The main difference with Napster is that, in the case of music, there was some argument to be made that piracy was harmful to music, because some (tiny) part of music sales benefited the artists (and, as we all know, every pirate download was a lost sale...).
In the case of science publishers, the money simply never goes from publishers to researchers. Scientists are paid by entirely different actors (who ironically also end up paying publishers, for subscription fees to access papers). So the only possible argument left is that publishers are somehow beneficial to the science publishing process, which is a much weaker argument.
Imagine if music sales did not bring any money to artists at all, but the music industry argued: "sure, music would get composed and recorded without us, but how could it be distributed without us?" This is the situation science is currently into. The only explanation to the current state of affairs is history (pre-Internet science distribution was complicated) and the unimaginable inertia of prestige.
The obvious counter-argument being that there's absolutely no moral or philosophical justification for the ownership of information. Intellectual property is nothing but a racket.
You seem to be making a statement from first principles: ownership of ideas is absurd. Which, of course, it is. But on the same level of abstraction, who can own land or water or sky? No one.
But of course, to "own" these things is an abstraction for a contract created by the societies we're born into, about what you're permitted to do and what happens to people who break the contract. And in that sense, the argument needs to be about what costs and benefits to society, collectively and individually, come with that contract.
It then seems completely backwards to use intellectual property to limit "unauthorized" redistribution of articles, in the hope that this would help the "authorized" publisher to circulate the articles...
While some people try to conflate this with other kinds of IP, this is a completely different process, because research already funded by public money is being kept from the public.
Which means anyone who may be interested in research outside of academia - including startups, corporations, and private entrepreneurs - has to pay through the nose for official access.
And that simply removes money from the ecosystem and puts it in the pocket of the publishers. It doesn't fund new research, it doesn't increase publishing standards, it doesn't keep food on the table for struggling researchers.
It costs a fortune, but adds no social or scientific value at all.
Very little is new in the tabula rasa sense. Just look at Disney movies. I'm hard pressed to think of any of them that is not derived from something in either contemporary popular culture, or ancient stories.
the notion may have held up when it covered written stories in printed books, and only for a limited (20 years, iirc) period. This because the time window was relatively short, and because the number of book printers were low and thus easily policed.
In this day and age, i can produce a million digital copies of the bible in a second.
People who own intellectual property are rarely the people who created it. Those people usually get nothing for their efforts beyond a wage.
The free software movement weakens that argument quite a lot.
It's easy to diregard IP when you don't own any, but if IP didn't exist the big, bad, evil corporations could steal ideas from people with no recourse. In fact, that's exactly what happened with Robert Kearns. He invented the intermittent windshield wiper and attempted to license it to motor companies. They told him no and later implemented intermittent wipers themselves.
Sure, you can disregard it as "why does Kearns need to own that idea?" But if it werent for Kearns, we probably wouldn't have intermittenent wipers nowadays. Also, if companies could just steal ideas from other people instead of investing in R&D, why wouldn't they?
Sure, IP can be abused, but like the majority of laws, was created with good intentions. Killing IP instead of closing loopholes that allow abuse is attacking the problem, not the cause. Without getting too political, that's the problem the left has with guns and the right has with encryption.
Probably not the best example, because you could make a strong case that, with intermittent wipers being such a simple invention, probably someone else than Robert Kearns would have thought about it between 1969 and today.
It's a balance, of course... However, under today's excessive intellectual property laws, even assuming that Kearns could have successfully protected his idea (because it's not like IP usually favors the small players...), would society really have benefited by limiting the use of this idea (or having everyone pay royalties to Kearns)? Wouldn't plenty of other people, in particular motor companies, come up with the idea "for free" in the 20 years of a patent term anyway?
Also, relevant to the original discussion is the fact that the general lack of IP protection for ideas is an important component of free scientific discourse. So science is another situation where the lack of IP laws is arguably a good thing. In this light, when you ask:
> if companies could just steal ideas from other people instead of investing in R&D, why wouldn't they?
