Sci-Hub and my personal position on legality 6/n

I have just blogged on the legal aspects of ContentMining:

https://blogs.ch.cam.ac.uk/pmr/2016/05/06/sci-hub-and-legal-aspects-of-contentmining/ (which also contains links to previous blogs.

These are general considerations but also relevant to the current issue of Sci Hub.

I am now going to set out my personal position and, where it impacts legally or organizationally , on how TheContentMine might behave. I am not going to impose any other non-legal requirement on my colleagues. In a non-ContentMine scenario they can think and act however they feel best.

When I came to Cambridge, ca 17 years ago I was in love with Universities. My first job was Assistant Lecturer at the University of Ghana when I was 22 years old (sic). My first UK job was 4 years later at the new University of Stirling. I helped build the University. It was wonderful and I loved it and have pride in what I helped with. After my time at Glaxo I moved to a part-time chair at the University of Nottingham to set up virtual science education and thence to Cambridge to a new Centre. I threw my heart into it.  I love all of them. I love the people.

But the system is getting worse. And one of the causes, or symptoms, is scholarly publishing. When I started this blog – almost 10 years ago – I was starry-eyed about the possibilities. I was going to build an artificially intelligent computer. It would have the chemical intelligence of a first year undergraduate. But – since much “intelligence” is based on knowledge – it needed knowledge in chemistry journals “published” by “publishers”. And they have completely failed me. I spend my days as a reformer as well as – hopefully – an innovator.

So I have been dissatisfied with scholarly publishing for about 10 years.

  • I’ve tried to change it constructively. Working with publishers. Little or no interest.
  • I’ve tried to get scientists interested. Little or no interest.
  • I’ve tried to get libraries involved. Little or no interest.
  • I’ve got some funding. Mainly JISC and M$. No one interested in the output.

… it’s clear that trying to do things through conventional university channels will take longer than my lifetime.
So what do I do?

  • I keep buggering on (W.S.Churchill). This issue is too important to drop.
  • I appeal to the non-academic world.
  • I build stuff. Stuff is wonderful.

And I think like a revolutionary.

How can I and others change the world?

It’s clear that laws and practice are broken. Copyright is being used to muzzle speech and creativity, not create it. Universities chase glory rather than public good.

I’ve got two main options:

  • Work within the law
  • Work outside the law

Both can be effective, and both can be ineffective. And reformers sometimes move from one to the other.

But you can’t do both at once.

There is a balance between the state and the individual. If you want the state to change the law then the state should respect the individual (e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Due_process ) and the individual should respect the state. This happened in UK in 2012 when the government asked for views on Copyright reform. They were prepared to listen to anyone – citizens, universities, publishers, etc. This is a fair and balanced approach – Government listens to everyone, makes a balanced decision through the Civil Service, recommends it to parliament (in this case the House of Lords), takes further amendments, asks for a vote and it passes into law (or at least a Statutory Instrument).

It’s a fair process. It’s democracy. Yes,  democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others (WSC). I wish the result had allowed commercial mining. Others with the SI hadn’t been passed at all. But I accept it.

But the publishers have not accepted the result.

They have been using other methods to make it harder to use the law. These include lobbyists, disinformation and technical barriers. These are probably legal, but unethical and immoral. They have been spreading disinformation. This isn’t just my judgment, it’s Julia Reda MEP’s and many other policy makers. She’s had 80 offers to dinner in the first week after her report. She’s been fed information which may be possibly at variance with reality. Not l**s but https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terminological_inexactitudes or  those https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economical_with_the_truth .

That’s why we worked to make ContentMine runnable by any MEP. And why Rik SU is building a GUI for it. So that Julia and her colleagues can challenge any assertions.

This is very sad. The Hargreaves SI was passed. The publishers fought in Europe to require miners to get permissions through licences (“Licences for Europe”). It was a standoff. Publishers are still trying to get libraries and academics to sign licences rather than accept Hargreaves.

What should I do?

In 2013 I thought that very few people understood what mining was about. So I was delighted that Shuttleworth offered me a Fellowship. I was delighted that I can continue to use University resources. I was delighted that I could build a system and devote my “retirement” to getting the practice of mining adopted by everyone.

