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Censorship Science Your Rights Online

Physics Journal May Reconsider Wikipedia Ban 155

Posted by kdawson
from the mine-mine-mine dept.
I don't believe in imaginary property writes "The flagship physics journal Physical Review Letters doesn't allow authors to submit material to Wikipedia, or blogs, that is derived from their published work. Recently, the journal withdrew their acceptance of two articles by Jonathan Oppenheim and co-authors because the authors had asked for a rights agreement compatible with Wikipedia and the Quantum Wikipedia. Currently, many scientists 'routinely do things which violate the transfer of copyright agreement of the journal.' Thirty-eight physicists have written to the journal requesting changes in their copyright policies, saying 'It is unreasonable and completely at odds with the practice in the field. Scientists want as broad an audience for their papers as possible.' The protest may be having an effect. The editor-in-chief of the APS journals says the society plans to review its copyright policy at a meeting in May. 'A group of excellent scientists has asked us to consider revising our copyright, and we take them seriously,' he says."
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Physics Journal May Reconsider Wikipedia Ban

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  • by rueger (210566) on Friday March 14, 2008 @11:10AM (#22751202) Homepage
    Claim that your physics thesis uncovers corruption in the Bush administration and pass it on to Wikileaks! [wikileaks.org]
  • by heteromonomer (698504) on Friday March 14, 2008 @11:11AM (#22751216)
    I find it outrageous that some journals are still charging the authors AND the subscribers. As a subscriber I am willing to pay for quality but then don't charge the authors.
    • by blueg3 (192743) on Friday March 14, 2008 @11:25AM (#22751408)
      It provides motivation to not submit worthless articles. If there's zero cost for submission, then tons of completely useless articles would be submitted, and the cost for going through all of them would be a problem.

      Not that, as an author, I particularly liked the charges for submitting (or the insane charges for subscription), but there is reasonable motivation behind it.
      • by pipatron (966506) <pipatron@gmail.com> on Friday March 14, 2008 @11:28AM (#22751438) Homepage

        What about a fairly high cost for submission (no, not that kind of submission) that you would be refunded if the article is accepted and published?

        • by blueg3 (192743)
          Oh, I agree there are certainly more reasonable schemes.

          Although, with financial incentive to get a paper accepted on top of the academic incentive, I fear for the grad students. :-)
        • by DeadPanDan (1165901) on Friday March 14, 2008 @11:43AM (#22751620)
          That would give an incentive to reject all submissions. It puts money into the decision making process. Bad bad bad.
        • by Raul654 (453029) on Friday March 14, 2008 @12:26PM (#22752074) Homepage
          (Speaking as someone who has reviewed conference submissions) For some good quality (tier 2) computer engineering conferences, only about one in five submissions is accepted. (At tier 1 - ISCA and PLDI, it's like 5%) Often times papers are reject not because they are bad or horribly flawed, but simply that there are better (more important, better conducted, more thorough) papers available. High submission fees discriminate against these papers, and especially against research groups that do not have as much fundings as others.
          • Errr, by ISCA you mean the International Speech Communication Association?

                OG.
            • by Raul654 (453029)
              ISCA is the International Symposium on Computer Architecture, the top computer engineering conference in the world. This year [princeton.edu] it's in Beijing.
        • by Minwee (522556)

          Among other things that would be a clear violation of the first, tenth and one hundred and eighty ninth rules of acquisition.

        • by jd (1658)
          More of a refundable deposit, then, rather than a cost. Hmmm. Might work. You could also have a sliding scale on refunds depending on actual errors noted for correction during peer review, with some percentage of that retained going to the reviewer finding the errors, to give incentive for more thorough review.

          The problem I see with this is that incentive schemes don't work as advertised. From the FSF's article on reward systems to the OLPC founder's comments on such methods, we find that people divert mo

        • what about a slashdot or digg like system. Everybody can submit, everybody can vote about the documents quality.
        • by feranick (858651) on Friday March 14, 2008 @03:47PM (#22754130)
          There is a lot of confusion here, and even worst, people don't seem to know what they are talking about... In order to publish your work in Physical Review journals you don't have to pay a dime. It's free to submit. You only need to pay if you want color images in the printed version (it's free for Online only color images).