I ask in turn: given that countries can use the research produced by other countries instead of funding their own researchers, why do they do it today?
Don't be so sure - delays existed for decades prior, and windshield wipers existed since horse&buggy days - yet nobody realized the importance of combining the two. There is a reason to the saying "everything is obvious in hindsight".
Yeah, most great inventions would have been made within a year anyway. The truly great ones maybe in 5 years. That doesn't mean big rewards for the first inventor are wrong. The incentives from that is why so many push for these inventions.
The argument that if it wasn't for unions 100 years ago, we'd all still be working 14 hour days is based on a similar fallacy.
Now, if unions demand improvements during times of economic growth, and get them, they will of course claim they caused them.
You're probably not convinced, but that's enough for now :)
In practice, they already can, because enforcement is ruinously expensive for individuals. The big, bad, evil corporations abuse IP to shut down individuals and smaller companies. Or just things they don't like competing with them. Witness Samsung and Apple.
> Sure, IP can be abused, but like the majority of laws, was created with good intentions.
A lot of things start with good intentions. However, we have to concern ourselves with results rather than intents.
Developing IP is expensive but protecting it is even more expensive. Imagine a company invents a cancer curing drug but it cost them 10 billion dollars in R&D. They get their patent but then their competitor spends another 10 billion dollars in R&D to make their own cancer cure that doesn't infringe the previous patent.
I think we should have a patent system where when a company creates a patent and it sets the price of the patent to the cost of the R&D (plus some profit) and all buyers will own the patent collectively. The cost is evenly divided across all buyers. Initially the first company that buys the patent pays 10 billion dollars covering the R&D costs. If a competitor buys the patent they will only have to pay 5 billion dollars which then are used to reimburse the first buyer so both only have to pay 5 billion dollars. The third pays 3.33 billion dollars which again are redistributed across the previous buyers. And so on.
What would be your reason for believing this?
Could you elaborate a bit, because on the face of it that seems to be kind of a ridiculous statement. There is extensive literature on the philosophical justifications for almost all parts of the law, including intellectual property. For IP, there are two or three major philosophical justifications. In Erupoe, an approach based on Hegel's theories of personality is common. In the US, Locke's theories of ownership of one's labor is often used as a justification.
Did you mean to say that you do not think that these philosophical justifications are sufficient, rather than that they do not exist?
It was most likely one of their thousands of graphic designers making squat who found it on the internet, their design manager didn't catch it as a copy of something, and it wound up on their clothing.
A fury storm on Twitter with very strong suggestions to take against Zara was being proposed by many. I am sure there were some 'IP is a racket' people among them, but the argument seemed to be a one-way street: IP is free, except if you're a company who profits from it and we don't get our cut.
This was a great TED talk about it, and about why IP laws in general are bad and how they limit creativity:
You may also be interested in the Everything Is A Remix video series, if you haven't seen it already:
Are you sure that the whole thing is really that simple? If information cannot be owned in any way, in any case, then don't the Udemy-using pirates from the othe HN story have all the right in the world to do what they are doing? And surely it also means that for example all so called pirate version "China copies" of brands like Nike etc are also completely fine?
And it goes deeper than the megacorps. If no one "owns" any information, then no one can dictate how any single piece of it is used. So you don't get to say that NSA/Facebook/some random hacker has "no right" to hack into your emails and sell them to highest bidder. Or if you think you can, please lay out the logic chain leading to that, I wasn't able to come up with one quickly.
Finally, blanket statements lile this don't help anyone. I mean...your bank account and its contents are "info" nowadays, bits on some computers somewhere. Bits just like any other piece of digital information in today's world. I think we can safely say that is some information that is only fair to be owned by some, preferably the individual who earned that money.
Another way of looking at this is that music belongs to our culture, and access to it should be free.
On another note, I do believe information should be free. Where I start to vacillate is with who pays to extract, create or discover the information?