Not just academics, but citizens. Taxi-drivers. Patients, planners…

But the publishers have made it very hard. And there is massive lobbying against legal reform in Brussels. The new phraseology “by Public Interest Research Organizations” is almost meaningless. It’s sufficiently frightening that very few will actually do it.

And currently I’m the only person in Europe doing legal content-mining (unless you tell me different).

And that’s a minor success for the Luddites in the publishing industry. They’ve frightened people (I’ve talked with some), bewildered others, offered no technical support.

So I have to make the decision.

  • Work within the law
  • Work without the law

I do not like breaking the law, I wouldn’t ask anyone else to, and in addition:

  • My funders expect me to work within the law. The project is to develop mining tools, strategy, policy, practice that will convince lawmakers
  • My University requires me to work within the law
  • The politicians that I talk to in UK and Brussels expect me to work within the law.

You can’t break the law just-a-little. So I’m not breaking it at all.

The downside is that the law we have in UK, and the law we might have some-time-in-Europe is very restrictive. I’m pioneering it to see what use it can be and where it needs enlarging. I can only do this if I am legal. I can say to lawmakers:
“It’s working here  but failing here and here and here and…”

It’s not what I want, but it’s the bargain that I make with legislation.

And in addition I work with other legal groups such as Open Forum Europe to help and be helped in getting legal progress.

History will decide whether trying to stop progress has been successful…

… or whether ContentMine has made a difference.

A commentary on Sci-Hub: 3/n Legal aspects

Previous:

https://blogs.ch.cam.ac.uk/pmr/2016/04/30/a-commentary-on-sci-hub-1-scholarly-publishing-is-broken/

https://blogs.ch.cam.ac.uk/pmr/2016/04/30/a-commentary-on-sci-hub-2n-why-it-matters-to-me-and-contentmine/

It’s impossible to discuss Sci-Hub without discussing legal aspects. Unfortunately these are complex and highly varied, so it is impossible to give simple clear answers. On one hand many claim that this is a criminal (or near criminal) activity and She-who-must-not-be-named should be incarcerated or worse;  others including Aleksandra herself claim that what she is doing is her (and our) right and is therefore not illegal.

Now I am not a lawyer (IANAL) but I have talked to lawyers about this and talked to legal academics and talked with people who are authorities and

… and PLEASE correct anything I get wrong and …

The simple answer is that no-one can give a definite answer about the law. And I will deliberately try to avoid giving anything definite. A competent lawyer will advise about the risks and the client has to decide whether they are worth taking.

Then there are many laws involved. And many jurisdictions. What is illegal in US might not be illegal on some Pacific islands or even in Kazahkstan. And copyright alone is fiendishly complicated.
Criminal as well as civil law may be involved. It’s not just about copyright. It’s also potentially about The US Computer_Fraud_and_Abuse_Act . That’s the Act under which Aaron Swartz was indicated – a criminal, not a civil case. That means Aaron could have been sent to jail – and there were demands for a 35-year sentence… for downloading academic articles.

And most relevantly, incitement to break the law is, in itself, a crime in many jurisdictions. I have been advised that those who support Sci-Hub and urge its use could be prosecuted for this incitement and could be jailed.

People have been asking questions about using Sci-hub and ContentMine on Twitter,  such as:

  • “We need a definite answer soon”. Well, you are unlikely to get one.
  • “If we re-use facts extracted from Sci-hub content, they are uncopyrightable, right?”. Even if true, you might be breaking CFAA or other laws.
  • “X  used facts which Y had extracted from an ‘illegal’ scrape and so X is OK even if Y isn’t”. I would be very unhappy with this reasoning.

So the simple answer is that Peter Murray-Rust and ContentMine colleagues are not going to pronounce on these questions, nor are they going to deliberately or knowingly break the law. I will write a further blog post on what I am going to do.

Note that ContentMine software is offered under the permissive Apache2 licence and is owned by the Shuttleworth Foundation. Like other permissive licences https://opensource.org/osd-annotated there is no restriction on fields of endeavour. Therefore if someone wishes to use ContentMine software with Sci-Hub content the licence does not restrict this (other laws might).

I’ll be happy to add more to this post if other feel there are omissions or errors. But I may not feel myself able to answer questions, for reasons given above.

