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Elsevier Going After Authors Sharing Their Own Papers 259

Posted by Soulskill
from the a-peer-reviewed-study-of-face-meeting-palm dept.
David Gerard writes "Elsevier, in final desperation mode, is going after authors sharing their own papers online. has told several researchers that Elsevier 'is currently upping the ante in its opposition to academics sharing their own papers online.' This is the sounds of a boycott biting."
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Elsevier Going After Authors Sharing Their Own Papers

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  • by joe_frisch (1366229) on Friday December 06, 2013 @05:26PM (#45622001)

    I work at a big national laboratory that is funded by the US government.

    Naturally the government needs to allocate limited funds among their various laboratories, each of which has more ideas for things to do than there is funding.

    In order to avoid corruption / favoritism (remember total we are talking billions of dollars), the government wants a quantifiable way to evaluate the performance of the laboratories in order to help determine how to best distribute the available funds.

    One of the metrics they have picked is number of publications in "high impact" journals. (its not easy to think of better quantifiable metrics).

    Most of the high impact journals are the old private journals like Physical Review, or Nature.

    So, if the scientists refuse to publish in these journals, the laboratory looks worse, and will tend to lose funds. This will direct money away from the best labs.

    Of course publishing in high impact journals also helps the scientists' careers - and the same sort of arguments apply.

    The journals of course are businesses and quite reasonably want to stay in business and make a profit.

    Sadly I don't have a good idea for a solution.

  • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Friday December 06, 2013 @05:37PM (#45622093) Homepage Journal

    I've said this before and I will say it again... corporations should be legally prohibited from owning copyrights. They should be legally limited to leasing copyrights from real persons. Copyrights were meant to make MORE material open, not to lock up material so that a corporate entity and gather rents without end.

  • by Zarhan (415465) on Friday December 06, 2013 @05:43PM (#45622141)

    I have published a paper through Elsevier when I was working on my PhD. At least the contract I signed with them states that I retain the right to distribute the papers if I so choose, for example, on my own website.

    Of course, if the distrubution happens through a third party...that might be a different matter.

  • by Aaden42 (198257) on Friday December 06, 2013 @05:49PM (#45622205) Homepage

    Leasing doesn’t fix this problem. There’s no reason Slimy Pub Corp, Inc. can’t require authors to sign an exclusive 100 year agreement to lease the copyright only to them, their successors, and assigns. Perfectly valid under (US at least) contract law, and still gives the same end result where authors can no longer self-publish or otherwise distribute their own work. They still “own” the copyright, but they’ve contracted away their rights to do anything with it.

    I don’t know enough about the academic publishing situation to know why authors would agree to sign away self publishing rights, but presumably there’s some value to using Elsevier’s services, even if the “value” is only in the sense that authors are required to do it in order to be “published” and advance their careers.

    Requiring copyright ownership tied to the lifetime of a single real person would help against the destruction of the public domain (Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, and Disney’s perpetual ownership of what’s become intwined in common US culture), but it doesn’t prevent copyright owners from being compelled to sign away their rights in situations such as this one.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Friday December 06, 2013 @06:02PM (#45622329)

    Many of these journals require copyright assignment, at which point it's not your own work anymore.

    I think this is exactly the situation for which the "void where prohibited by law" phrase was invented.

  • Re: wait (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot AT hackish DOT org> on Friday December 06, 2013 @06:09PM (#45622393)

    I wonder if this is really aimed at rather than the authors. As far as I can tell, Elsevier hasn't (yet, at least) gone after academics posting their own papers on their own website in the traditional manner, i.e. as a PDF at

  • by Hatta (162192) on Friday December 06, 2013 @06:39PM (#45622687) Journal

    Everyone should be legally prohibited from owning copyrights. As in copyright should be abolished entirely. If I own an item, it's my right to do with it what I see fit. Use as intended, destroy, reverse engineer, or copy.

