Sci-Hub has received a lot of attention in 2016. From multiple articles in Science and The Chronicle of Higher Education to Sci-Hub focused sessions at professional meetings, lots of folks have weighed in on the pros and cons of Sci-Hub and its undeniable impact on scholarly communication. Over the past six months I’ve attended programs on Sci-Hub at the ALA annual conference, the fall ARL membership meeting, and one here at the University of Arizona during Open Access Week. In reflecting on these experiences I’m struck by how Sci-Hub illustrates the apparent disconnect between authors’ permissive attitudes toward sharing copyrighted materials and their willingness to sign publishing agreements that often make that sharing illegal.
Last week, I attended a symposium on “Publishing Art History Digitally: The Present and Future” that was sponsored in part by the NYU Institute of Fine Arts. One of the symposium organizers is a Ph.D. student with whom I’ve worked to navigate some sticky intellectual property issues related to an international collaborative digital art history project. She asked me to attend the symposium and come back the next day for an invitation-only workshop with several other symposium participants. The main focus of both the symposium and the workshop was to look at the ways art history journals are going digital and stepping into new modes of publishing and scholarship.
Anytime that academic authors sue each other over a journal article, it is worth attention in this space. A couple of weeks ago, the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts ruled in such a case, and the ruling raises some interesting points to consider for those of us involved in working with scholarly publications.
Note first that this is a very fact-specific case and a decision by a district court, so it is not a control precedent for anyone other than the parties. A decision would have more weight if this ruling were appealed, but, because the motive behind the lawsuit seems to have been more wrath than reason, I think that is unlikely.
Note to readers: This is the second post in our new series “Building Open” where we interview those who are building tools and services to support scholarship in the open.
In terms of the future, I think we still have a long way to go in determining sustainable models. APCs aren’t it, especially outside of big science and North America and Europe. Our research into open access publishing cooperatives, which brings together the major stakeholders — researchers, societies, journals, libraries, funders — is showing that this can be an important alternative model.
Project MUSE announced over the summer a $938,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to integrate OA university press (UP) monographs into their platform. *
Digital aggregations of UP books are becoming a key discoverability mechanism. The possibility of using linked data tools to discover content within a much larger body of humanities and social science scholarship is one of the few very clear and bright developments for UPs. After years of our printed books being relegated to the ever-dustier library stacks, our digital content is now feeding a significant corpus of highly usable humanities research and being made available in a growing number of library collections. With this grant, MUSE wants to ensure that OA content is seamlessly discoverable within these collections, rather than isolated in some segregated position.
A few years ago, I was asked by the U.S. State Department to give a presentation on copyright for librarians in India. I spoke via web conferencing to a group of Indian librarians gathered in an auditorium at the U.S. Embassy, and the session was moderated by an IP professor from Delhi University. This moderator began the session by asking me a very challenging question; pointing out that the standard textbook that he would like to use for his class in trademark law cost more than a month’s salary for the average Indian, he asked me how the copyright balance between rights holders and the public could be calibrated in such economic conditions. I don’t think I provided a very good answer at the time, but last week the High Court in Delhi took on that question and offered an amazing response.