JSTOR die Zweite. Nach der Anklage gegen Aaron Swartz und in direkter Reaktion darauf hat Greg Maxwell 18.592 bisher von JSTOR hinter Schloss und Riegel gehaltene wissenschaftliche Dokumente in Pirate Bay, den BitTorrent-Tracker der schwedischen Piratenpartei, eingestellt. Er erläutert dies in einem ausführlichen Begleitschreiben (hier gekürzt):
Limited access to the documents here is typically sold for $19 USD per article, though some of the older ones are available as cheaply as $8. Purchasing access to this collection one article at a time would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Academic publishing is an odd systemΓΓé¼ΓÇ¥the authors [sic!] are not paid for their writing, nor are the peer reviewers (they’re just more unpaid academics), and in some fields even the journal editors are unpaid. Sometimes the authors must even pay the publishers.
And yet scientific publications are some of the most outrageously expensive pieces of literature you can buy. In the past, the high access fees supported the costly mechanical reproduction of niche paper journals, but online distribution has mostly made this function obsolete.
As far as I can tell, the money paid for access today serves little significant purpose except to perpetuate dead business models. The “publish or perish” pressure in academia gives the authors an impossibly weak negotiating position, and the existing system has enormous inertia.
Those with the most power to change the system–the long-tenured luminary scholars whose works give legitimacy and prestige to the journals, rather than the other way around–are the least impacted by its failures. They are supported by institutions who invisibly provide access to all of the resources they need. And as the journals depend on them, they may ask for alterations to the standard contract without risking their career on the loss of a publication offer. Many don’t even realize the extent to
which academic work is inaccessible to the general public, nor do they realize what sort of work is being done outside universities that would benefit by it.
Large publishers are now able to purchase the political clout needed to abuse the narrow commercial scope of copyright protection, extending it to completely inapplicable areas: slavish reproductions of historic documents and art, for example, and exploiting the labors of unpaid scientists. They’re even able to make the taxpayers pay for their attacks on free society by pursuing criminal prosecution (copyright has classically been a civil matter) and by burdening public institutions with outrageous subscription fees.
Copyright is a legal fiction representing a narrow compromise: we give up some of our natural right to exchange information in exchange for creating an economic incentive to author, so that we may all enjoy more works. When publishers abuse the system to prop up their existence, when they misrepresent the extent of copyright coverage, when they use threats of frivolous litigation to suppress the dissemination of publicly owned works, they are stealing from everyone else.
The documents are part of the shared heritage of all mankind, and are rightfully in the public domain, but they are not available freely. Instead the articles are available at $19 each–for one month’s viewing, by one person, on one computer. It’s a steal. From you.
The liberal dissemination of knowledge is essential to scientific inquiry. More than in any other area, the application of restrictive copyright is inappropriate for academic works: there is no sticky question of how to pay authors or reviewers, as the publishers are already not paying them. And unlike ‘mere’ works of entertainment, liberal access to scientific work impacts the well-being of all mankind. Our continued survival may even depend on it.
Greg Maxwell würde sich freuen, wenn er von Erkenntnissen hört, die durch den befreiten Textkorpus entstanden sind. Und er hat sich dazu entschieden, dies Veröffentlichung unter seinem Namen zu machen, damit sie nicht Aaron Swartz angelastet werden kann.
Bild: CC: BY-NC-ND von Helen K