          The idea of refunds, or charging for publication as a way to select publication is just non-sense. You don't need to refund something you don't pay in first place. Selection of papers is done through peer-review, a hard enough process the get through, that money isn't really the issue.
        • by jonbryce (703250)
          Or what about keeping the charge for submission, but making the articles available for free on their website?
      • by MrHanky (141717)
        Zero cost? Then certainly your time must be worthless.
        • by blueg3 (192743)
          What are you objecting to? Claiming that there's otherwise zero cost to submission? Creating a paper is time-consuming, but submitting it is not. There are a ton of really worthless papers out there and plenty of people whose time is cheap. Without some cost (whether a transfer of money or some other impediment) associated with submitting a paper, each one of those worthless papers will be submitted to every possible venue, resulting in prohibitively high costs for the journal.
      • Some of the steps to publication:

        1) Your organization pays to have your paper published.

        2) The scientific journal has trees cut to make paper.

        3) When the journal gets A Round Tuit [wooden-nickel.com], which could be months after the paper is accepted, the paper is published in the journal.

        4) Subscribers pay an extremely high subscription cost.

        5) Subscribers get a printed publication in the mail, when they would rather have text-searchable .PDF files.

        The journal says, "We were able to make money this way in t
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tsa (15680)
        That's a good point, but then I want at least 200 dollars for every paper I review.
        • by blueg3 (192743)
          Well, if the journal has access to a large pool of qualified reviewers that they're not paying, the "cost" of taking submissions is pretty low.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by kharchenko (303729)
        I don't know of any major scientific journal that charges for submitting an article. As far as I know all of them charge you only if the article has been accepted for publication (i.e. deemed to be non-"junk"), which nullifies your argument.

    • by geekoid (135745)
      How much more are you willing to pay?
      How much do the authors pay?
      How much do the magazine need to maintain quality work so they are taken seriously by the community?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gEvil (beta) (945888)
        And how many of those authors are doing research with grant money? Including a small dollar amount for "submission/publication" doesn't seem that difficult.
    • by tritonman (998572) on Friday March 14, 2008 @11:27AM (#22751422)
      It sounds to me like more people trying to claim intellectual property of something that they did not come up with themselves.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by heteromonomer (698504)
        Good point! Someone mod parent up. Charge the authors, charge the subscribers, pay the editors pittance, pay the reviewers nothing, and then claim copyright over the material. This is somewhere between lucrative business and highway robbery.
      • claiming? (Score:3, Informative)

        by l2718 (514756)

        It sounds to me like more people trying to claim intellectual property of something that they did not come up with themselves.

        Wrong. The journal is not "claiming" any "intellectual property". The journal is saying that, if you want them to publish your work (which no-one is forcing you to do) then you must assign them the copyright. If you don't like it, publish in a different journal. Since the journal makes money from subscription, they don't want you to benefit from their prestige by getting the pa

        • The journal is saying that, if you want them to publish your work (which no-one is forcing you to do) then you must assign them the copyright. If you don't like it, publish in a different journal.

          According to DJB, you don't even have to do that in a lot of cases [cr.yp.to]:

          Readers have to be free to download your papers and print them out. You will probably also want mirrors, i.e., copies of your papers available from other sites around the world.

          Please don't sign any contracts that prevent you from authorizing these activities! In several cases I've said something like

          This paper is entirely my own work. I have put it into the public domain. Luxury Press is therefore free to publish it.

          instead of signing a copyright transfer agreement. If you ever encounter a publisher that doesn't accept this, let me know, and I'll be happy to blacklist that publisher here. I'm now blacklisting IEEE.

        • if you want them to publish your work (which no-one is forcing you to do) then you must assign them the copyright. If you don't like it, publish in a different journal. Since the journal makes money from subscription, they don't want you to benefit from their prestige by getting the paper accepted, and then turning around and posting the content somewhere else so no-one has to subscribe to the journal.

          So basically it sounds as though the pay-to-play peer review journals are on step away from being as outd
    • by delt0r (999393) on Friday March 14, 2008 @11:27AM (#22751428)
      Some? try almost all. And its worse than that. The editors are not usually paid. The reviewers (as in peer reviewed journal) are not paid. The authors are not paid. Yet the journals gets the copyright and charge *huge* fees for online and physical subscriptions. Journals like nature are the worst for this and charge by far the most. This is why i try to publish in open access journals only.
    • I don't understand. Journals are charging you to submit? They're not charging me -- other than my time of course. Don't they just become vanity publications then? Isn't this a sign of a really weak journal (and publication, and author)?
    • by eaolson (153849)
      As someone who has published in physics journals (though not PRL), I'd like to point out that page charges are often (usually?) optional. There is an exception of additional charges for color printing, though that seems reasonable to me.
  • Rewriting (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Friday March 14, 2008 @11:12AM (#22751228) Homepage
    At least in linguistics, there's a few scholars who just keep submitting the same research to journal after journal and collection after collection, just rewriting the article each time. If that's tolerated, why isn't putting the information on Wikipedia?
    • by blueg3 (192743)
      That's not tolerated in these physics journals.
    • by ajs (35943)

