The real problem is that young tenure-track faculty need publications for tenure. This wasn't always the case at teaching colleges, until perhaps 15 years ago at a so-so 4-year college you were perfectly fine with the papers from your PhD. Nowadays it's different, there's a need for publications and gutter journals. At the high end you need papers in high-profile journals and publishers will oblige on that front, too.
Correct, but I figured most people here would not be interested in the details of government contracting regulations. I actually do know some things about it. If the work is done by contractors (as most work for the government is), then it depends on the contract. Usually the key part is which "data rights" clause is included in the contract from the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and/or FAR supplement, which can be modified in various ways in a specific contract. Papers and software get special complicated additional rules.
In any case, my point was simply that "eliminating copyright in certain cases to serve the public interest" is not a new idea - there is already some existing practice.
I do contract web dev work for clients all the time. Should I be retaining all copyright?
A good place to start is here:
Highly recommend to find a better source that than. Even the title is click bait, the article doesn't talk about source code ownership.
If you author a work, copyright only goes to whoever paid you if either (1) you are an employee and work is created within the scope of your employment, or (2) you are not an employee but it is a "work for hire".
For a work to be a work for hire, there are three requirements that all must be satisfied.
1. The work must be specially ordered or commissioned.
2. There must be a written contract that states it is a work for hire.
3. It must fall into one of nine categories:
• a contribution to a collective work
• a translation
• a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work
• a supplementary work (e.g., foreword, illustration, editorial notes)
• a compilation
• an instructional text
• a test
• answer material for a test
• an atlas
A bit of Googling turns up a few articles from IP and business law firms saying that most software does not fall under any of these categories and so cannot be a work for hire . On the other hand, there are at least four district court cases that have concluded that software can fall under compilations and under contributions to collective works  and so can be works for hire. (But remember, even if in a particular case your software does fall under one of those categories, without the contract saying in writing that it is a work for hire it isn't, and so you retain the copyright).
Probably the best approach, if you want your client to own the copyright, is to include in the contract that you assign the copyright to the client. There is some sample language for a contract copyright assignment in .
 Whether you are an employee or a contractor for purposes of copyright law is determined by the common law of agency rather than by what your employment contract says. A court would look at how much control the employer has over how the work is done, where it is done, the equipment used to do the work, the scheduling, what other work you can do at the same time, and similar factors.
Well, if you're going to bet your future on Sci-Hub, at least donate to the project and start creating local laws that would allow local versions of Sci-Hub archives.
That's probably because space requirements are huge (tens of terabytes of storage) and it's probably not legal in most jurisdictions (probably none of them). Those two would probably stop most people who are thinking about this.
But let's say you managed to download and host it all and don't give a damn about law (maybe a Tor node?), you'd still have to grapple with bandwidth requirements for hosting such a huge collection of documents (including anti-DDoS provisions). Finally, I don't think the database itself is offered by anyone so you'd have to scrape the DOI data and create the front-end for the website.
So unless you're rich and are willing to throw lots of money at this, I don't think anyone is willing to do it for no financial benefit whatsoever (and a massive downside if you get caught by the long arm of the US DOJ/FBI).
"For her actions in creating Sci-Hub, Elbakyan has been called a hero and "spiritual successor to Aaron Swartz"."
What's more important it's can be tough to actually prove she actually did something illegal on her own. Of course for political activists there is no evidence required to put them in prison in Russia / Kazakhstan, but she is pro-Kremlin so it's not apply here.
And it is 'Swartz'.
Bean Counting. Captive audiences are always at risk of extortion.
> Aren't they just hosting some pdfs
The internet has been happy to provide that particular component of their empire for free.
> keeping editors on staff to look over the papers?
That's mostly outsourced (for free) to other researchers.
I think the main work they do is to lie about accepting LaTeX and scraping the PDF output instead so as to introduce new errors into articles.
If it costs $1000 to publish a scientific article, your first task is to fire everyone involved in publishing.
The review of the scientific papers is done by volunteers, almost without exception. Most organizations expect camera-ready results. Few people want physical paper anymore; they're too inconvenient. PDF, please.
What we're talking about is "put a PDF on a static website, so that search engines can find it". The price actually necessary is vanishingly small. The prices here reflect the fact that various organizations have managed to gain exclusive rights over results they didn't fund to develop. Since there's a strong demand and a monopoly on supply, prices skyrocket. Econ 101.
”PLOS offsets publication expenses – including those of peer review management, journal production and online hosting and archiving – by charging a publication fee, also known as an Article Processing Charge (APC), to authors, institutions or funders for each article published.”
Their cheapest journal is PLOS One, at $1.595 per article.
Also, ”Manuscripts submitted to PLOS Special Collections may incur an additional fee”, which seems t be between $500 and $1.000
It's not the publication that costs money.
