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Scientist Must Pay to Read His Own Paper 289

Posted by samzenpus
from the who-own-paper-town dept.
Glyn Moody writes "Peter Murray Rust, a chemist at Cambridge University, was lost for words when he found Oxford University Press's website demanded $48 from him to access his own scientific paper, in which he holds copyright and which he released under a Creative Commons license. As he writes, the journal in question was "selling my intellectual property, without my permission, against the terms of the license (no commercial use)." In the light of this kind of copyright abuse and of the PRISM Coalition, a new FUD group set up by scientific publishers to discredit open access, isn't it time to say enough is enough, and demand free access to the research we pay for through our taxes?"
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Scientist Must Pay to Read His Own Paper

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  • by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @11:03AM (#20465177) Journal
    1) Just because it's released under CC, doesn't mean that people must give you a copy of it for free on demand. It just means that the author has permitted people to copy it without his explicit approval. He should still be able to get it from someone else who doesn't want to charge him. Now, if he released the paper on the condition that no one ever charge for it, he has a case against OUP (for violating the license), but he's not being "denied access to his own paper"; it's just that one of many authorized providers simply isn't providing it. (Am I being "denied access to Jane Austen" when website #2938093583 won't email her works to me for free?)

    2) If publishers are really contributing nothing to academic publishing, and just charge high prices and force you to sign away your rights (which I think is a fair characterization), here's a crazy idea: stop publishing through them! Set up your own journals and charge nothing or a token amount for access. If scientists are so bigoted they only deign to acknowledge work published in overpriced, unnecessary, exploitative publishers' journals, the problem is on the scientists' end.

    3) Yes, it would be nice if no publicly funded worker could ever hold any exclusive IP in their intellectual works. However, this would mean less intellectual work production by them. It's a tradeoff like any other.

    Oh, and

    4) Why did OUP ever accept it if it were labled as CC?
  • Two Ideas (Score:1, Insightful)

    by JamesP (688957) on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @11:03AM (#20465189)
    1 - If it is your own paper, you surely have a backup somewhere, or a dead tree version of it (maybe a draft, but still)

    2 - Sue the fuckers.

  • by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @11:12AM (#20465313)
    Well, why dont you try reading what the CC (no commercial benefit) means.

    What right does Oxford have to copy his work? If they did not work out a deal with him or his university, they, by default use the CC license.

    The CC license he chose has "No Commercial Use" clause. They used it for commercial use, thereby making void their usage of the CC for copyright.

    They are in violation of Rust's copyright. Hmm... if Rust can prove they did it in spite of CC (no com use), he probably can get treble damages...

    Treble damages = $48 * 3 * n

    Big number. Good.
  • And (Score:2, Insightful)

    by everphilski (877346) on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @11:13AM (#20465321) Journal
    5) Unless he's careless about backups, he has a damn copy on his computer at home. He can read his paper for free.

    But the real meat-and-potatoes is point #2. You chose to submit it to said journal. Live with the consequences. (I don't condemn publishing in journals - but they aren't the only method of getting the word out, and after submitting your article to a journal it certainly does not curtail you from sharing results with others via other avenues)
  • by eln (21727) * on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @11:13AM (#20465327) Homepage

    Now, if he released the paper on the condition that no one ever charge for it, he has a case against OUP (for violating the license), but he's not being "denied access to his own paper"


    The summary states that his license stipulates no commercial use. Charging anything for the paper beyond your own costs for providing it (a nominal bandwidth and storage fee, perhaps) is commercial use. On the face of it, OUP is violating the license.

    If publishers are really contributing nothing to academic publishing, and just charge high prices and force you to sign away your rights (which I think is a fair characterization), here's a crazy idea: stop publishing through them! Set up your own journals and charge nothing or a token amount for access


    That's a great theory, but then you get every scientist posting his research to his blog. In scientific circles, the idea of "peer-reviewed" research is very important. If you are not publishing in a well known and widely-read journal, you are not likely to get a whole lot of your peers to even read the research much less try to duplicate your results. Without duplication, scientific results are damn near useless.

