Elsevier Appears To Be Slurping Up Open Access Research, And Charging People To Access It

from the because-elsevier-is-so-nice dept

Oh, Elsevier. The publishing giant has quite the reputation for its desire to stop people from sharing knowledge unless Elsevier can put up a toll booth. A huge number of academics have signed pledges to boycott Elsevier and not allow their works to be published by the company. Also, in the last few years, there's been a rapid growth in open access and requirements that research be distributed for free (often under a Creative Commons license).

Almost exactly a year ago, we had a story about Elsevier charging for open access content, and apparently the company hasn't gotten any better. Ross Mounce recently noticed that Elsevier appeared to be selling a paper on HIV infection for $31.50 + tax (after which you have just 24 hours to download it, or just kiss that money goodbye):
The problem, however, is that the paper was actually published by competing publisher Wiley under an open access Creative Commons license (and is available free of charge on its website). The key author on the paper, Didier Raolt told Mounce that he had no idea why Elsevier was selling his paper, and that he had not given permission. The paper is under a Creative Commons license, but it's a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license. And while I'm not a fan of NC/ND licenses, it's pretty clear that this license does not allow someone to step in and start selling the paper.

When confronted about this, someone from Elsevier, Alicia Wise, tweeted a nonsensical response:
If you can't read that, it says:
the journal is in transition from Wiley to Elsevier; will check on transition status
But that's meaningless. If the paper is being published under an open access license, even if somehow that journal is being transferred, then Elsevier should still be publishing it under open access terms. And, considering that the document was just published recently, you'd think that the author on the paper would know something about this. Once again, it looks like Elsevier is just giving open access a giant middle finger.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2015 @ 2:52pm

    Wi8ley should sue Elsevier for wilful infringement. And charge them accordingly. $150,000+costs+tax per download.

    And then Wiley should make it abundantly clear why this shit does not fly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 9 Mar 2015 @ 2:56pm

    Would this be a DCMA worthy use?

    The author (which should hold copyright) is could submit a DCMA takedown for the content since it's a violation of the copyright of the document.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), 9 Mar 2015 @ 3:14pm

    It's time

    It's time to throw a great big sueball at Elsevier. They won't stop this dren until it costs them an arm and both legs, and I think in this case (and probably others) they already don't have a leg to stand on!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2015 @ 3:22pm

      Re: It's time

      Elsevier has sole access to an academic paper that describes a method for the low cost vat-growth of limbs in bulk.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 9 Mar 2015 @ 3:37pm

      Re: It's time

      No need to go that far, or even spend any money at it at all, all you'd need to do to bring them to their knees would be getting enough academics, both those submitting research for publication, and those purchasing access to it, to boycott them.

      Once their profits start hurting, then they'd start paying attention, and all without spending a dime.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2015 @ 3:51pm

        Re: Re: It's time

        The problem with your approach is that Elsevier controls many important papers that academics need to refer to, and so have control over the base knowledge in many fields. It will take many years for this knowledge to be transferred into open access papers, or be made redundant bu such papers. So even if they get no new papers to publish, they will still be able to extract a large toll from the academics.
        Also for academia to win a significant award against Elsevier will be a Pyhrric victory, as their access fees will go up to pay for it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2015 @ 4:06pm

          Re: Re: Re: It's time

          Can't someone else research the topics again and publish a paper under CC?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2015 @ 4:15pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: It's time

            Yes they can, but their is upwards of 100 years worth of papers locked up by Elsevier.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2015 @ 4:29pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's time

              *sigh* *head shake*
              We got computers today so it might not take 100 years again? positive thinking

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Sheogorath (profile), 9 Mar 2015 @ 9:38pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's time

              So republish the information in the papers from 95 years and earlier ago. The papers may be locked up, but the knowledge isn't, and US copyright term is 'only' 95 years.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2015 @ 2:15pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's time

                The papers may be locked up, but the knowledge isn't
                Are you sure? How can you say X is X without saying you know that it is because you read it in paper about X? Therefor I argue that knowledge is blocked by copyright because you can't prove your knowledge without quoting a paper to verify that knowledge.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  Sheogorath (profile), 11 Mar 2015 @ 2:56pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's time

                  Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realise how hard it is for somebody with an Elsevier account to look up the sufficiently old papers then copy them before republishing them. Damn, am I ever stupid!

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 9 Mar 2015 @ 4:17pm

          Re: Re: Re: It's time

          So leave those papers that can't be found at other places with them, but refuse to give them anything new. It might not be quick, but I'm guessing it would be effective. Elsevier is nothing without papers to charge for, so they direly need academics to submit new research papers if they're going to try and justify their high prices. Cut off their supply of those, and they are going to be hurting, badly.