There’s a useful commentary on both the politics and legality of Sci-Hub which may be useful (some extracts)

http://tkbr.publishing.sfu.ca/pub800/2016/03/getting-the-sci-hub-story-straight/

Leaving aside how they obtain the credentials, the fact remains that the process violates copyright. In November 2015, a New York District Court granted an injunction against Sci-Hub, LibGen and several other sites in response to a complaint from Elsevier, ordering them to stop offering access to infringing content and suspending their domain names. The Judge in the case stated that “the balance of hardships clearly tips in favor of the Plaintiffs. Elsevier has shown that it is likely to succeed on the merits, and that it continues to suffer irreparable harm due to the Defendants’ making its copyrighted material available for free” (8)

And

Furthermore, human rights are generally considered to be enforceable against a State, not private entities. This means that a case attempting to defend Sci-Hub on the basis of article 27  would likely need to be brought against a government, presumably the US, instead of the publishers, and be aimed at radically altering their copyright law.

Copyright is considered an intellectual property right (9), and article 17 of the UNDHR states that (1) everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others and that (2) no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property. It is therefore arguable that article 17 protects rights-holders and their right to enforce copyright.  Elbakayan would need to establish that her users’ article 27 rights overrode or were more important than copyright-holders’ article 17 rights.

PMR>

Interacting with Sci-Hub may, therefore, bring me into conflict with the law, probably US law. I have written earlier about where it is morally legitimate, and in some cases morally imperative, to break the law (“civil disobedience”).

https://blogs.ch.cam.ac.uk/pmr/2011/07/27/what-is-civil-disobedience/

There are many cases in British law and elsewhere , where civil disobedience has led to reform, often with the campaigners being first found guilty and often jailed. The history of independence movements is marked by imprisonment.

Most relevantly, the “Right to Roam” movement, which inspired my mantra “The Right to Read is the Right to Mine”, was only won after imprisonments.

https://blogs.ch.cam.ac.uk/pmr/2007/09/04/the-right-to-roam-and-the-right-to-read-should-we-use-civil-disobedience/

Currently I am fighting for the  “Right to Mine” through legal and political means (and optimistically that we will get positive help from some publishers).  At present I am scrupulously trying to avoid, even inadvertently, breaking the law. I will explain why in the next blog.

A commentary on Sci-hub: 2/n. Why it matters to me and ContentMine

In my previous post , catalyzed by Sci-Hub, https://blogs.ch.cam.ac.uk/pmr/2016/04/30/a-commentary-on-sci-hub-1-scholarly-publishing-is-broken/ I argued that scholarly publishing is completely broken. It’s now lost a huge amount of respect, it’s unwieldly, unfair and mired in bickering. It pays no attention to readers. It’s becoming a write-only system where authors write not to communicate but for glory – self advancement. There’s no clear political goal …

… and no clear technological goal.

And that’s the problem.

Because we desperately need the ability to search and analyze the scientific and medical literature in a 21stC manner.  While we’ve been creating our http://contentmine.org we’ve discovered many researchers who have to “read” 10,000 papers in a day or two. They use 20thC methods – click and read – taking weeks where they should take hours. ContentMine software (completely Open) has been built to solve this problem by filtering out the papers you don’t want – often 90% of the first search. (and it does much more – it can extract complex objects). It’s Open to everyone and it works (see previous posts).

When I came to Cambridge I had the vision of building an “artificially intelligent chemical reader” part of which was the  World_Wide_Molecular_Matrix a system for capturing and sharing versioned semantic chemistry. Bits of it are being built in ContentMine . I built systems where I could draw chemical formulae by speaking to the machine. We’ve built the de facto tool for chemical name recognition (OSCAR) and interpretation (OPSIN). I thought it would take 5 years to create my chemical amanuensis – scholarly assistant. With help from the publishers and scientists it probably would have. Now, after 15 years, it’s still a dream, frustrated by stagnant thinking on all sides, and deliberate opposition (e.g. nullifying European legislation).

So Stackoverflow, Github, Bitbucket, Apache, GNU, Jenkins, OuterCurve, Mozilla and many others are creating the human-machine technology of tomorrow. This encourages innovation from predictable and unpredictable sources. It works – it’s exciting and we are all part of it.

In contrast the Scholarly publishing industry has created nothing in the last 20 years. (The Scholarly Kitchen hailed the “big deal” (a pricing strategy to increase sales) as one of the greatest achievements of schol pub).