    Yes, it would be nice if no publicly funded worker could ever hold any exclusive IP in their intellectual works. However, this would mean less intellectual work production by them. It's a tradeoff like any other.


    Most academic types do the research for its own sake, not necessarily to make money directly from it. These people tend to make money by writing books about their research, conducting lectures on it, and using it on their resumes to get nice tenured positions. It's usually the universities that make all the money selling it to private industry.

    Why did OUP ever accept it if it were labled as CC?


    I would be surprised if they even read the license at all.

  • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @11:21AM (#20465461) Journal
    With that kind of attitude, we would still all be living in caves.

    Research into quantum physics would have seemed useless with no market value when it was started. However, 50 years later, without that research, there would have been no transistors. How big is the semiconductor market today? 50 years before it even existed, no capitalist could have forseen the use of the research. There is a very good case for researching things that may have no market value for decades.
  • by maubp (303462) on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @11:26AM (#20465539)

    Citation:
    Holliday et al. (2007) MACiE (Mechanism, Annotation and Classification in Enzymes): novel tools for searching catalytic mechanisms. Nucleic Acids Research, 35, Database issue D515-D520. DOI link [doi.org]

    He's right that clicking on the right and getting a quick quote for reproducing the entire article as part of a course pack (print and/or electric) is non zero... BUT, producing a course pack doesn't allways equate to non-commerial in my mind.

    It might part of university course, in which case Peter Murray-Rust seems justified in taking calling this non-commerial (and therefore free under the CC licence used).

    However, the course-pack could be part of a commercial training course for members of the pharma industry - in which case the end user would have to pay the copyright holders.

    The bottom of the quick quote page even EXPLAINS this (cropped in his screen shot):

    If the item you are seeking permission to re-use is labeled OPEN ACCESS ARTICLE then please note that non-commercial reuse of it is according to the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons license. Permission only needs to be obtained for commercial use and can be done via Rightslink. If you have any queries about re-use of content published as part of the Oxford Open program, please contact journals.permissions@oxfordjournals.org.

    What's the big fuss about?

  • by asadodetira (664509) on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @11:28AM (#20465563) Homepage
    "his research is mostly useless from a market perspective".

    That's why research is peer-reviewed y scientists and not marketers. If the market was to decide what's worthy of researching, only narrow areas of immediate commercial interest will be funded. Basic research such as math that's useful to do other research is not immediately useful market-wise, but necessary for overall progress of human knowledge.

  • by asphaltjesus (978804) on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @11:33AM (#20465641)
    let the market economy support what it needs and deny what it doesn't need?

    That's already the case in the pharmaceuticals industry. Supposedly independent academic research has long ago been purchased by drug manufacturers in exchange for the Dean showing a great bottom line.

    Has the cost of medicine in general gone down?

    Is there more access to the medical system?

    What about drugs that cure diseases in countries that can't afford to pay? Do they get the same amount of research as erectile disfunction and mood disorder research?

    Please abandon this kind of thinking. A market-like system creates as many problems as the one it replaces. Only it's more virulent, harms consumers a multitude of ways and benefits a very, very select few. As Microsoft and AT&T have proven, even regulation doesn't shut down a monopoly.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @11:37AM (#20465677)
    Look, Prof. Rust, I hate to break this to you, but you are representing one of the two universities which pretty much singlehandedly produce the lawyers, politicians and civil servants of this country. All productive work that you do goes ultimately toward bolstering the establishment. And the establishment likes the kind of crap exploitative behaviour displayed by publishers.

