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Copyright vs. The New Culture of Science

from By Marcie Granahan, Executive Director

Marcie Granahan,
NFAIS Executive Director
Last week, Elsevier was awarded an injunction against Sci-Hub, with damages totaling $15 million for copyright infringement. Although it is unlikely that Elsevier will ever see payment or Sci-Hub will close up shop, the court—rightfully—did not perceive illegal piracy as a public good [see full article here]. The American Chemical Society (ACS) filed suit against Sci-Hub just a few days later, asserting infringement of copyright, as well as trademark counterfeiting [see full article here].

It will be interesting to see what legal actions may follow; however, the symptoms that gave rise to the success of Sci-Hub—the need to improve access to and discovery of scientific research—remain mostly unaddressed. The American Psychological Association (APA) recently received public backlash when it tried to crackdown on copyright infringement. As part of a pilot program, the APA sent infringement notices to authors who posted unauthorized versions of their articles to university websites, as well as and [see full article here]. Although the APA is well within its rights, most researchers believe that sharing results and making papers and data widely accessible is critical to the advancement of science, and the APA’s pilot program clashes with the new culture of science.

So how are publishers adapting to this new culture? Clearly preprint services are on the rise, as evidenced by the 2017 launch of ChemRxi, PsyArXiv, AgriXiv, SocArXiv, and engXiv. There is also the recent partnership between Clarivate Analytics and Impactstory (the parent company of Unpaywall) which plans to accelerate discovery by connecting researchers and libraries—those with subscriptions as well as those without—to verified versions of an estimated 18 million open access articles from Web of Science [see full article here]. And SCOAP3 just added the Austria-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to its growing list of partners [see full article here]. SCOAP3—a consortium of over 3,000 libraries, funding agencies, and research centers in 44 countries covering the field of nuclear science and particle physics—is removing the barriers of OA for authors by paying associated article process charges.

Even Microsoft, Google, and Baidu have teamed up to address academic search tools through the Open Academic Search initiative [see full article here]. With so many journal articles currently omitted from online searches because they lie behind subscription paywalls, how do we ensure the protection of copyright, as we simultaneously improve access to and discovery of scientific research? Is it time to begin the process of dismantling knowledge silos? more

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