Elsevier Keeps Whac'ing Moles In Trying To Take Down Repository Of Academic Papers

from the copyright-destroying-learning dept

We've written a few times now about Sci-Hub -- the website put together by Alexandra Elbakyan, an academic from Kazakhstan. It's a somewhat creative hack on the idea that many academics are more than willing to share PDFs of useful research with each other, basically building a search engine of such research, which is actually stored in a different repository (called LibGen). But the really clever part of Sci-Hub was that it also had some people sharing their login tokens to various research databases, so that if the LibGen doesn't have the document, Sci-Hub uses a login to retrieve the document, deliver it to the user who requested it and then uploads it to LibGen to make it available for anyone else. Publishing giant Elsevier has been particularly upset by all of this -- despite the fact that its argument appears to go 100% against the stated purpose of copyright law.

Remember, this isn't about sharing some sort of commercial music or video or anything. This is about academic research, much of which has been paid for with public tax dollars, and which Elsevier paid no money to create. Elsevier not only gets academics to submit papers for publishing, but to also hand over their copyrights to Elsevier. In some subject areas, it even makes the academics pay to submit their papers for publishing. Then Elsevier gets free editing help from other academics who do peer review for free. Some publications even have unpaid editors as well. And then Elsevier goes out and charges hundreds of thousands of dollars for subscriptions to universities for research it had no hand in creating, for which it paid no money, but where it gets the copyright.

And, of course, copyright had absolutely no incentive in getting this research done in the first place. It's done by academics who are pursuing the subject because of their own interests and the general requirements pushed by universities to get their faculty to publish.

In short, copyright has no role here whatsoever other than to enrich Elsevier. That seems fairly problematic.

Either way, back in December, Elsevier was able to score an injunction against Sci-Hub, such that it lost its domain. As we noted at the time, it was only starting the mole whac'ing process, as Sci-Hub immediately moved to a new domain.

And, yes, it now appears that a complaint from Elsevier has resulted in that new domain getting shut down too, though Sci-hub remains available on other domains including the .bz and .cc top level domains. Oh, and, of course its direct IP address 31.184.194.81. And the site has a Tor hidden site as well. In other words, lots more moles to whac.

In the meantime, this quixotic, and anti-knowledge, anti-education campaign by Elsevier to shut down such a useful tool has only resulted in greater and greater attention for Sci-Hub. Tons of people had never heard of the site before, but the continuing news coverage, which increases each time Elsevier gets petulant and tries to take it down again, has only served as useful advertising for a useful tool.

Elsevier management might want to reconsider its strategy here, seeing as whatever money it's wasting on its lawyers seems to actually be serving as marketing dollars for Sci-Hub.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 3:09pm

    Curious

    " Elsevier not only gets academics to submit papers for publishing, but to also hand over their copyrights to Elsevier. In some subject areas, it even makes the academics pay to submit their papers for publishing."

    Why would anyone ever giveaway their copyright on a paper or even pay for publishing?
    Sure if you research how paper clips influence the bee population then maybe you pay people to read your paper but otherwise, if you do some useful research why would you do that?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 3:15pm

      Re: Curious

      Academics are under great pressure to publish, as papers published and ranking of the journal published in is used by administration to measure academic performance. Also published papers are used by those awarding grants to decide who will get a grant.
      Publish or perish has become an imperative in academia.

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 3:15pm

      Re: Curious

      Why would anyone ever giveaway their copyright on a paper or even pay for publishing?
      Sure if you research how paper clips influence the bee population then maybe you pay people to read your paper but otherwise, if you do some useful research why would you do that?


      Because, for very stupid reasons, many universities judge academic performance, in part, based on how many times you've "been published" with "been published" having a very narrow definition of "been published in an academic journal we respect." Because of that, those policies created the academic journal business that academics are forced into dealing with if they want to keep their jobs.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 4:23pm

        Re: Re: Curious

        based on how many times you've "been published" having a very narrow definition of "been published in an academic journal we respect."