    If you don't like it - and I wish more scientists and mathematicians didn't - you would distance yourself from Oxbridge, and do what religious dissenters had to do prior to C20: set up their own Universities. Sound daft? Early C19 France's post-revolutionary applied bent brought work from Laplace, Legendre, Galois, Cauchy, et al. publishing in Liouville's Journal de Mathematiques - where the founder was also a prominent author; Germany supplied us with Gauss, Dirichlet, Jacobi, et al. publishing in Crelle's Journal, a lovechild of Crelle and Abel's relationship with the new abstract mathematics; where was Cambridge? Well, Woodhouse's attempts to advance on tutoring of Newton's fluxions by introducing Lagrange's algebra was a miserable failure, the most advanced mathematical textbook was a translation of Lacroix that preceded Cauchy's work at the Ecole in the 1820s, Frend was back to poking fun at the concept of negative numbers (400 years too late, buddy!) for the lack of physical association - and that was before he was thrown out for being OMG a unitarian. Despite De Morgan's "science of symbols" trying to drag Cambridge kicking and screaming to C19 Continental levels of progress (and, hell, the of abstract symbolism was well ranted about by Leibniz 100 years prior), he similarly received the boot for being an OMG heretic!

    The sad thing is that in the first half of C19, England was the backward exception; today, the spirit of revolutionising society by broadening participation in scientific advancement is absent from pretty much the whole of Europe. But I repeat myself. If the best academics, following Laplace, would poke their "spirit of the infinitesimal" into the power-lustful eyes of the contemporary Napoleons, sacrificing a little research time to strengthen the power of the productive as opposed to the administrative, we'd see some progress. (N.B. yes, US readers, I know, putting control in the hands of the workers is socialism and in the hands of the owners of the presses is capitalism blah blah. Whatever. The cold war's over, enough of the witch trials already.)

    And no, putting your faith in a profit-making entity like Google is not the answer, for the businessman giveth and the businessman taketh away; though I expect Google will court academics looking for a less oppressive way to manage the peer review and publishing process.
  • by kebes (861706) on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @11:39AM (#20465707) Journal

    Your tax dollars do not pay for vetting of the paper. Vetting the paper by peers is what still makes this a valuable service.
    This argument comes up every time there is an open-access debate. So allow me to address it, again.

    The authors write the papers, and do not receive any pay from the journal for that. The journal editors then forward the paper to reviewers. The reviewers are volunteers, not paid by the journal. Then the editors forward the paper (if accepted) to a typesetter, and it is published.

    The authors and the reviewers are academics, who basically give their time to the journals. Their salaries come from government grants, from university funds (which come from tuition), and to some extent from corporate collaborations.

    The salaries of the editors and typesetters are paid by the journal subscription charges. The subscriptions come primarily from academic libraries in universities or government research institutes. (Which are, again, funded by government grants and university funds.)

    So, a very large percent of the money flowing into the journal comes from public funds (taxes). Significantly, the peer reviewers are volunteers, with their actual salaries coming largely from public funds. In a very real sense, our tax dollars are indeed paying for vetting the paper. The "valuable service" of which you speak is not performed by the journal, but by the academics (who do not benefit in any way from the toll-access that the journals impose).
  • by darth_linux (778182) on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @11:44AM (#20465767) Homepage
    does private ownership of intellectual property hinder scientific research? Should publicly funded science be required to release findings using creative commons (or other such) license? Does it bother us that a large chunk of DNA research IP is help by private parties?
  • by Technician (215283) on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @12:04PM (#20466075)
    " In the light of this kind of copyright abuse and of the PRISM Coalition, a new FUD group set up by scientific publishers to discredit open access, isn't it time to say enough is enough, and demand free access to the research we pay for through our taxes?"

    Research is one thing. Rules and regulations you have to follow has taken the same road to being expensive. I needed to do some rewireing and wanted to comply with the National Electrical Code. In the past the book was under $20. Now it is expensive far beyond any publishing costs.

    How would you feel if your town took published the standard your were required to follow to legally use the roads, but by the way, the standard drivers manual with the new revisions is now $150

    http://www.constructionbook.com/electrical-codes/? CMP=KNC-Google [constructionbook.com]
    http://www.constructionbook.com/nec-code-2005/ [constructionbook.com]

    Cost of materials for the job $160
    Permit and inspection $192
    Cost of the book $159.95 for the 6th edition.

    This makes the latest Harry Potter hard bound edition look like a bargain compared to this spiral bound paperback. The price of the book is not in any way related to the publishing cost.

    By the way, I passed inspection on first try. I saved paying an electrician $1500.00. I skipped buying the book. I Googled the discussion on the changes proposed to the standard to learn of the changes that I needed to comply.