20 billion dollars per year – that’s 200 billion since I started at Cambridge – and nothing positive to show for it.

The current technology of the mainstream publishing industry is just awful. Really awful. It’s often built by outsourcing parts to people and companies who do not care how the result is used. The methods used – awful PDF and really awful HTML – are for the publisher’s convenience , not for the reader. And every publishers complains about how awful the tools are. They can’t change, they can’t innovate, they’re locked in. Add that every publisher feels they have to use a different technology to differentiate themselves from the others and it’s a complete tower of Babel. (I have spent 2 years of my life trying to solve this awful mess – and ContentMine can untangle a good deal.)

What’s even worse is that most of the publishers spend effort on STOPPING people reading the literature. The obstacles to getting to a paper grow every month. These include (from my own experience):

  • Deliberately bad PDFs.
  • Pixel maps rather than characters.
  • “Glass screens” that can’t be copied (Readcube from Nature/Springer).
  • Captchas to stop readers after 25 papers (Wiley, i.e. 400 Captchas for a literature review).
  • Monitoring every download and requiring libraries to stop researchers. (Elsevier, Wiley).
  • Automatically cutting off 200 universities for a single click (Amer. Chem Society).

Why does this matter?

Because there is so much we are missing out on. New medicinal knowledge, new ecology, new astronomy, materials, chemical reactions, … and innovation…

I should be able to ask a computer (in speech):

“Find me all chemical compounds that occur in Lantana species south of the Wallace line and compare their chemical and plant evolution. What types of compound might we see in the future, particularly due to invasive species?”

And get a result in minutes… it’s not as hard as it looks. It’s knowledge-driven science.

(Sadly All I WILL get in minutes is a cease-and-desist letter from publishers demanding that I shouldn’t “steal their content”.)

So because we cannot innovate in this area we are 20 years behind the mainstream.

So why do I want Sci-hub? (Note carefully that I haven’t said what I am going to do and, until I do, you cannot judge my intention. I haven’t said I’m going to use it. You’ll have to wait till the next blog post).

I want Sci-hub because it’s technically BETTER than anything else we have. Much better.

And it’s the perfect complement to ContentMine.

Sci-hub has all the world’s scientific knowledge in one logical place. It doesn’t matter that it’s spread over Torrents and other fragmentation – logically it’s all there. And it’s run by someone who knows what she’s doing technically – unlike many publisher sites. And, I assume, she and colleagues will be receptive to technical requests and suggestions. (No one has any chance of getting conventional publishes to innovate).

Using Sci-hub would advance my and ContentMine technology enormously. ContentMine and Sci-hub fit together perfectly – because they are both designed with the 21stC mentality. Because they react to what readers want. Yes, READERS; the marginalised community of scholarly publishing. 21stC projects create a community round them. They are organic and vibrant. They respect machines and humans equally.

ContentMine + Sci-hub could be the greatest search engine in scholarship, especially for science, technology and medicine. Because it’s semantic. Because all the literature is trivially accessible in one place and one format. I don’t know of anything that remotely comes close. We can search and index diagrams – extract 15 million chemical reactions a year. (Even if a publisher tried to develop it they could only use it on “their own” content.)

BUT! BUT! BUT!

But for many, including the law, Sci-hub is forbidden fruit.  Run by She-who-must-not-be-named. The arch-pirate. The criminal. (These terms are used). Peter Murray-Rust cannot use it (and I haven’t). ContentMine cannot mine it (and we won’t). We’ve looked at the legal and political aspects and I’ll analyse these in a subsequent post.

But 21stCCitizens – me, ContentMine, taxi-drivers really really want Sci-Hub.

The only things stopping us are copyright law, prosecutors and an intransigent, uncaring, out-of-touch, money-driven and self-seeking publisher-academic complex.

I’ll deal with the politico-legal in the next post.

A commentary on Sci-hub: 1. Scholarly publishing is broken

Many of you will already have read of Science Magazine’s account of Sci-Hub, the “pirate” site for scholarly publications. “Science” is often seen as one to the “top three” outlets, along with Nature and Cell. Here’s the original:

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/04/whos-downloading-pirated-papers-everyone

And here’s a typical commentary which applauds the research in the article but criticizes the accompanying editorial showing that Science has an ethically flawed business model.

