Wednesday, January 03, 2018

"Walled gardens" in the science publication area can persist for years

Back in 2006, IPBiz made reference to Dan Hunter's law review article on "walled gardens":

I could not help thinking about Dan Hunter's article, Walled Gardens, 62 Wash & Lee L. Rev. 607, which complained about the requirement of some law reviews that articles which had been pre-published on an internet website to be removed from the website BEFORE publication in the journal.

The common theme is the perceived undesirability, by the journals, of information being made available on the internet. The noncommon theme is the timing. The SCIENCE journals have the expectation of presenting the information FIRST, and worry about the impact of later publication. The LAW journals do not care that the information has been presented somewhere else first, but don't want someone to access the information (presented elsewhere first) AFTER they decide to publish it LATER.

IPBiz post: Journal publication, pubmedcentral and the ACS has a post on copyright which includes text about scientific publications, which shows some journals restrict access even after more than fifty years:

A distressing number of scientific articles from 1961 require payment or a subscription or account, including those in major journals such as Science and JAMA,6 both of which charge $30 to view a single article from 1961 for 24 hours. Want to read a 1961 article about graduate medical education? Here’s the payment page. Want to read “An Experiment in the History of Science: With a simple but ingenious device Galileo could obtain relatively precise time measurements”? If you go to Science’s page to purchase digital access, you will see that you can purchase access for 1 day for $30 US—but that’s not all. You also have to agree to the following restrictions and conditions: “You may view, download, and/or print the article for your personal scholarly, research, and educational use” but may not distribute or post it, and you must agree both to accept cookies and be contacted from time to time about the publisher’s products. Of course, many scientists will have institutional access to these journals, but this access is not guaranteed—even institutions such as Harvard have considered canceling their subscriptions because they could no longer afford the escalating prices of major journal subscriptions.

It’s remarkable to find scientific research from 1961 hidden behind publisher paywalls. Thankfully, some publishers have made older articles available in full online, so that you can read them, even though it may still be illegal to copy and distribute them. In addition, some older articles have been made available on third party websites, but this is not a stable solution for providing reliable access to science.

Third party postings can be difficult to find or taken down, links can get broken, and would-be posters may be deterred by the risk of a lawsuit. Under the pre-1978 copyright term, all of this history would be free to scholars, students, and enthusiasts.

Not all scientific publishers work under this kind of copyright scheme. “Open Access” scientific publications, like those of the Public Library of Science, are under Creative Commons licenses, meaning that they can be copied freely from the day they are published.

Footnotes 6 and 7:

6 Sometimes you can see the first archived journal article you choose, but the remaining articles are behind a paywall. And even when 1961 articles are readable, they’re still copyrighted—these publishers won’t allow you to reproduce or distribute them without permission.

7 A Congressional Research Service study indicated that only 2% of works between 55 and 75 years old continue to retain commercial value. As explained above, many works from 1961 are technically in the public domain, but it is often difficult to conclusively determine public domain status, so users have to presume that they’re still under copyright.



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