from the this-is-bad-news dept
So it's been quite distressing to many this morning to find out that Elsevier has now purchased SSRN. Everyone involved, of course, insists that "nothing will change" and that Elsevier will leave SSRN working as before, but perhaps with some more resources behind it (and, sure, SSRN could use some updates and upgrades). But Elsevier has such a long history of incredibly bad behavior that it's right to be concerned. Elsevier is not just a copyright maximalist (just last week at a hearing I attended involving the Copyright Office, Elsevier advocated for much more powerful takedown powers in copyright). It's not just suing those who make it easier to access academic info. It's not just charging insane amounts for journals. It also has a history of creating fake peer reviewed journals to help pharmaceutical companies make their drugs look better.
And it also has a history of lobbying heavily against open access, while similarly charging for open access research despite knowing it's not supposed to do this.
So, quite obviously, there is reason to be concerned that Elsevier may make some "changes" to SSRN that make it a lot less valuable for the sharing of academic research and papers in the near future.
Some are already suggesting it's time to build a new service (either as a nonprofit or a trust) to take over what SSRN was doing in the past. Or, alternatively, there's talk of getting other preprint servers, like the famed arXiv to start handling social sciences research as well. Another alternative might be just to see if the Internet Archive is willing to take on this kind of project itself.
Once again, though, it shows just how messed up copyright has become. Copyright is not the reason any of these papers gets written, and now copyright is seen as a weapon against the sharing of knowledge. When copyright was first put in place in the US, we were told it was to encourage the sharing of such educational resources. That may have been a lie at the time (it was designed as a tool for publishers), but if we're going to have a copyright system that claims to be about promoting science, at the very least, we should be able to live in a world where it really is easy to share academic research without fear that a copyright claim is going to destroy everything.