AAP Throws Hissy Fit, Can’t Tell the Difference Between Studying a Pirate Site and Supporting It

8227882239_d6e1ddf1b1_hThe Association of American Publishers is incensed that anyone should have a word - any type of word - to say about the disruptive academic article hosting site Sci-Hub.

Late last month the AAP sent a threatening letter to California State University, Long Beach which complained about one of the university's librarians who had discussed his research into Schi-Hub at a conference.

The AAP accused the librarian, Gabriel Gardner, of encouraging the use of the pirate site and wrote that they found it "surprising" that a Cal State librarian would "promote the activities of an adjudicated thief who has compromised university computer systems and databases worldwide."

You can read the letter here (PDF), and the AAP has also published its position on its website.

Gardner has already fired back, telling Inside Higher Ed that he didn't endorse the site or its methods, but that in discussing the site, he found it easy to use.

"I believe the letter was an attempt at intimidation; my deans certainly interpreted it as such," Gardner told IHE. "The pretext that the purpose of the letter was to educate us about the severity of intellectual property violations is laughable. Every librarian in the country knows that they shouldn’t advocate piracy, to do so is a clear violation of the American Library Association’s Code of Ethics."

What's basically going on here is that the AAP is trying to bully an academic researcher into stopping his research. Leaving aside the first amendment issues, the simple fact is the AAP is defending an indefensible system.

To clarify, the academic papers hosted on Sci-Hub usually belong to journal publishers even though:

  • the publisher did not fund the research in the paper
  • the publisher did not pay the author(s)
  • the publisher did not pay the peer reviewer(s)

That, folks, is the state of academic publishing today.

And Sci-Hub is the problem?

Pull the other one; it has bells on.

It seems to me that the bigger problem are the journal publishers who exploit academia's "publish-or-perish" environment for their own financial benefit by charging exorbitant fees for access to content they did not develop or create.  The greater problem here are the publishers, and not the pirates who circumvent said publishers' paywalls.

And that is because the paywalls, and the ever rising costs to access journal articles, are the only reason that the pirates exist.

Roman Kochan, dean of library services at Cal State Long Beach, has published an open letter (PDF) asking why the AAP is not doing more to help university libraries deal with journal costs.

"The larger issue here is that the academic publishing model has become unsustainable," Kochan wrote. "Like many university libraries, the library budgets at California State University at Long Beach and the California State University generally cannot sustain annual price increases of 3 percent to 10 percent by many of your organization's members. Journal subscription prices are a key part of the reason that extralegal services, such as Sci-Hub, flourish."

But with the AAP being the AAP, they're not exactly in a position to admit that. As Upton Sinclair said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

And that describes the AAP to a T.

Next!

image by Brandon Grasley

About Nate Hoffelder (11591 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

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