For instance, I know gold is a physical object, but a corollary of saying gold should be free, and yet who's work or money is put up to mine it from the earth?
Some private researcher spends 15 years of their life, and discovers or creates something after investing their time, their money. Without a means to capitalize on it, what is the incentive to put in the hard work and money?
And before you say, it is never a sole researcher and their money, extrapolate up to a small shop, mid-sized company, and big company. The gist still holds.
The other day I was looking for an article my dad had written for the Linux journal and could only find bits and pieces of it (some as gists on github) before I was able to find it on linuxjournal.com I found a page from ACM.org trying to sell it for something like $15. He was completely unaware this had even happened.
Music labels make a difference by marketing bands. Science publishers make a difference by formalizing peer-review. If these actors concentrated on their core differentiators, nobody would grudge them the money they make. The problem is, they don't; because the most vulturish and redundant aspects of their businesses are also the most profitable. For all the techno-utopianism in the world, this state of thing will not correct itself.
In the music world: "Oh, but we are also necessary, because we choose which music to promote! Or rather, we arrange a room where unpaid critics tell us which ones to pick."
(And of course, peer review can organize without scientific publishers. For instance, many conferences use EasyChair <http://www.easychair.org/>, which is not perfect but at least does not claim copyright on articles. For such conferences, the only role of the publisher (if any) is to obtain a peer-reviewed body of articles, ask authors to sign copyright forms, and sometimes take care of formatting issues.)
Some editors, who manage peer review, do get paid, but the reviewers don't.
Conferences are a good way to get caught up by letting the discussion of a number of papers happen in one physical place. The publishing industry is not necessary to organize conferences.
Journals seem to be a formalized mechanism for keeping score of the number of positive, novel results you've produced, in case you're ever up for tenure. Keeping score that way is not great for science anyway, because it biases science against negative results and replications.
When papers are discussed in the open on the Internet, you can see the discussion and choose who to believe. In formal peer review, you get the opinions of a few anonymous, uncompensated people, who would rather be doing something else, aggregated into a single bit.
Very little remaining justification for copyright assignment to publishers.
> So the only possible argument left is that publishers are somehow beneficial
If that argument would turn out to be strong enough, wouldn't it apply to the music industry as well? The comparison of napster and sci-hub would be as just as the comparison of the publishers.
Music theft happens everywhere, and it’s important for fans to help look out for illegal activity that damages the creative freedom of the artists you love. If you see pirated music—either online or in person—let us know here so we can better protect artists from illegal music sales.
It's not a strawman as much as the selection of artists to publish is creative and artistic in its own right. Then the relative distribution in relation to artistic input is still debatable, but out of scope if the question is, whether the publishers compensation should absolutely be forgone, and whether the publishers compensation alone is blown out of proportion compared to their work.
Fact: This costs money
Fact: Private industry doing things works well in many markets
Fact: It's arguable art is a human right. It's why we live, compared to science that allows us to live.
Napster and science are similar. You can argue in a better world the markets could be better done, but you seem to me to be denying things we know....
Someone has to pay to organise peer review. Is it crazy the 'cost' of this is so high, perhaps. But it's not "Science isn't Napster".
Reviewers themselves aren't paid, but the publishers do pay editors to do preliminary filtering, select reviewers, collect their comments and decide what to do with them.
Now that is relatively little work for the comparatively extortionate prices they charge.
How about, "the entirely imagined inertia of prestige?"
Just because the consequences are real, doesn't mean the predicates or hypothesis on which those consequences are based are real. For much of the history of the US, opportunities for men of African descent to fight in the armed forces were limited, justified by various notions of racial inferiority. This is not to make a moral equivalence in the two situations. However, it does point out that the reality of the underlying predicate is different from the reality of the consequences. (i.e. "The Map is not the Territory!")
Just because the prestige exists doesn't mean that the prestige itself is based on something real. Prestige is a social construct. A different and better system of disseminating scientific publications could exist. There are a number of compelling reasons to believe a more modern system would serve the public interest far better.