    It's important legally such as needing to know the legal distance you have to stay back from a responding fire truck. It would suck to have to pay $150 for a drivers manual. Why the heck is the NEC, a required standard selling for over $150?

    Can anybody justify the reasoning for the overpricing of this book by a full order of magnitude? The price of the regulations should not be 1/3 of the cost of a large rewire job.
  • While I agree with your general points, I think there is a valid role for the government in providing services that cannot (or that we don't want) be limited to only those who have paid for them. In economics terms, those goods for while the 'free-rider problem' is hard to solve.

    I think GPS falls into this category. Putting the GPS constellation up was very expensive. Putting it up there, and also building in some capability that made the signal only useful to those who had paid a subscription fee, would have been harder still. (And with a subscription service, I doubt it ever would have become popular enough to pay for itself. I own three GPS units, but I doubt I'd own any if they required a subscription service.) So rather than having no GPS system at all, or a crippled one, you accept that it's something that's useful to society in general and pay for it out of taxes, and allow everyone to use it.

    Obviously this is a dangerous game -- it's easy for corrupt politicians to expand the scope of government if not kept in check constantly -- but there are lots of situations where it's the most efficient and effective solution to a problem, to use public funding.

    The current scientific journal system is beyond corrupt, and needs to die. However, privatizing all scientific research would be a disaster. First, although you would think that corporations (not having any pesky biological lifespan) would take the long view and invest in basic research, for the most part, they don't. The market favors next-quarter gains, not decades- or centuries-long strategy.

    Second, it wouldn't be very healthy to have the majority of our scientific knowledge locked up by corporations who have no interest in it except insofar as it can be monetized or used to gain a competitive advantage. (Hard to put together unified theories when IBM knows half of what's known in a field, Microsoft knows the other half, and they don't speak to each other.) We suffer as a whole, if new discoveries aren't made public. The current academic system (where the currency is basically prestige, rather than cash) encourages dissemination of new discoveries. A more market-driven one would not.

    The market economy is a great thing, but there are some areas in which the outcomes it produces may be non-optimal from the point of view of people actually living in the market. Solving the free-rider problem, either when it's not possible to charge for a good, or you don't want to charge for a good, is one of the legitimate functions of a democratic government.
  • by everphilski (877346) on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @12:39PM (#20466661) Journal
    claiming that your academics will suffer if work has been published in a journal and you don't reference it.

    Your journal submissions / Master's thesis will, regardless of whether you felt this was 'marketing material'. It is very important, if you are going to publish via any mainstream channel, and this includes masters thesis/doctoral dissertation, to consider the literature and cite, cite, cite. Failure to do so can lead to problems down the road, it is no joke.

    The benefit of this is that you gain a better understanding of the state of the knowlege of the scientific community and you can better define and carve out for yourself a problem to tackle as a grad student. Uniqueness is important.
  • by AHumbleOpinion (546848) on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @12:48PM (#20466831) Homepage
    The librarian sounded like he was reading Springer's marketing material to us.

    No, the librarian was passing along the sad truth, not corporate spin. The corporation did not create this situation, they merely leverage it to make a profit, as with any other trend. As noted, the academics have created and brought this upon themselves. Academics are sometimes like pop celebrities, they want to see their name in the *right* places, the fashionable high status places.

    As you begin your study and research be prepared to take part in the big academic pissing contest. Your research will most likely be *directed* by advisors away from your pure interests and spun in a more marketable and fashionable direction. Welcome to the herd. :-)
  • by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @01:22PM (#20467393)
    Try Here [thepiratebay.org].

    When we're considered criminals anyways, why not act like them?