      At least in linguistics, there's a few scholars who just keep submitting the same research to journal after journal and collection after collection, just rewriting the article each time. If that's tolerated, why isn't putting the information on Wikipedia?

      Interestingly, though, it's not tolerated by Wikipedia. Journal articles are typically only used to cite the existence of research or the fact that a paper made a claim. Secondary sources that discuss the topic more broadly are considered required for anything more.

      • One way the Wikimedia sites could really benefit from this is being able to use the original images from the papers.

        Placing important papers on Wikisource would also be a good thing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by poot_rootbeer (188613)
      At least in linguistics, there's a few scholars who just keep submitting the same research to journal after journal and collection after collection, just rewriting the article each time.

      But at least it creates a secondary market for linguisticians to study the various versions and write papers that provide insight into the rewriting process...
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday March 14, 2008 @11:15AM (#22751254)
    I've published to professional journals (as a academic historian) before, and I've never had to surrender copyright to the journal (agreement was strictly for publishing rights). And I don't know any academics who would tolerate that (especially since the vast majority of academic journals don't pay you to publish your article and many articles lead on to books). Is academic physics THAT different?
    • by rangek (16645) on Friday March 14, 2008 @11:24AM (#22751388)

      I've published to professional journals (as a academic historian) before, and I've never had to surrender copyright to the journal (agreement was strictly for publishing rights).

      For chemistry:

      The undersigned, with the consent of all authors, hereby transfers, to the extent that there is copyright to be transferred, the exclusive copyright interest in the above cited manuscript, including the published version in any format (subsequently called the "work"), to the American Chemical Society....

      From http://pubs.acs.org/copyright/forms/copyright.pdf [acs.org]

      For physics:

      Copyright to the above-listed unpublished and original article submitted by the above author(s), the abstract forming part thereof, and any subsequent errata (collectively, the "Article") is hereby transferred to the American Physical Society (APS)...

      From http://forms.aps.org/author/copytrnsfr.pdf [aps.org], which interestingly enough wouldn't let me cut-and-paste without using a hacked version of xpdf. :P

      • My office is directly across the street from the American Chemical Society. Want me to go have a word with them?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        For Computer Science:

        Copyright to the above work (including without limitation, the right to publish the work in whole or in part in any and all forms of media, now or hereafter known) is hereby transferred to the ACM (*for Government work, to the extent transferable -see Part B below) effective as of the date of this agreement, on the understanding that the work has been accepted for publication by ACM.

        From http://www.acm.org/pubs/copyright_form.html [acm.org]

      • No, looks like you're in the right field...
      • by Hatta (162192)
        For chemistry:

        The undersigned, with the consent of all authors, hereby transfers, to the extent that there is copyright to be transferred, the exclusive copyright interest in the above cited manuscript, including the published version in any format (subsequently called the "work"), to the American Chemical Society....


        Ah a loophole. If there is no copyright, it cannot be transferred. So release your papers into the public domain before you submit them to the ACS and you can do
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rangek (16645)

          Ah a loophole. If there is no copyright, it cannot be transferred. So release your papers into the public domain before you submit them to the ACS and you can do whatever you want with them.

          Hrm.... interesting. However:

          This manuscript will be considered with the understanding you have submitted it on an exclusive basis.

          Now usually I have read that to mean you can't submit to another journal while you are waiting to hear back from ACS (or vice-versa), but perhaps a public domain release may also violate

        • In the USA, copyright is automatic and there is no way to legally release copyrighted work into the public domain. The only exception is work by the federal government which cannot be copyrighted. Otherwise you have to die and decompose for several decades until the copyright expires.

          You can try releasing the work under some open license, but you keep the copyright whether you want it or not. In fact, the operation of licenses depends on it.