          Much like surgery, the early parts may be painful and messy, but if you just leave a problem to fester, it's only going to get worse.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2015 @ 4:19pm

        Re: Re: It's time

        There's still the problem that big-name journals come with the cachet of peer-review. In fact, this was the only value journals ever really had. It may not be worth much now (as we've seen with examples of pure gibberish getting published), but people still think that an expensive, exclusive journal means high-quality content.

        Until we stop equating price with value, nothing's gonna change.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2015 @ 8:48pm

          Re: Re: Re: It's time

          Then there are organizations like the USDA that keeps changing its mind every ten years or so. Eggs anyone?

          Peer reviewed or not, when does science actually mean "this is true"?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Jeff Green (profile), 10 Mar 2015 @ 4:01am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: It's time

            Science almost never says "this is true" that isn't how it works. Science works the other way about, you make an hypothesis based on evidence and then you attempt to disprove it.
            Most people however are not scientists they want to know if x is x and y is y so journalists, being people selling their views to people like to say "Scientists tell us ..."

            The reason it is vital that papers are available for everyone to read is that the paper should contain the evidence and the reasoning so you can judge for yourself.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    M. Alan Thomas II (profile), 9 Mar 2015 @ 4:14pm

    Isn't accessing free science without permission a CFAA violation or something?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    M. Alan Thomas II (profile), 9 Mar 2015 @ 4:19pm

    More seriously, there's an outside chance that the original author's deal with the journal may have transferred rights to them without an explicit guarantee that the paper will always publish it under the stated license. In other words, the journal/publisher may have been the one offering the CC license, and it may have been free to stop offering that license at any time (which Elsevier is taking the option to do).

    However, even if that's true, existing licensed copies retain their license, so someone needs to mirror all of the CC content and make sure a free repository for it continues to exist.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      RonKaminsky (profile), 10 Mar 2015 @ 12:31pm

      Who will step up to be the next Aaron Swartz?

      so someone needs to mirror all of the CC content and make sure a free repository for it continues to exist
      Actually, your previous sarcastic post is very on-topic, here. It should be perfectly legal for someone at an academic institution which pays Elsevier's blackmail money for this journal to run an automated process which downloads the articles of the journal (which were published by Wiley under a CC license) and puts them up for free on a competing website.

      This whole thing smells of complicity between academic publishers to try to undermine the open access trend via "journal swapping". Or maybe... "journal evergreening"?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Sheogorath (profile), 9 Mar 2015 @ 9:31pm

    Vindicated!

    This is why I highlight and search Elsevier article titles, just in case there's a better (exact same for free) version elsewhere. Sharp practice like this is so depressingly common that it's been necessary for all of my online life.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Kronomex, 9 Mar 2015 @ 11:13pm

    Two words: Control. Greed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Thurston Miller, 10 Mar 2015 @ 4:00am

    Problem solved.

    The article is now Open Access on the Elsevier site. Hopefully the author checked the status of the problem on the Elsevier site before submitting the post.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2015 @ 8:07am

      Re: Problem solved.

      The problem of them stealing Open Access work has not ended, they just made one piece Open Access.
      So you if you look out in your yard and see that someone has been stealing your apples, and then the next day they didn't steal any more, by your reasoning they would never again.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Alicia Wise, 10 Mar 2015 @ 7:20am

    Elsevier responds

    Hi everyone,

    We are grateful to Ross Mounce (and thanked him via his blog) for flagging this up to us late Friday, and by Monday afternoon we opened all 27 of the articles and added metadata and license information to the online versions. We never intended to charge for material or rights that should be free, and we will of course reimburse anyone who has purchased access to these articles – our records show there have been only a handful of transactions.

    We continually adapt our systems and procedures to strive for zero defects. If for any reason a problem occurs we are committed to deal with it in a fair and efficient manner.

    I’ld like to address separately some of the comments that suggest we have no authority to be disseminating these articles or this journal. Authors in this title grant publishing rights to the Society which owns the title, and the Society has the right to sub-license these rights to a publisher. They Society has recently switched from Wiley to Elsevier. We are very happy that Clinical Microbiology& Infection has joined our infectious diseases publishing portfolio (www.clinicalmicrobiologyandinfection.com).

    Thanks,
    Alicia

    Dr Alicia Wise
    Director of Access & Policy
    Elsevier
    a.wise@elsevier.com
    @wisealic

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Sheogorath (profile), 14 Mar 2015 @ 1:22am

      Re: Elsevier responds

      They[sic] Society has recently switched from Wiley to Elsevier.
      So it's either time to part ways with the Society, or somebody's lying. I know what I suspect given the fact that the Society continues to publish with Wiley (Elsevier likes exclusivity).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ollie (profile), 17 Mar 2015 @ 8:32am

    As someone who is working incredibly hard toward a career in science, publishers like elsevier (especially elsevier) make me absolutely livid. I haven't even started academic publishing but I swear any paper I ever write will not be published in one of their journals if I can help it. (In my field it may be difficult to avoid....)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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