    And who're the real criminals: Those who download "copyrighted works", or those who charge for what we have already paid for?
  • Re:And (Score:3, Insightful)

    by budgenator (254554) on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @02:10PM (#20468105) Journal
    That is not the point, the authors published under the CC-NC license [creativecommons.org], Oxford has no right to distribute the work commercially. By distributing a work that they has no right to distribute Oxford has stolen the work and not only should any of the ill-gotten gains made by Oxford be transfered to the Authors, they maybe entitled to other damages. Oxford maybe liable for criminal or civil damages; it's not a matter of being able to get the article for free, it's a matter that making anyone is illegal; of course IANAL, but if were one of the Authors I'd be calling one.
  • by PDAllen (709106) on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @02:11PM (#20468119)
    Well, it rather depends what you're doing as to whether you need references. I'm a mathematician, so from that POV...

    If your paper starts from the basics that everyone learns in undergrad lectures, builds up to a result and stops, then you probably don't really need to reference anything. Though chances are your paper will be much more readable and useful if you try to explain why your result is interesting, which means discussing other results a little, which means you reference them.

    If you use someone else's results along the way without acknowledging the fact, then you are being exceptionally rude, even if it's clear from context that you're not claiming the result as your own. If it's not clear (e.g. if you include a proof) then it will look like you're plagiarising. Since you're early on in your, career, let me try to help. If you want to continue in academia, you will need to convince someone to give you a job. If you write a paper which doesn't acknowledge results it uses, then you had better hope that not many people read it, or you will never get a job.

    If you use someone else's results and name them but don't give a reference, then you are being deliberately unhelpful to your readers. Some of them will want to check those results, you presumably know which papers those results were in (since you're using them) and it's not exactly hard to get journal issue and page numbers off citeseer when you know what you're looking for. When you don't, it can be a real pain. This won't kill any chance of a job, but it will make you unpopular.

    If you really do not like journals, then you can publish in the ArXiV (or similar). You can stick stuff on your website. You can reference the ArXiV. You can reference other people's websites (though that's risky: websites change). A few people do do these things (and many people stick stuff in the ArXiV or on a website as well as submitting to a journal). That said, at least in the UK your department gets funding by getting a good score in the research assessment exercise. To get a good RAE score you need your staff to be publishing 'good papers'. And the way that is measured is that each member of staff submits his best papers since the last RAE, which are given a score according to the quality of the journals they were published in. No-one actually reads the papers to see if they really are good or not, they go by if it's in Combinatorica then it's good (generally true), if it's in Discrete Math then it's not so good (usually true, but of course DM won't reject a really good paper that would get into Combinatorica), if it's just in the ArXiV then it barely counts (although e.g. Perelman put his proof of Poincare's conjecture straight into the ArXiV without submitting it to any journal - it does happen).
  • by UserGoogol (623581) on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @03:44PM (#20469441)
    Because the whole fucking point of science is that it studies the pointless stuff too. If science was funded merely by the free market, science funding would be skewed towards researching practical stuff, which would leave abstract theoretical stuff that doesn't produce practical results for hundreds of years forced to beg for money, and that would force science to become hopelessly myopic. Science is not merely the servant of the economy, doing the grunt work of pure research so that people can go invent and create great things, science is an end in itself.

    Furthermore, "stealing from people" to fund science is more justified than "stealing from people" to fund police. Providing a police service only benefits some people; criminals for instance are harmed by police, (or, for that matter, by people defending themselves independently) and that's not nice. Science, to contrast, benefits everyone, whether they directly partake of science or not.

    Perhaps government funding allows science to be a bit less efficient by allowing them to get money even if they don't get results. BUT IF SO, THAT IS A GOOD THING. Science is by design inefficient. You look at some data, you create a hypothesis, and then you test it over and over again until you find out that it's false. Even the most obvious theories might end up being wrong, and thus they should be tested. This is insanely inefficient, but fuck efficiency. Science is the most important thing in the universe.

    Also, the free market can only give us what we want, since it's based on voluntary transactions between people. It is fairly often the case that as science advances, we find out that something we didn't really think we wanted is, in fact, fucking awesome. In order for life to get better, we need the government to "steal people's money" and invest in crapshoots.
  • Re:And (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mrchaotica (681592) * on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @02:12AM (#20475801)

    By distributing a work that they has no right to distribute Oxford has stolen the work...

    No, Oxford has copyright-infringed the work. "Stealing" and "copyright infringment" still aren't the same thing, even though the "good guys" are on the opposite side than usual this time. We've gotta be consistent, you know -- it's only fair.