        All other replies seem to focus on that part so far, so choosing this reply seems to be the one to focus on.

        While I do acknowledge and also despise the "publish or perish" theme I do think or at least hope that there are other publishers than Elsevier. I haven't published a paper in quite some time so no clue if they represent a monopoly or only respected way to publish.

        I truly hope that they represent the scum and bottom feeder part of the publishers but regarding how copyright developed over time that might not be the case.

        So even if Elsevier does represent the only publisher of research papers then please, and that's a begging please, tell me that modern Universities are smart enough to at least acknowledge the power of blogs or sites like, mentioned in the article, Sci-Hub.

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

        • icon
          JoeCool (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 5:38pm

          Re: Re: Re: Curious

          Modern Universities have been taken over by lawyers and accountants and are much more concerned with "monetizing" their "assets" than actually teaching or researching. This gives rise to professors who write their own books, changing them every semester, filing patents on everything, trying to license said patents, pushing dreadful student loan laws, etc.

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

          • icon
            art guerrilla (profile), 7 May 2016 @ 4:20am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Curious

            you are correct, sir ! ! !
            low inflation in general, but college tuition gone up 150-200%...
            that money has been going to increasing admin parasites, NOT teachers, NOT students, NOT 'stuff' for better teaching/learning experience...
            as a side note, most professors/etc have their universities take the lion's share of the patent/etc income...
            (again, PRIVATE profits reaped from (often) PUBLIC resources/institutions...)
            lastly, *one* of the next bubbles to burst, is the student loan bubble; but -conveniently enough- financial masters of teh universe, have baked in new bankruptcy laws where student loan debt will NOT be discharged by filing for bankruptcy...
            cool, huh ? ? ?
            rust -*AND* corruption- never sleep...

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2016 @ 6:38am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Curious

            Not all Profs do that. There are a few who buck the system by creating their own material and giving it to the students thus allowing said students to save on the cost of one or more textbooks. The admin does not like this and the only thing saving some of them is tenure. Adjunct Profs are easily coerced into the textbook scam, sad that knowledgeable people who want to teach are treated so poorly.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 11:58pm

          Re: Re: Re: Curious

          Two words: Stockholm Syndrome.

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

    • identicon
      ryuugami, 6 May 2016 @ 3:35pm

      Re: Curious

      Why would anyone ever giveaway their copyright on a paper or even pay for publishing?

      It's the universities fault.

      To make it easier for the management, they have long ago dispensed with any actual quality assessment of faculty members. How many papers you publish - and even more importantly, how often are they cited in other papers - is a simple metric that is easily measured. To get many citations, you need to publish in a high-impact journal, so that other people in your field see your paper.

      As a result, large publishers got a death grip on the academic world, and they are bleeding it dry. So dry, in fact, that even major universities like Harvard can no longer afford the subscriptions.

      Most academics never saw the problem, since the universities usually had all of the relevant subscriptions. Even if some obscure journal was missing, you could usually contact the author or someone else in the same field to get the article from them. After all, the entirety of scientific advance is built on sharing. Unfortunately, if you're in a small university, or not in a university at all, you were mostly out of luck.

      That's where SciHub and the recent proliferation of open access journals come around - more and more academics finally realized the problem, and started boycotting the leeches. As a doctoral student myself, I'll strive to avoid Elsevier and their ilk as long as I can.

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

  • identicon
    Docrailgun, 6 May 2016 @ 3:10pm

    WHat's more troubling...

    ... is that people are sharing their logins. Noone should be doing that.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 3:18pm

      Re: WHat's more troubling...

      That depends on whether the login is protecting you, or protecting someone else’s excess profits. Elsevier is much reviled in the academic community, but they control access to a huge amount of knowledge.

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

  • icon
    madasahatter (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 4:00pm

    Who's the criminal

    Elsevier is complaining about Sci-Hub. But Elsevier's actions are often closer to mafia shake downs than Sci-Hub's. So, who is the real criminal organization?