          Also, no journal that I've published in will accept previously p
        • Wikipedia's had a run-in [cam.ac.uk] with the ACS just recently. Thankfully, we worked things out [cam.ac.uk] okay. It can be very useful to be the only top-ten website run by a nonprofit.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by san (6716)

        On the other hand, the APS journals are OK with you putting your version of your paper on the Arxiv [arxiv.org] preprint server; they even allow submission to their journals by Arxiv article number -- they will then download your manuscript from Arxiv and send it to the editors.

        I've always been under the impression that the copyright they hold is only to the specific, printed, version they publish, not to any manuscripts you have.

    • by blueg3 (192743)
      Most of the physics journals I've submitted to have required copyright transfer or, at the very least, an exclusive publishing agreement.
    • Policy on copyright does differ from field to field, but it is more a matter of the journal than the field. Some journals have enlightened practices, some do not. For example, the Royal Society, which is the UK equivalent of the publisher of Physical Review Letters, has a very enlightened policy, and lets you publish under a creative commons license and retain copyright [royalsociety.org]. The American Physical Society has a far more outdated policy, which looks like it will finally change.
  • by bluephone (200451) <grey@@@burntelectrons...org> on Friday March 14, 2008 @11:17AM (#22751286) Homepage Journal
    Quantum Wikipedia is of immeasurable quality.
  • Or Better Yet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by maz2331 (1104901) on Friday March 14, 2008 @11:19AM (#22751318)
    Just stop publishing in those journals and create your own. The barriers to entry are pretty low to set up an on-line publication, and even dead tree publishing of scientific papers isn't that expensive.

    If any of these journals lose even a fraction of the scientists submitting material in favor of a more-open competitor, then the journal loses, not the scientists.

    And never, ever, under any circumstances even consider thinking of assigning copyright to anyone.
    • by CRCulver (715279)

      Just stop publishing in those journals and create your own.

      The university officials considering granting you tenure have heard of the big-name journals, but they may not have heard of the amateur production on the web you set up because you actually turned down a chance for publication in a reputable forum.

    • by brarrr (99867)
      The prestige of the journal has to be considered. I mean prestige as in PRL, APL and other APS journals are peer-reviewed thus the quality of the work is *supposed to be* significantly more relevant and important to the body of knowledge than uncle bob's journal of nukular behaivior. The standards of quality vary by journal, hence science/nature has a different writing style than PRL than JAP than PNAS than....

      There *are* more open journals that allow modified copyright transfers and self-hosted online pu
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by blueZhift (652272)
      Just stop publishing in those journals and create your own. The barriers to entry are pretty low to set up an on-line publication, and even dead tree publishing of scientific papers isn't that expensive.

      This is probably just what the journal is afraid of. While getting published in the major, established, peer reviewed journals, is the current road to tenure, fame, and fortune (except maybe for the fame and fortune), that may not always be the case. One of the most important pieces of the puzzle for the adv
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        not a physicist, but nearly as clever:
        Stanford algorithms expert, Donald Knuth [stanford.edu](pdf) doesn't like nasty closed-up journals either. As he said when I asked him about it; "Who are you? How did you get in my house?".
    • by Zibblsnrt (125875)
      For tenure and evaluation purposes, a lot of universities are, uh, somewhat hostile to anything resembling self-publication. Hell, they're hostile to non-academic publishing at all sometimes; there was a prospective hire eval at the university I'm at where the guy got shredded for publishing a children's book on the side.

      Add to that a lot of the faculty who are going to be in a decision to Decide Your Career are still going to be the type that assume "online source = intrinsically bad" for the forseeable fu
    • The journals have prestige value. Getting your name into Nature or Lancet is a holy grail for most scientists.

      Starting your own is about as cool as starting a new Nobel Prize foundation - just not the same.
  • While I think this is a pretty stupid move, I suppose I could see that they want to retain an air of elitism with the content that they publish. Scientific journals do reek of elitism but are gradually breaking away from the notion that the material is private. I know some journals are providing content free of charge, which is a great way to get more material out in the open. However long-time editors and publishers may have objections to that method since they are used to the prestige that the little priv
    • by Hatta (162192)
      Don't worry, grad students are in high demand. They're cheap labor. It's faculty positions that are in very limited supply.
  • Self-preservation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fropenn (1116699) on Friday March 14, 2008 @11:30AM (#22751482)
    Why would you pay to read an article in a journal if that same information or report were available elsewhere? It is a case of self-preservation on the part of the journal to protect itself from competition.

