompetent actions of recent years then start here and look around from there. This has now been more widely picked up, Heather Morrison points out that as well as Macmillan and Elsevier that a range of other scholarly publishers as being in support and at BoingBoing Maggie Koerth-Baker suggests a boycott similar to that being targeted at other supporters.


Update on publishers and SOPA: Time for scholarly publishers to disavow the AAP
[Via Science in the Open]

my last post on scholarly publishers that support the US Congress SOPA bill I ended up making a series of edits. It was pointed out to me that the Macmillan listed as a supporter is not the Macmillan that is the parent group of Nature Publishing Group but a separate U.S. subsidiary of the same ultimate holding company, Holtzbrinck. As I dug further it became clear that while only a small number of scholarly publishers were explicitly and publicly supporting SOPA, many of them are members of the Association of American Publishers, which is listed publicly as a supporter.


Two nice instances of how corporate media will simply hasten their own descent into irrelevance.

SOPA is a horrible bill but these for-profit publishers are shooting themselves in the foot by supporting it. Any instances of copyright violations on their sites can shut down  their whole site down.

And here is how it happens. Professor S publishes a paper in an Elsevier journal, routinely signing over all of his copyrights to Elsevier (a requirement for publication).

A year later Professor S publishes a paper in Nature. But he simply copy and pastes parts of his methods section from the previous paper. Who wants to completely rewrite the methods every single time?

This violates the copyright held by Elsevier and they use SOPA to shut down the ENTIRE Nature website! SOPA weakens the safe harbor aspects of previous legislation, providing Nature with little it can really do.

Sure, Nature could try and claim fair use but that will take a court to decide and in the meantime, Nature will not be able to use its website.

And Elsevier’s action could actually prevent Nature from receiving credit card payments.

Of course,  Nature could do the same thing to Elsevier.

I would imagine it is a small matter to write a simple program that walks through Nature’s and Elsevier’s sites looking for plagiarisms like this.

In fact, I think that a group of citizens could bring the multitude of such violations to the Justice department and demonstrate that Nature is a site the does not simply have some material in violation of copyright but actually is a site ‘devoted’ to infringing copyright. Thus would shut it down. without Elsevier even getting involved.

And, according to some interpretations, any site that linked to the Nature article in question could also be in violation and could be ‘disappeared.’ So much for open communication of research.

Or, let’s say, Professor S puts a PDF of his Elsevier paper up on his site at Great Big University. This violates Elsevier’s copyright and they could shut down the entire online presence of GBU.

But, if researchers publish in Open Access journals, they retain the copyrights and can reuse them as needed. Virtually all the traps of SOPA disappear and we all benefit.

The for-profit publishers should be fighting as hard as possible to PREVENT SOPA from becoming law. Because if it does, it will simply hasten their decline as viable places to send papers.

As someone demonstrated, just the annual profits from Elsevier could fund the publication of most of a year’s total scholarly output of publications into Open Access journals.

Throw in Springer’s profits, Nature’s, etc. and we can see that the economics of the system are way out of whack. Just the profits could have been used to permit the dissemination of every paper to everyone!

And where do those profits come from?

Elsevier and Springer make their profits mainly  from the budgets of University libraries, which derive in large part from our tax dollars. Yet, if those budgets were, instead, used to pay for Open Access publication of scholarly articles, not only would every article now published still be published but the libraries would actually save money.

Someday soon, all the Universities will realize this. They will begin providing more incentives for their researchers to publish in Open Access journals.

Things like SOPA will only hasten this, as researchers are pretty much hit over the head with the paradoxes. These for-profit publications generally do not have the same goals in mind as researchers. They do not have the same goals as the scientific societies representing the researchers.

And those goals are about to clash head on.

Just remember, the policies of these for-profit journals, and the politicians they support, kill people. Closed access means people die. Thus the ironic photo above.