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2016/04/science_magazine_can_t_defend_its_flawed_business_model.html

This (and following) blog is one of the most important I have written, and I shall choose words carefully. I shall include facts, opinions, and what I intend to do and not do, and why. I am always open to criticism and try to be polite and constructive. My message is already spreading to more than one posting. This one sets the scene.

This blog is nearly 10 years old. I’d like to believe that I have tried to help make scholarly publishing fit for the 21st Century (C21). I’ve seen Tim Berners-Lee’s vision of the semantic web for scholarship – I was there in CERN in 1994 – and it made sense then and even more so now. I (“I” includes many collaborators, but I use”I” to make it clear that the views here are mine and mine alone. Special Thanks to Henry Rzepa, my wonderful ex-group in Cambridge, Open Knowledge, ContentMine, Blue Obelisk, Crystallography Open Data Base (COD),  librarians in Cambridge and others. Please accept this pronoun).

I write and use Computer Programs.

  • I write programs and deposit them in Github/Apache/OuterCurve/BitBucket, etc.. People use them, build on them and acknowledge me. I’ll use “Github” as a generic pointer.
  • Others write programs and reposit in Github. I use them and build on them and I acknowledge them.
  • I offer constructive criticism.
  • I ask questions on Stackoverflow and I also answer them.
  • I’ve set up the Blue Obelisk where chemists can commit programs, make them interoperable.

This represents the pinnacle of what is possible in C21, with very modest/no funding and a collaborative intent. It works. It makes my heart soar. It’s wonderful. I’m proud to be a small part of it. Everyone wins.

There’s a similar ethos in Wiki/pedia/media/data. (“Wikipedia”).  Everyone can be a Wikipedian – all you need is to do it.

  • I have used Wikipedia for enhancing my knowledge and have contributed my knowledge to it.
  • I have used systems built by Wikipedians and I have contributed systems for use.
  • I have been to Wikipedia meetings, worked with the Wikipedians.
  • I promote Wikipedia.

I have been on the Advisory Board of Open Knowledge Foundation since it started. I have used OKF resources. I have contributed to them.

And so on… groups that I use and would contribute to if I had the time

  • Open Streetmap
  • Geograph
  • Open Corporates
  • MySociety
  • Mozilla

Most of these are cash-starved, and find innovative ways to generate enough income to make their primary products free and Open. (“Open” == “Free to use, free to re-use, free to re-distribute”, “Free as in speech”, “Free as in liberty”).

The C21 makes the sharing knowledge communities possible. It’s very very wonderful. If you don’t understand what I am saying then maybe you have to try it. Contribute to Wikipedia, add a photo to Geograph, “Write to Them” to your MEPs, FOI with “What do They Know”.

And you can start to be a C21 citizen at a very early age. The knowledge century is a wonderful place to live.

BUT…
Sadly …

Scholarly publishing in the 21st Century (C21) is completely broken

It’s a 20 Billion USD industry.

That’s

$20,000,000,000

of citizens’ money

It’s probably 1000 times more money than the average project mentioned above. Maybe even more.

So how is it broken? (If you know and love Github or Stackoverflow use them as a comparison of the wonderful against the broken). I am not going to apportion blame to publishers, libraries, authors, funders. They have all, wittingly or unwittingly contributed to one of the most dysfunctional knowledge systems on the planet.

And it matters. It’s not just money. It’s:

 

  • Human lives. I coined the phrase “Closed Access Means People Die”. I have been attacked for it. If it makes you feel more comfortable “Open Knowledge saves lives”.

  • The planet. To work out what is going to happen from anthropogenic (“human-made”) change of all sorts we need as much knowledge as possible. We are being deprived of it.
  • Citizens. It’s an unacceptably divisive system. Only 1% of the UK population (those in universities) are involved. Most of those are passive. They get told what to do. Citizens – doctors, teachers, politicians, businesses, taxi-drivers are excluded. Yes! Until taxi-drivers have a right to be involved in scholarship we are a divisive society.
  • Values. It’s distorting values. Ask a librarian/researcher/administrator why scientific publications should be free to everyone and you’ll probably get:

1. “The Funders require it”.

2. “You’ll get more citations if you publish Open Access”.