  • by PDAllen (709106) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @03:36AM (#20476271)
    Two points. One, I said the UK funding body rates papers on the basis of which journal they're in. Professional mathematicians don't, generally: there are one or two journals around which don't actually peer-review properly, so you aren't likely to read them (anything there is very likely to be either very boring or wrong, and life is too short to spend time on that). Otherwise, you usually judge by the title and maybe abstract whether it's worth spending time having a look, then you read the introduction and maybe skim the rest. You don't generally spend too much time reading in detail until you need to. And of course you can find title and abstract for anything in a bunch of places.

    Two, if you know what you're looking for, and it was written any time this millennium, you have a pretty good chance of finding it by searching the web. Most people do put their stuff up. For an example, take the Journal of Combinatorial Theory B (another top-level journal, published by Elsevier). It has the usual Elsevier notice about submissions being published elsewhere. But if you look at the titles, then you still find a lot are on websites, usually on authors' homepages.

    There are two reasons to publish in a journal. One, funding bodies often use journals to rank academics (and departments funded by such bodies will have to do the same to some extent, because they need money). Two, more people will hear about your stuff if it's in a good journal. Not in fact a lot more, but some. Mostly people who want to know about your stuff will find out by checking your website (if they really like you), by listening to a conference talk (you probably give several in a year), by word of mouth or Google searches (if someone wants to work on the same topic as your paper they probably will find it), by skimming the arxiv submissions (if you put it there, a lot of people will check the recent titles about once a week, even if they don't open the articles most of the time) and failing that then after the standard publishing delay (12-30 months, depending) if it appears in a journal there's another chance to be seen by someone skimming the journal's latest issues. And you do want people to read your stuff (if it's good). Because when you apply for a job, you'll come with your best papers and talk about them. If the people in the department have never heard of you, you hope that there's someone in the department who's willing to spend a lot of time reading your papers and that person is interested in the area, or alternatively you produce a really brilliant presentation. Often everyone's busy interviewing six other candidates, teaching and doing their own research. If you show up and one of your interviewers has already read some of your papers, then you don't have to do a brilliant job of compressing three years of research into a twenty minute why-I-am-interesting presentation. A department will usually reject the unheard-of guy with a good presentation in favour of the guy with a decent presentation but where someone already in the department can stand up and say, I know this guy's work and it's good.
  • Re:And (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mrchaotica (681592) * on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @06:47AM (#20477235)

    The theft is the theft of the right to distribute...

    Right, except that "rights" (or rather in this case, permissions issued by the government) aren't physical objects and can't be stolen. Thus, misappropriation of distribution rights is instead called "copyright infringment."

    Besides, they are fundamentally different things, you know: in one case, the owner is physically deprived of a particular physical instance of a thing. In the other, the copyright holder (note: the word "owner" is inappropriate here) is not deprived of anything at all, but the perpetrator overcomes a prohibition. While "stealing" is empirically and unequivocably wrong -- since the thief gains exactly as much as the rightful owner loses it's a zero-sum game, and thus the owner should retain his claim to ownership -- the ethics of "copyright infringment" are up for debate. In a sense, the copyright holder loses nothing while the infringer gains: a net benefit and a boon for society. However, as a society we've chosen to discourage it on the theory that giving the copyright holder exclusive distribution privilages encourages the creation of new works (a dubious assumption given the excessive duration of copyright; this logic made much more sense when an artist couldn't expect to fund an entire estate on the residuals).

    Anyway, the point is that "theft" and "copyright infringment" are two very different things. This is a fact, and an issue of legal definition. Regardless of your opinion or moral position, it's not negotiable. Period. (Am I making myself clear?) To conflate them only indicates to me that you either don't understand the issue, or are trying to use inflammatory language to make an (entirely worthless) appeal to emotion instead of arguing rationally. Neither is helpful, so please quit using the wrong word!

The use of anthropomorphic terminology when dealing with computing systems is a symptom of professional immaturity. -- Edsger Dijkstra

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