    The internet has dramatically changed how information is accessible, and journals must respond to this new paradigm. The idea of a journal still plays an important role - by providing a process of peer review and editing for quality - but it seems the days of paying for paper copies and journals holding sole copyright of individual articles are waning.

    Finally, on a related issue, as a taxpayer, why should I have to pay to read about research that I already supported through my tax dollars?
  • Like the MPAA, RIAA and other businesses built up around forming monopolies of information distribution the world is changing around them and they are failing to adapt, just like many a buggy whip manufacturer of old. When distributing one's information had a significant cost (printing, transport etc) and bandwidth was low i.e. a monthly journal then these models of doing business made sense. In the 21st Century information distribution costs are effectively reaching zero and so monopolies based on reproduc
  • by al1984 (1256376) on Friday March 14, 2008 @11:39AM (#22751570)
    PhysRevLet is behind the times. The trend is for open access. This week, USENIX [usenix.org], the computing systems association and sponsor of many major conferences, is making access to all its published papers and conference proceedings free to the world. This blog [crypto.com] has details.
  • Look, all science article have to go through peer review. These guys get paid NOTHING for doing this (just their name on the review). If instead an site is started up, and the same ppl review the article PRIOR to going to the wiki, then it is about the same. From there, paper printing can occur if desired. All that is needed is for these guys to work together to decide to build the site up. Pretty trivial thing to do.
  • This is stupid. (Score:3, Informative)

    by danielsfca2 (696792) on Friday March 14, 2008 @11:40AM (#22751578) Journal
    Okay, the blog thing seems like something that might make sense, but Wikipedia, WTF?

    Publishing information to WP based on your own work would probably be original research according to WP. Which WP doesn't allow.

    Secondly, WP doesn't allow copyrighted work like journals to be posted verbatim on the site--even IF the author grants explicit permission signed in blood and double-notarized to have the material published there too. For WP, it's basically 100% Free or no deal. So, the ONLY way this material could be posted on Wikipedia and stay up for more than 7 minutes with the WP Copyright Police would be if the author released it under GFDL. Which no one wants to do with anything, especially if it's their livelyhood. (I could see licensing a work of mine to Wikipedia, a donation to a nonprofit, but it would piss me off to see that work all over retarded AdSense farms that (legally) steal the content for profit [all-scienc...ojects.com].

    And finally, since just posting full text of journal articles is not what WP does (or allows), this whole discussion is stupid. They don't accept full-text of newspaper columns, magazines, or your diary either. It's not a knowledge collective, it's a Freer-than-thou encyclopedia.

    What WP does allow is citing these journal articles, and that's something that even our ludicrous current copyright laws has yet to forbid.

    Though you can be sure that when citing copyrighted works does get forbidden WP will be the first to knuckle under and ban it, because they have shown in the past that they have no balls to stand up against unjust and overly-broad-interpreted IP laws, for example their complete denial that fair use rights exist.
    • Publishing information to WP based on your own work would probably be original research according to WP. Which WP doesn't allow.

      In some cases, it does. See Citing oneself [wikipedia.org]:

      If an editor has published the results of his or her research in a reliable publication, the editor may cite that source while writing in the third person and complying with our NPOV policy. See also Wikipedia's guidelines on conflict of interest.

      Is there anything about this on which you need further clarification?

      Though you can be sure that when citing copyrighted works does get forbidden WP will be the first to knuckle under and ban it, because they have shown in the past that they have no balls to stand up against unjust and overly-broad-interpreted IP laws

      Copyright paranoia happens for two reasons: 1. Wikimedia Foundation does not retain legal counsel who specialize in the laws of every jurisdiction on

      • Wikimedia projects are hosted in the United States but read worldwide. On whose laws do you think Wikimedia projects should base their policies for non-free content?

        US laws would be a start. These laws allow fair use, for example, of images to illustrate the person in question. I love how you can have a WP article about a model, which is someone famous specifically because of his/her looks, and have no image on the page at all. This is someone of whom thousands of photographs have been taken, and hundreds

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      If you read the original article (not the New Scientist piece, but the statement of the authors), it is not that they want to put their work on Wikipedia. This is just used as an example -- they want to release their work under a creative commons license. Mostly for other specialized services. I guess this may include the Quantum Wikipedia.
    • by WK2 (1072560)

      WP doesn't allow copyrighted work like journals to be posted verbatim on the site--even IF the author grants explicit permission signed in blood and double-notarized to have the material published there too... So, the ONLY way this material could be posted on Wikipedia ... would be if the author released it under GFDL.

