Publishers Association Sends Whiny Complaint Letter To Dean After Academic Librarian Discusses Sci-Hub
from the oh-grow-up dept
Nonetheless, the publishers really, really hate it. But even so, it seems pretty ridiculous for the Association of American Publishers (AAP) to freak out so much about an academic librarian just mentioning Sci-Hub while on a panel discussion, that it would send an angry letter to that librarian's dean. But, that's exactly what AAP did, in complaining about comments by librarian Gabriel Gardner to his dean, Roman Kochan, at the University Library for California State University. The letter, signed by AAP President Thomas Allen seems to suggest that any moderately positive comment about Sci-Hub should be banished from any academic discussion:
I am disappointed to learn that a librarian from California State University, Long Beach, Gabriel Gardner, recently praised the notorious pirate site Sci-Hub and recommended that attendees at a session use the site. Mr. Gardner was a panelist at the American Library Association's session "Resource Sharing in Tomorrowland - a Panel Discussion About the Future ofinterlibrary Loan" at the association's annual conference in Orlando. On the panel he said, essentially, "Try it, you'll like it."It goes on to whine about how horrible Sci-Hub is (yes, a tool for free access to scientific research and knowledge is being derided here...), and then whines about silly ideas like "academic freedom."
Sci-Hub has been enjoined from further operation as an unlawful enterprise that has committed mass theft of copyrighted material. Sci-Hub should not be equated with any legitimate interlibrary loan or open access publishing practices.
As a member of the California State University system it is surprising that a CSU Long Beach librarian would promote the activities of an adjudicated thief who has compromised university computer systems and databases worldwide.The recipient of the letter, Dean Roman Kochan, was, to put it mildly, not that impressed with Allen's letter, and notes that Allen seemed to be freaking out over absolutely nothing. In fact, Kochan notes that most of Gardner's comments about Sci-Hub were actually focused on its illegal nature. And, he points out, that Gardner's comments were related to an article that Gardner had co-written pointing to problems with this kind of crowdsourced research sharing.
Unfortunately, Sci-Hub supporters invoke academic freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of scientific inquiry, and encouraging universal access to the results of scientific research to justify the theft of intellectual property. Such rationalizations do not in my opinion justify providing public encouragement for unquestionably illegal activity to institutions and the scholarly communication system. I believe such public encouragement from one of your librarians is inconsistent with the university library's mission and its leadership in support of scientific research.
Their article, "Fast and Furious (at Publishers): The Motivations behind Crowdsourced Research Sharing," is based on a survey of users of peer-to-peer research-sharing services on the frequency of, and the motivations behind, their use of these services. They conclude that these services "go beyond document delivery to the legal bedrock that is our current copyright and intellectual property systems." So, contrary to your allegations that the researchers provided "public encouragement" of services such as SciHub, their research points out the very real problems with this type of crowdsourcing.In other words, not only did Allen and AAP send a really stupid letter, they picked the exact wrong target. This does not speak well of the AAP and its willingness to understand even basic nuances.
Besides the legal cautions in the C&RL article, Mr. Gardner has been quoted on #icanhazPDF, and in the 2015 Conference Proceedings of the Association of College & Research Libraries as saying that such peer-to-peer sharing is "ethically dubious" and "often violate[s) commercial database terms-of-service (ToS) and/ or copyright." Specifically, regarding the ALA annual conference panel, "Resource Sharing in Tomorrowland a Panel Discussion about the Future of Interlibrary Loan," your paraphrase of Mr. Gardner's statements is taken very much out of context. If you listen to the recording of his presentation, he says that Sci-Hub's actions are "massive piracy" and "totally illegal." To an audience of librarians, he was suggesting that librarians need to try the service to see how easily Interlibrary Loan and authentication systems can be bypassed.
Of course, now that Kochan has the AAP's attention, he figures it's probably not worth wasting, and goes on to point out the real problem: the fact that the publishers AAP represents are basically pricing everyone out of the market:
However, the larger issue here is that the academic publishing model has become unsustainable. Like many university libraries, the library budgets at California State University Long Beach and the California State University generally cannot sustain annual price increases of 3% to 10% by many of your organization's members. Journal subscription prices are a key part of the reason that extra-legal services, such as Sci-Hub flourish. As you know, the music industry and the movie industry have faced similar challenges. One substantial difference with scholarly journal publishing, however, is that the "artists," the scholars who conduct the research and write the articles, receive no monetary compensation. As the Copyright Clause of the U.S. Constitution states, the purpose of copyright is "To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." Rarely do AAP members give their authors such rights.Bravo. Though it will almost certainly fall on deaf ears.
We would hope that AAP would want to be part of the solution to unsustainable academic publishing models. Instead of fighting legislation such as Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), or criticizing researchers who are shining a light on a very real publishing dilemma, AAP could use its considerable clout to promote new scientific publishing models. After all, as AAP describes it, the organization's historic role is to "promote literacy, defend freedom of speech, advance scientific progress, and stimulate the intellectual and cultural discourse that is central to a healthy democratic society."
Still, what is it with organizations like the AAP so focused on "protecting" the way things used to be that they can't even bother to think about the way things are actually heading and how to adapt?