Scientists in multiple nations might be forced to turn to piracy in order to maintain their research in 2017, and bitcoin is helping to make it possible.
Scientists Increasingly Call For Open Access
Access to journals from Dutch publishing giant Elsevier was cut December 31 for scientists in Germany, Peru and Taiwan. Contract negotiations broke down in Germany and Taiwan, while Peru’s government cut funding for the license. Elsevier filed a lawsuit in June against the bitcoin donation accepting Sci-Hub.io.
“It’s very unpleasant,” details Horst Hippler, a spokesperson for DEAL consortium, a group of state-funded universities and institutions overseeing German contract negotiations. “But, we just cannot accept what Elsevier has proposed so far.” DEAL wants German-authored articles to be open access.
“Taxpayers have a right to read what they are paying for,” says Hippler. “Publishers must understand that the route to open-access publishing at an affordable price is irreversible.” More than 60 German institutions lost access at the end of 2016.
14 universities in the Netherlands raised concerns they would boycott Elsevier if the leading provider of scientific and technical information refused to make Dutch works Open Access, a publishing protocol based on no restrictions. The compromise resolved that 30% of Dutch papers would be open access by 2018. A Finnish group in December settled for a one-year extension after failing to reach an agreement.
75% of Japanese universities have boycotted Elsevier, says National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (NTUST). CONCERT, representing more than Japanese 140 institutions, announced December 7 it would not renew its contract, citing high fees.
Peru-based researchers will lose access due to funding cuts. “I’m not worried. Downloading papers is rather easy now with Sci-Hub,” a plant biologist, who wished to remain anonymous, told Nature.com.
Many researchers hold misgivings about turning indefinitely to illicit means for procuring papers, though many authors themselves make their papers accessible without cost.
Bitcoin Makes Open Access to Information Possible
Sci-Hub dubs itself “the first pirate website in the world to provide mass and public access to research papers.” It’s fueled by bitcoin donations.
A New York district court ruled October 28, 2016, that services like Sci-Hub and the Library Genesis Project are in violation of US copyright law. The suit was brought by Elsevier in June against the site operators for unlawful distribution of copyrighted works. The site, which works also as a Tor hidden service, was forced to move to a new provider after the injunction.
Sci-Hub founder, Russian-based Alexandra Elbakyan, is a former neuroscientist born and raised in Kazakhstan. Ms. Elbakyan, who goes by the online moniker ‘ringo-ring,’ could face legal repercussions in the US. Global internet services can face legal repercussions in the US when it serving US citizens.
“Sci-Hub’s and Libgen’s scheme to reproduce and distribute copyrighted works poses a significant threat to book and journal publishing and to authors and scholarly societies reliant on the royalties derived from sales and subscription income,” claimed the Washington DC-based Association of American Publishers (AAP).
Sci-Hub repository houses approximately 58 million papers. Online since September 2011, the site openly advocates for the “cancellation” of intellectual property and copyright laws on scientific and education resources.
Critics of Sci-Hub’s methods say that multinational, corporate publishers like Elsevier will not be hurt by such piracy, but, rather small scholarly societies and non-profits. Ms. Elkabyan disagrees.
“The problem are paywalls, and Sci-Hub is a tool that solves this problem,” Ms. Elkabyan wrote on her blog, enginuering.
She adds: “Before Sci-Hub, all research on a massive scale was closed behind paywalls, and now anyone can access it! It will be impossible to shut down the website completely, so that change is forever…[T]he effect of long-term operation of Sci-Hub will be that publishers change their publishing models to support Open Access…”
Ms. Elkabyan refers to Sci-Hub as a ‘non-profit.’ The repository has received more than 78 bitcoins to its current public donation address, according to Blockchain.info. That’s more than $75,000 at current market value.
What do you think about Sci-Hub.io? Is it piracy? Is it freedom? Let us know in the comments below.
Images courtesy of Sci-Hub.io.
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