      WTF? Are you trying to imply that the GFDL is worse than signing in blood and double-notarizing?

      So, the ONLY way this material could be posted on Wikipedia ... would be if the author released it under GFDL. Which no one wants to do with anything, especially if it's their livelyhood.

      You'd be surprised what some people will do to get their stuff published. If you had read the fucking summary, you would realize that some people will actually sign over the copyright to their papers.

      • WTF? Are you trying to imply that the GFDL is worse than signing in blood and double-notarizing?

        Yes, I am. Explicit permission signed in blood means WP can use it on their site. GFDL = giving your content away for free to the thousands of blood-sucking freeloading spammers [all-scienc...ojects.com] that can legally leech all they want.

        I'm not against free content. I'm just against assholes who SELL other people's work while contributing no value to the content or to society. To compare to software, what I support is a firm like Re

    • by ricree (969643)

      Publishing information to WP based on your own work would probably be original research according to WP. Which WP doesn't allow.

      As long as the information is published in a journal, it isn't really considered original research.

      Secondly, WP doesn't allow copyrighted work like journals to be posted verbatim on the site--even IF the author grants explicit permission signed in blood and double-notarized to have the material published there too. For WP, it's basically 100% Free or no deal. So, the ONLY way this material could be posted on Wikipedia and stay up for more than 7 minutes with the WP Copyright Police would be if the author released it under GFDL.

      In one of the articles it mentioned that the acceptance was rescinded because the authors wanted the content licensed to be compatible with wikipedia, so the copyright wouldn't have been an issue from wikipedia's side.

  • by Bearhouse (1034238) on Friday March 14, 2008 @11:45AM (#22751632)
    The people who publish scientific journals have been mining a lucrative seam for years.
    Now, just as with music and video, they see their business model, and fat associated monopoly rents, being threatened.

    Just as with the music and video industries, their efforts to stop the rot so far have been risible.

    Their case has even less merit since, unlike the music and video inductries, the original authors of the works:
    1. Have usually already been paid for their work, and
    2. Actively want it be distributed as widely and freely as possible
    Indeed, since a lot of (published) science is paid for by our taxes, one could argue 'the public' already owns it / the right to read it freely.

    The argument that reputable journals provide a robust peer-review function withers somewhat in the light of many recent scandals that have 'slipped through the net'. The comparison with 'many eyes' from open source sprngs to mind. How long before something really poor or inaccurate is challenged on Wikipedia? Minutes?

    Still, that's enough analogies - better stop before I try and slip in a car one, too...

    More discussion on topic here:
    http://www.nature.com/nature/debates/e-access/Articles/Eisen.htm [nature.com]

  • ...the Wikipedia cites copyrighted works ALL THE TIME. I am not clear on exactly what the publisher believes to have. Take a look at any science related page (for example: Interferon Alpha Receptor 1 [wikipedia.org]) and you will see a whole raft of copyrighted citations. Fair use allows for paraphrasing, quoting, and citation, especially in an academic context (or at least that is what I have always understood). What is it exactly that publishers are preventing? Citation? Paraphrase? Quotation?
  • by bcrowell (177657) on Friday March 14, 2008 @12:16PM (#22751980) Homepage

    I've published in PRL, back in the 90's. Basically what happened around then was that physicists were some of the earliest adopters of the internet and the web, and as soon as those tools became available, physicists started making their papers available to their colleagues for free in digital form. They still usually referred to them as "preprints," but in fact they'd still be sending them out after the paper had been accepted by the journal, the copyright transfer had been signed, and the paper had come out in print. Also in that era, arxiv.org was set up to archive preprints systematically. For decades now, arxiv has been a vital, ubiquitous part of the infrastructure of physics research; if arxiv is illegal, then I guess every single working physicist in the world is breaking the law every single working day of their career, because that's how much it gets used. The whole thing was sort of a blindingly obvious application for the internet. As an academic, what you care about is getting your research out there so that people know about it -- that's what builds your career. Nobody ever saw any conflict between the fact that (a) you assigned the copyright to the journal, and (b) you were still giving away copies. You might be able to argue that there was no legal conflict, because fair use applied, but realistically everybody saw it as a nonissue, because it was your own work you were giving out, and the journals were nonprofit entities.