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

  • identicon
    Kronomex, 6 May 2016 @ 5:47pm

    Elsevier, the RIAA of the academic world. I also would not be in the least little bit surprised that universities get kickbacks from this bunch of parasites. Elsevier no doubt cries to heavens that interfering with copyright destroys creativity, innovation and destroys jobs. Will gummints do anything? Not a damned thing.

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

  • identicon
    Glenn, 6 May 2016 @ 6:06pm

    So that's why college tuition costs 50 times more now than it did back in the '70s (at my alma mater anyway).

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2016 @ 6:39am

      Re:

      That and the massive reduction in both federal and state funding of education.

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

    • icon
      Seegras (profile), 8 May 2016 @ 5:09am

      Re:

      Please explain why you even do have tuition in the first place.

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

      • identicon
        Christenson, 8 May 2016 @ 8:02pm

        Re: Re: Origins of Tuition

        Dear Seegras:

        The reason we have tuition is because we always have, and administrators like to have funds available to pay their fat salaries. A certain amount of tuition from most students does help ensure they are serious students.

        Now, in the US, we have a number of fully private colleges and universities...including one "Harvard Community College" founded way back in the 1600s. They charge whatever their market will bear.

        The result is that we now have 2,000 or so colleges and universities in the US of varying levels of quality. The only time tenure has not been a rat race I am aware of is when the number of students roughly doubled in the 1970s.

        At one math department I was involved in, math has fragmented far enough that the professors within the department weren't qualified to read each other's papers. Number theory and, say, algebraic geometry are largely distinct.

        *******
        One picayune point for Mike: "Whack" is a perfectly good english verb, and Elsevier is most certainly "Whacking" at sci-hub. This is copyright and free speech in conflict at its most obvious!

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

        • icon
          The Wanderer (profile), 9 May 2016 @ 4:56am

          Re: Re: Re: Origins of Tuition

          One picayune point for Mike: "Whack" is a perfectly good english verb, and Elsevier is most certainly "Whacking" at sci-hub.
          Thank you. While the original game which gave the world the term "whack-a-mole" may have spelled it "whac", A: the popular-culture awareness of the phrase spells it "whack", so invocations of that awareness should do the same, and B: the actual verb "whack" - when used outside of the name of the game - certainly is not spelled the shorter way.
          This is copyright and free speech in conflict at its most obvious!
          I'm not entirely sure I see how this is true, though. Would you care to clarify?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 May 2016 @ 5:43am

      Re:

      No, student lifestyle facilities and balooning pointless athletic programs are the reason for that.

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

  • identicon
    michael, 7 May 2016 @ 5:47pm

    Pure evil.

    Librarian here: Elsevier is literally the devil.

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 8 May 2016 @ 10:49am

    Boycott Elsevier

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

  • identicon
    Academic Entrepreneur, 8 May 2016 @ 8:58pm

    Cornell professor Paul Ginsparg, science communication rebel, named a MacArthur Foundation fellow; three other alumni also receive 'genius award' fellowships

    There have been attempts to change the model in the past - such as arXiv.org

    Surprisingly, despite a flurry of activity in 2002 including that of arXiv.org below, the status quo publishing model stil holds

    "Ginsparg is probably best-known as the creator of an online system for distributing scientific research results -- known by scientists around the world as "arXiv.org" -- which bypasses the conventional avenues of scientific publication. As a theoretical physicist, he has made substantial contributions in quantum field theory, string theory, conformal field theory and quantum gravity.

    "Ginsparg has deliberately transformed the way physics gets done, challenging conventional standards for review and communication of research and thereby changing the speed and mode of dissemination of scientific advances," the foundation said in announcing the award."

    See http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2002/09/paul-ginsparg-named-macarthur-genius-fellow

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

  • icon
    JF (profile), 9 May 2016 @ 9:12am

    Fair

    If Elsevier can get researchers to write articles and edit them for free it only seems like fair turn around that Sci Hub can get Elsevier to give them free advertising.

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


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