  • by spasm (79260) on Friday December 06, 2013 @06:46PM (#45622741) Homepage

    It's not about just 'getting your work out' - it's about the fact that the university who decides whether you get tenure or post-tenure promotions still does so partially on the basis of how many publications you have in peer-reviewed journals, and how high the impact factor of those journals is. My institution literally has a tenure requirements document that says "at least 3 papers published in journals from this list of high-impact journals, or at least 5 in this other list of lower-impact journals'. So it's publish in those journals or lose your job when you fail to get tenure. So you sign whatever the journal wants you to sign if you get a paper accepted there, no matter how stupid the terms. What needs to change is universities removing journals who abuse everyone from those magic lists, so we can all safely ignore them.

  • by trackedvehicle (1972844) on Friday December 06, 2013 @06:51PM (#45622779)

    Many of these journals require copyright assignment, at which point it's not your own work anymore. Just one more reason the traditional scientific publishing model needs to die a quick death.

    Many? More like... all of them! As a scientist, I am fucking sick of copyrights. Maybe they're useful for some (but certainly not all) artists, but for scientists they are nothing but a way for big media (and Elsevier, Nature Publishing etc. are big media) to wrestle control of the scientist's work away from the scientist him/herself.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 06, 2013 @06:51PM (#45622783)

    How would ditching tenure help in this case? Professors with tenure are free from the absolute "publish or perish" mentality that requires them to churn out as many papers in high-impact journals as possible, regardless of ethical considerations. Elsevier has bought up lots of old, respectable ("high impact factor") journals, so they profit from the fact that professors are driven by shallow numerical metrics to publish in them. Tenure allows senior, experienced professors to escape the cycle, so they have the practical academic freedom to make scientifically ethical decisions to do things like boycott Elsevier journals, and devote effort pushing for better solutions --- something that would be career suicide for a short-term, conditionally-employed researcher to spend their efforts on.

  • The law is wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Friday December 06, 2013 @07:34PM (#45623157) Homepage Journal

    When a corporation is executed for causing the deaths of real people, then we might talk about corporate personhood.

    In fact, when a corporation causes the deaths of hundreds, or even thousands of people, the corporation is protected.

    Union Carbide seems to be doing quite well, despite major disasters such as this one. []

  • by Oligonicella (659917) on Friday December 06, 2013 @08:29PM (#45623561)

    The people who actually did the work and wrote the manual or designed the project.

    Of course, they'll return their salaries? That's the reason they were paid, you know, to produce something for someone else. Do you also think that an artist should be able to come along later and remove a painting or sculpture because it's "theirs" because they created it? If the answer is no because someone paid them for the work, you have a problem with your original logic. .

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 07, 2013 @08:31AM (#45625849)

    Bad argument, but nice try at getting the conservative talking point across. GM would have gone bankrupt anyway. The federal government became a majority investor in the company, and part of that deal involved certain conditions. A private entity could have, and should have, done something similar but none were willing.

    Part of the reason for that is that the corporate sector saw the "death" of GM as a good thing, since auto makers typically deal with unions and they saw this as a great way to get rid of more organized labor. Unfortunately, by sitting back and doing nothing, the banks and corporate sector opened themselves up to having a different kind of investor come in. This one insisted on bankruptcy, that is making capitalists lose on the risks they took investing in the company, while not screwing over labor so much in the process.

    That is why conservatives hated the GM deal. It showed that investing in a company actually has risk that on occasion one has to deal with, and it didn't screw over workers as much as normal deals do. The investor class perhaps got more screwed than they might have in a private takeover, since those tend to be sweetheart deals that reward the useless as much as possible. The government tried to get private industry to do the takeover themselves and for political reasons they didn't want to and their bluff got called. Sucks to be them. GM is profitable and, as promised, the government is now getting out of that business. They really hate it when something actually works because it flies in the face of the "government is broken and everything it ever touches is a hopeless mess all the time always and forever" meme they've got going on.

    This had absolutely nothing to do with an "execution" for misdeeds and is a terrible example except to get some more anti-Obama propaganda out there. If you want to criticize the man, I can think of a whole lot better and more worthy examples of doing so. Covering up the treasonous crimes of the previous administration, continuing a lot of them including NSA spying, continuing to negotiate "free trade" deals like the TPP, etc.--the list goes on.

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]