The moral and ethical imperative (“we have a responsibility to make knowledge free to everyone”) often isn’t mentioned.

  • Community.  For me “Open” is not primarily about money, it’s about working together, and being transparent.

… and in detail …

  • It’s criminally expensive. Publishers receive ca $5000 for each paper. It’s largely public or personal (e.g. student fees) money. It actually costs around $300 (administration: reviewers don’t get paid, authors don’t get paid). Maximum. Many people publish for $0 and give their time and marginal resources. That money could be used for research, could be used for teaching. The amounts spent on journal subscriptions in the UK (ca $1billion/year is similar to the cost of postgraduate education).
  • It’s criminally inefficient. Much of the work is carried out by humans when C21 systems could do the same for 5% of the cost. Stackoverflow manages 10 million questions.
  • It’s criminally slow. Some papers take years to appear. Postings to repositories take fractions of a second. The great Physics/Maths site arxiv can do this. But many publishers take years to publish a paper.
  • It’s elitist and probably corrupt. It stresses “top” journals. I am all for public competition and the best winning, but this isn’t that. It favours “top” institutions (I heard of one large research org that negotiates with a “top” publisher on how many papers they are allowed per year – before the work is done).
  • It destroys the real purpose of publication. I believe that science requires that you tell the world (not an elite) – fully (not in summary):
    • What you did
    • Who did it
    • Why you did it
    • How you did it (verification and re-use)
    • When you did it
    • Where you did it
    • what you discovered (or didn’t discover)

And invite the world to confirm/refute/help/criticize continually and continuously. Some competition is valuable. But competition has now become an end in itself and is destroying the other values.

I am involved in trying to bring these ideas into scholarly publishing. I have very largely been unsuccessful, when measured against the other Open activities where I have ben able to help create the C21 knowledge community.

  • I’ve developed semantics for chemistry (Chemical Markup Language, CML). Chemists, chemical publishers, universities ignore this.
  • I’ve developed open data bases (CrystalEye/COD). Publishers and universities ignore these.
  • I’ve prototyped semantic publication . Ignored.
  • I’ve pushed for a fully Open community of scientific scholarship. The Blue Obelisk. Ignored.
  • We’ve developed new tools for University Libraries. (Open Bibliography and BibJSON). Ignored.
  • I’ve campaigned for reform of Copyright. Ignored by academia and publishers
  • I’ve developed tools for using machines to help everyone read the scholarly literature. Active opposition.

Everyone blames everyone else. Some suffer, some get super-rich. Everyone is losing out.

It must change. Completely. If not from within, then from without.

Sci-Hub is one of the external factors that could change scholarly publishing.

Completely.

Content-mining; Why do Universities agree to restrictive publisher contracts?

[I published a general blog about the impasse between digital scholars and the Toll-Access publishers http://blogs.ch.cam.ac.uk/pmr/2015/11/22/content-mining-rights-versus-licences/ . This is followed by a series of detailed posts which look at the details and consequences


This is the second]

If you have read these earlier posts you will know that the issue is whether I and others are allowed to use machines to read publications we have legal access to read with our eyes.

The (simplified) paradigm for Content-mining scholarly articles consists of:

  • finding links to papers (articles) we may be interested in (“crawling”). The papers may be on publishers web sites (visible or behind paywall) or in repositories (visible). Most of this relates to paywalled articles

  • downloading these papers from (publisher) servers onto local machines (clients). (“scraping”). If paywalled this requires paid access (subscription) which is only available to members of the subscribing institution. Thus I can read thousands of articles to which Cambridge University has a subscription.

  • Running software to extract useful information from the papers (“mining”). This information can be chunks of the original or reworked material.

  • (for responsible scientists – including me) publish the results in full.

This is technically possible. Messy, if you start from scratch, but we and others have created Open Source tools and services to help.

The problem is that Toll-Access publishers don’t want us to do it (or only under unworkable restrictions). So what stops us?

THE LAW STOPS US

What follows is simplistic and IANAL (I am not a lawyer) though I talk with people who are. I am happy to be corrected by people more knowledgeable than me.