Hell, in Canada you have to do a master's before applying for a PhD, and you won't be getting the good scholarships and will have a hard time convincing the best researchers to take you on if you didn't publish during your master's.
I remember being confused last year when I tried to find this "Sci-Hub thing". I stumbled on various sites that seemed to be it, except they were not. For example http://scihub.org/ describes itself as a "global science and technology publisher and provides free access to research articles" except I couldn't actually find any research papers on their site. They are just some scamming company usurping Sci-Hub's brand.
Can anyone confirm, and/or say something about their reasoning? I don't see that forum's admins' role in defending the commercial publishing model.
DDG features the real sci-hub (with various domains, including onion proxies), wikipedia, sci-hub.org and sci-hub.com equally prominently depending on the exact search term.
> Sci-Hub: устраняя преграды на пути распространения знаний
But it is the original site. Clicking the link I get the English title. It probably throws off a lot of people though.
Second is the Wikipedia article.
"Just give us the papers, we will make them available."
The trouble here is that authors choose to pay Elsevier for publishing and libraries buy the papers back. In the end, it's all about "impact factor". They have to pay to publish in Nature because that's the only way for them to prove that they have, in fact, deserved the grant money and that they will get some more.
Articles are difficult to find because our university does not pay the subscription charges.
I need to publish my work in quality journals, all of which charge high publication charges. Some are even higher if you want a 'public access' option.
Luckily, there is a growing movement for open research and open publication. Many researchers, myself included, will publish pre-prints and papers to arxiv or self-host them on personal websites.
I'm extremely grateful for sci-hub and just hope I can help end this stifling of scientific research in my own way. All of my work ends up on github/arxiv for anyone to use.
We should give up the battle with Disney. They have billions of dollars to throw at politicians and lobbyists to ensure the Mouse never goes out of copyright (even though they treat it more as a trademark, and couldn't care less whether people watch the original steamboat willy cartoons on youtube.)
But scientific research is different. Nonfiction work in general is different. Why should vastly different categories of works, with different values to society, economics, etc, be treated the same by copyright law?
I propose we vastly decrease the restrictions of copyright on at least nonfiction works. Make them enter the public domain sooner, make it more difficult to register for copyright, perhaps require renewal half way through to prove the work is still economical, etc.
It's just obscene that the vast majority of humanity's knowledge is locked away behind copyright ridiculousness. Journals charge obscene prices to access papers, which were often funded with public money. Works sit behind copyright barriers long after the author's death and they fall out of print.
The internet could be much greater than it is. I mean sure there is a ton of content on the internet already, and wikipedia has been fantastic and collecting the world's knowledge. But there is so much stuff that only exists in books and papers, that should be publicly accessible.
See also the science section on Public Domain Day: https://web.law.duke.edu/cspd/publicdomainday/2015/pre-1976 and https://web.law.duke.edu/cspd/publicdomainday/2016/pre-1976
This reminds me of one of the copyright reform ideas I've seen that has a tremendously practical approach to the power of the Mouse: an initial 20- or 40-year term, with an indefinite number of renewals of the same length allowed, but each renewal requiring filing with the Library of Congress and a substantial fee.
I believe the idea was to make the fee increase exponentially too.
Why isn't this a link? Why isn't there a link to http://sci-hub.cc/ anywhere in this article? Linking isn't illegal.
I do want to point out to HN readers that an ACM professional membership costs around $100/year. I think this is a deal because for $100/year more you get access to essentially all of articles published in all of the very numerous past and present journals. Student memberships are much much cheaper. I have also had IEEE memberships to order to get access to their online library of IEEE publications. For some jobs, these memberships are worth it.
All other journals, like Software Practice and Experience, are just too expensive for me to access on-line. Fortunately, some of these are available in large university library systems.
With a free account you can view articles online, but only for 5 minutes each (I'm not sure if that is 5 minutes once, or 5 minutes per day). That should be enough to let you determine whether or not that 7 page article you are interested in has the information that you need.
