Elsevier presses copyright on papers at academia.edu

Giant scholarly journal publisher Elsevier has demanded a take down of papers from Academia.edu this month. This is a self-defeating action in terms of bad publicity for big commercial subscription interests, because it reinforces resentment against subscription based scholarly publishing and builds broader awareness of Open Access best practices. My own practice is that I load pre-publication and other versions of my papers for which I retain rights into my Institutional Repository. The folks who manage it help build awareness, have my best interests at heart, and are committed to long term format migration. They have earned my trust. I can then load the url links to places like www.academic.edu to improve access to the papers.

One should note that Academia.edu is reasonably clear about copyright ownership, though they could do better at educating their users up front. From the copyright faq page at www.academia.edu:

The transfer of ownership of a copyright to a publisher will prevent the author from future use of the work unless the author has agreed with the publisher that he or she reserves his or her right to use the work for certain purposes, such as teaching, research or other non-profit educational activities, or for certain types of use, such as rights to post an electronic version of the work on the faculty member’s website or on websites like Academia.edu (emphasis added).

As science blogger John Dupuis commented:

Authors are caught between these two for-profit companies, one a massive dinosaur trying to protect its profit margins as it recalibrate to a new, more open world. The other a nimble start-up, trying to be a part of that new world. The road to that new world is full of bumps and false starts and blind alleys. Hopefully Elsevier and Academia.edu’s troubles will help raise awareness about the fundamental unfairness of the current scholarly communications ecosystem.

One of the best analyses I’ve read is from the Library Loon (http://gavialib.com): Pig-ignorant entitlement and its uses. It came to my attention from Savage Minds Backup, which argues: “Don’t blame Elsevier for exercising the rights you gave them.” This issue is attracting notice at popular sites like bOING bOING: for example, see Elsevier censors self-publication by papers’ co-authors and Newly minted Nobel laureates speak out against excesses of scientific publishing.

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