There are two main types of law relevant here:

  • Copyright law. https://www.copyrightservice.co.uk/copyright/p01_uk_copyright_law . TL;DR any copying may infringe copyright and allow the “rights-holder” to sue. The burden of proof is lower : “However, in a civil case, the plaintiff must simply convince the court or tribunal that their claim is valid, and that on balance of probability it is likely that the defendant is guilty”. Copyright law varies between countries and can be extraordinary complex and difficult to get clear answers. The simple, and sad, default assumed by many people and promoted by many vendors is that readers have no rights. (The primary method of removing these restrictions is to add a licence (such as CC-BY) which is compatible with copyright law and explicitly gives rights to the reader/user).

  • Contract law.
    Here the purchasers of goods and services (e.g. Universities) may agree a contract with the vendors (Publishers) that gives rights and responsibilities to both. In general these contracts are no publicised to users like me and may even be secret. Therefore some of what follows is guesswork. There are also hundreds of vendors and a wide variation on practice. However we believe that the main STMPublishers have roughly similar contracts.

    In general these contracts are heavily weighted in favour of the publisher. They are written by the publisher and offered to the purchaser to sign. If the University doesn’t like the conditions they have to “negotiate” with the publisher. Because there is no substitutability of goods (you can’t swap Nature with J. Amer. Chem. Soc.) the publisher often seems to have an advantage.

    The contracts contain phrases such as “you may not crawl our site, index it, spider it, mine it, etc.” These are introduced by the publisher to stop mining. (There is already copyright law to prevent the republishing of material without permission, so the new clauses are not required.). I queried a number of UK Universities as to what they had some – some were constructive in their replies but many – unfortunately – unhelpful.

    However there is no legal reason why a University has to sign the contract put in front of them. But they do, and they have signed clauses which restrict what I and Chris Hartgerink and other scientists can do. And they do it without apparent internal or external consultation.

    And this was understood by the Hargreaves reform which specifically says that text-miners can ignore any contracts which stop them doing it. Presumably they reasoned that vendors pressure Universities into signing our rights away, and this law protects us. And, indeed it’s critically important for letting us proceed.

But this law doesn’t (yet) apply to NL and so can’t help Chris (except when he comes to UK). We want it changed, and library organizations such as LIBER, RLUK, BL etc. want it changed.

So this mail is to ask Universities – and I expect their libraries will answer:

PLEASE REFUSE TO SIGN ANY CONTRACTS WHICH CONTAIN CLAUSES FORBIDDING CONTENT-MINING.

OR:

EXPLAIN WHY YOU HAVE TO SIGN OUR RIGHTS AWAY.

And then we’ll work out how to help.

32-year old Elsevier paper could have averted Ebola but Liberians would have had to pay to read it

I am very angry with the publishing industry.

Last week the NY Times reported that the Ministry of Health in Liberia had discovered a 30-year old paper that, if they had known about it, might have alerted Liberians to the possibility of Ebola. See a report in TechDirt (https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20150409/17514230608/dont-think-open-access-is-important-it-might-have-prevented-much-ebola-outbreak.shtml ) and also the article in the NY Times itself (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/08/opinion/yes-we-were-warned-about-ebola.html ). The paper itself (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0769261782800282 ) is in Science Direct and paywalled (31 USD for ca 1000 words (3.5 pages). I’ll write more on what the Liberians had to say and how they feel about the publishing industry and Western academia (they are incredibly restrained). But I’m not, and this makes me very angry .

This paper contains the words;

“The results seem to indicate that Liberia has to be included in the Ebola virus endemic zone.” In the future, the authors asserted, “medical personnel in Liberian health centers should be aware of the possibility that they may come across active cases and thus be prepared to avoid nosocomial epidemics,”

The Liberians argue that if they had known about this risk some of the effects of Ebola could have been prevented.

Suppose I’m a medical educational organization In Liberia and I wanted to distribute this paper to 50 centers in Liberia. I am forbidden to do this by Elsevier unless I pay 12 USD per 3-page reprint (from https://s100.copyright.com).

liberia

I adamantly maintain “Closed access means people die”.

This is self-evidently true to me, though I am still cricitized for not doing a scientific study (which would be necessarily unethical). But the Liberian Ministry is not impressed with academia and:

There is an adage in public health: “The road to inaction is paved with research papers.

We’ve paid 100 BILLION USD over the last 10 years to “publish” science and medicine. Ebola is a massive systems failure which I’ll analyze shortly.