If it does have the information you want, there are two options to purchase online access to the article without the 5 minute time limit. You can use an access token, which are sold in 5 packs for $20. Or you can purchase a subscription, with is $40/month ($30/month if you buy 12 months worth at once), which gives unlimited access to all the journal articles they have, and 20 pages per month for printing.
If all you will ever need is that one particle, then Deepdyve is still expensive: it will cost you $20 for online access assuming you buy the access token pack and only use one token. But if you are going to need more articles now and then, then the access token approach works out to $4 per article. If you will need several a month, the subscription can be a good deal.
Of course, open access would be better, but if what you want is not available that way, Deepdyve can be a good way to get articles without going broke in the process.
Elsevier and co. will unite in a final push and buy the packaged-software that Hollywood uses for DMCAs to any sites that host these papers.
Sci-Hub is just phase 1 of data liberation. Phase 2 is P2P, if it's not already there.
Have a look at https://github.com/ecausarano/heron and let me know :)
Who is profiting from selling this content?
Not really 'piracy' if taxes paid for it.
Researchers absolutely must own their IP as an incentive to advance and commercialize their work.
But if the work is funded by taxes, then distribution should somehow flow back to the public (DoD classified works aside).
That is the home of one of the biggest AWS data centers. It would be an obvious place to run bulk downloading of sci-hub content. It's also an easy place to host a VPN server, which users may be motivated to do if their ISPs are blocking sci-hub.
The problem is that the industry was built around, and remains focused on, broad access licensing to large scale organizations (universities, government agencies, large corporations). There is no concept of "retail" access. That is a different business than they are in, and mostly they don't show any real interest in learning it.
For the past couple years I've been hacking at https://github.com/ecausarano/heron/ (caveat: pet project, no code reviews, buggy and incomplete, I'm not the best developer you've ever met.)
The main idea is to bundle a P2P Kademlia based redundant storage and index with PGP signing. Users sign and publish their papers on the network, build their academic WOT and filter out crackpots and other rubbish by ignoring query results originating outside their peer circle. In their role of peers, users "review and endorse" papers by signing them with their individual key. Over time you get a globally distributed repository where everybody chips in some CPU, network and storage, cannot go down unless the internet implodes, and is legal. At that point journals become pointless and we win! ;)
Contributors very welcome
Of course, not all publishers offer this access, the University library only had deals with some of them, so I do find myself using sci-hub as well; but I try and access things legally first, so that the University and the publisher can see that there is demand for the alumnus access option, and it is being actively used...
I agree that the world would be a better place if research were freely available, but the way Sci-Hub is doing this does not help the process, unless it stresses the system so bad financially that it breaks and is replaced by something else.
I have wondered about the possibility of all articles being hosted freely on sites like arxiv.org with some kind of web of trust rating system: anyone could vote up an article but people in specific fields could choose to view the aggregate rating of respected researchers in their field.
In any case, until a better rating system for researchers emerges, we can't get rid of the journal publishers.
And, last point, ...should we just give up about copyright protection? Any country who wants to advance (Russia, now China) needs to cheat on the WTO, it makes everyone less free and it doesn't work. Even software companies don't rely on copyright anymore - Microsoft sells to OEMs, not to end-users, and selling SAAS helps prevent the code from being published because the BSA approach dosn't work.
Microsoft relies on copyright for that.
Simply, the papers should be made immediately free to the public.
Even if it dies, people won't accept it; that's what I hope.
In any case, scientific writing needs to be out in the open for everyone, including those with a buck to spare, to have access to. Never mind all of the other ridiculous aspects of a publisher making mint on this.
A better idea would be to fund publications yourself (with your own money) and release all of the information for free.
But it takes much more talent, intelligence, and discipline to do something like this, which most people don't have.
Most journals allow you to freely distribute pre-prints, and most researchers I know do this very frequently.
The entire scientific publication environment is quite convoluted but there is a large effort for open publications.