Why SOPA Would Be A Disaster For Scientific Publishing
from the suicidal-acts dept
One of the many dangerous aspects of SOPA/PIPA is that its backers seem to have given no thought to what the unintended consequences might be. In particular, there is no awareness that it might wreak serious damage in areas that are very distant from the core concerns of unauthorized copies of music or films – such as scientific publishing.
Here's a great post by the noted campaigner for open science, Cameron Neylon, entitled "The stupidity of SOPA in Scholarly Publishing", where he points out:
[The top scientific journal] Nature, every Elsevier journal, and every other academic communication medium, are full of copyright violations. The couple of paragraphs of methods text or introduction that keeps being used, that chunk of supplementary information that has appeared in a number of such places, that figure that "everyone in the field uses" but no one has any idea who drew it, as well as those figures that the authors forgot that they’d signed over the copyright to some other publisher – or didn’t understand enough about copyright to realise that they had.
These kinds of "violations" are inevitable, because science is about sharing – it's what you are supposed to do in order to spread knowledge. And thus drawing on standard materials in this way is a habit that pervades all of academic publishing to such a degree that few scientists are even aware they are doing it – or that there might be legal issues. That will make policing this kind of "accepted" infringement extremely difficult, if not impossible.
If SOPA is passed, Neylon points out an interesting consequence:
So if someone, purely as a thought experiment you understand, crowd-sourced the identification of copyright violations in papers published by supporters of SOPA, then they could legitimately take down journal websites, like Science Direct and Nature.com. That’s right, just find the plagiarised papers, raise them as a copyright violation, and you can have the journal website shut down.
Scientific publishers that are represented by the Association of American Publishers, which appears in the "List of Supporters" (pdf) for SOPA, could therefore find their own Web sites shut down repeatedly thanks to this law they are currently backing by default, since none has yet come out against SOPA. Looks like US politicans aren't the only ones who haven't really thought this through.