    What PRL should really reconsider is its whole policy of demanding copyright transfers. All they really need is a license from the author. This is a case where the legalities have lagged a couple of decades behind real-world practices. PRL is the most prestigious journal to get your work published in, but I think they realize that they're essentially expendable at this point at an institution; the minute a sufficient number of physicists get sufficiently upset with them, print journals can find itself replaced rapidly by open-access journals.

    Virtually all submissions to PRL are done in LaTeX format, so there is no cost associated with typesetting. All the referees, and nearly all the editors, are unpaid. The printed format is basically obsolete, and the prices charged to libraries are simply ridiculous. This is a classic case where you just have an ossified institution that refuses to change.

    • by PvtVoid (1252388) on Friday March 14, 2008 @01:33PM (#22752796)

      PRL persists despite the fact that it has no identifiable purpose. At one time, the idea of a "Letters" journal was for rapid publication of select short articles. Letters journals needed to be selective, so they could operate in an efficient fashion. Ironically, in practice it typically takes much longer to get a paper published in a rapid-publication journal like PRL than in a regular journal like Physical Review, because the referee process is so ponderous. Papers always go to at least two referees, sometimes three or more. In my experience (I have published in and refereed for PRL), this does little to improve the quality of the referee process: it simply makes it more capricious.

      Meanwhile, with the advent of arXiv, rapid publication is no longer an issue: by the time a high-quality paper makes it through the review process, it has already been cited a dozen times, and the citing articles have themselves been read and cited. Likewise, there is no longer any point whatsoever to a four-page limit like that imposed by PRL: who cares?

      The only reason PRL still exists is the perceived prestige. Having a dozen PRL publications is a gold star on your job application or tenure portfolio, even if those papers are wrong, or poorly cited. Meanwhile, more modern, efficient and useful open access and online journals are poorly indexed by commercial citation services such as ISI Web of Science: even influential, highly cited papers published in these journals count for relatively little with university administration bean counters. And tenure is no insulation from the pressure to publish in letters journals: tenured faculty frequently publish with students and postdocs, and recognize the need for their more junior collaborators to count the proper coup. And so the system perpetuates itself. PRL will continue to matter until the old guys (and they're almost all male) who think it matters die off. Which will be a while.

    • Virtually all submissions to PRL are done in LaTeX format, so there is no cost associated with typesetting.

      The average LaTeX document on arxiv.org has pretty hideous typesetting. The most egregious example (but far from the only one) is the use of < and > for quantum mechanical bras and kets, because many authors aren't aware of the \lang and \rang LaTeX commands. Also, RevTeX isn't very smart about figure and text placement, so manuscripts generally receive extensive tweaking in the production offic
  • I'm fairly high up in a non-science journal (law). In the past it was quite common to ask for a complete transfer [author would no longer own the copyright and journal would]. Most authors have increasingly become less and less comfortable with this. I imagine this is true in non-law journals especially as copyright has become a bigger issue, making authors aware of it.

    My journal recently switched from such an outright transfer to something along the lines of an exclusive license for 1 year and license af
    • by JohnFluxx (413620)
      > Obviously, its the authors work, but the journals do a ton of work.

      But don't we pay for that work to be done when we submit the article, and then pay again to buy the journal? Doesn't that alone cover over the cost of editing it? (A genuine question - I can imagine that it does not).

  • instead of working for tips (like they do now... umm.. grants... that's right.. not tips... grants!), their work would be much more readable. <sarcasm>Gentlemen, it's another Friday. So start your free-science-vs-software-patents engines. </sarcasm>
  • Tagging is wrong. This is not censorship. That's a policy enforced by a group on others trying to publish in venues owned by others. This is simply an editorial policy, perfectly allowable, as the journal's policies cover only their own publication. As owners of the property, the publishers have the right to set policies for their property. An author may indeed submit to Wiki* as is his or her ownership right, but then the journal won't publish it, as is their ownership right. At issue here is called e-righ
  • by Trogre (513942)
    A once prestigious journal is looking at reversing a move that moved it close to irrelevancy in the 21st century.

    Good for them.

  • I seem to recall the www phenomenon began because some guy thought that exchanging physics info would be a good idea.

    http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/About/Web-en.html [web.cern.ch]

    I publish. I get the copyright and blog quality arguments ad infinitum - but I think the real issue is simply being missed here.

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