I think it would be more accurate to call them "controversial", at best, rather than "lauded" or "celebrated", even here on HN.
To be fair, though, I don't think the controversy has tended to stem from them not providing/creating value and merely being rent-seekers. Rather, it's tended to be more regulatory issues (especially with AirBnB and the "gig economy"). Yelp may be the most notable exception, as it's in hot water for alleged extortion, which is easily rent-seeking, its content is user-generated, and it depends on popularity, if not the network effect.
That said, with all those startups, it's relatively easy to point to what they actually do that's of non-trivial value to their users and/or customers. With Elsevier, that's hard to identify, presumably because it simply doesn't exist.
EDIT: "Infrastructure and procedures to publish" is extremely thin, IMO. Procedures are just a one-off document, and something the authors and the volunteers that they outsource to do, not the "publisher". As for infrastructure, I'm willing to believe it, but, so far, all I've heard is that they just take papers and send them back out, without providing anything like publishing tools.
Imagine amount of work done by a single AirBnB host to maintain his/her property, taking bunch of risks and trying to make whole transaction successful. In what world AirBnB is eligible to get 30% of that labor for merely allowing to insert a database entry in to their system? This whole trend was popularized by Steve Jobs where Apple is somehow eligible to get 30% cut for mere privileged of publishing app on their platform. Much of the reviews they do is automated and tiny amount of labor involved is often housed in India (just like Elsewiser). For adding an entry in to database, there should be fixed price and businesses shouldn't be stealing 30% from other people's work.
I think this is the money quote. The strength they show in contract negotiations is only possible since no access just pretty much means unlicensed access by now.
Why don't universities forbid hosting of conferences that aren't open access. Then years later forbid participation in such conferences.
We can pay publishers for another 10-20 years to access what they have. But we should stop giving them content.
Publishing is practically free.
Researchers also have a strong incentive to publish as much as possible in order to boost their citation counts, which serve as a proxy for prestige these days and which factor heavily into tenure decisions. Since grants and institutions pay for open access publication fees, researchers have an incentive to select "predatory" journals with low standards and high fees. We already see this dynamic developing.
In short, all the incentives line up to encourage the publication of a large volume of low-quality research. Science already has a severe problem with junk research, especially in the social sciences where a large fraction of results simply do not reproduce. Do we want to make this problem even worse?
I'm sure the specific people involved in the system have the best intentions, but as a matter of history and of human nature, good intentions are powerless in the face of incentives. The most dangerous four-word phrase in human history is "This time, it's different".
 Google, for example, will pay open-access publication fees.
Also, all of my colleagues would laugh at me if I published in a junk venue. There's no win, at least in the top tier.
That's the heart of the problem right there. Would you laugh your colleagues if they published in a junk venue?
Or would you look at the work on its merits and ignore the medium?
I wouldn't do anything of the sort if they published on arxiv. We have a place to publish respectable work without fees and without peer-review. In some subfields of CS, we're also lucky enough to have high quality, open access venues without exorbitant fees (e.g., USENIX conferences). So pay-for-crap is not a necessary choice.
That's the whole point of this debate. All the paid access journals are leeches in one form or another.
Additionally, to get at your earlier question of evaluating a paper by its host journal: Because academics are strongly incentivized to publish in high-impact journals, if someone publishes in a crap journal it raises eyebrows, because the obvious question is 'why' and the obvious answer is 'because the authors didn't want rigorous review' or 'the work is of supreme unimportance'.
Furthermore, because of curation aside from peer review (editors weeding out solid but unimportant papers) the journal's brand makes a difference in how many people will actually see the paper. While many readers will come across papers either by specific searches in Google Scholar, or by going through the citations in a different paper, many of us still read the tables of contents of a few key journals every week or month to see what is being produced.
I'm a non-academic scientist (in the non-profit world currently) and though I will never face a promotion and tenure committee who really gets into impact factors etc., I still want my work to be as widely read as possible, so I push for the best journals that I can get in that still meet my criteria (non-profit societies that have open-access at least after a year embargo). Google Scholar also ranks papers by how highly cited they are, so there are still viral-type effects and getting eyeballs on a paper early greatly affects later discovery and engagement.
edit: I took 'paid-access' to mean 'pay to publish' which was the original thread's wording, and wrote based on that. Some of this reply still holds for 'pay to read' but not all.
Academic institutions have financial incentives in seeing that their faculty publish. When faculty get grants, there's almost always an overhead component that goes to the grantee's institution.
Maybe colleges/unis could explicitly pay faculty for their occasional service as peer reviewers. And/or offer some "softer" incentive, like an incremental advance towards tenure. The financial component could come out of grant overhead. A combo of these could motivate and pay for good curation.
The problem here is having a for profit publisher, not the way in which that publisher makes its revenue.
The whole problem with money and profit can be solved in as simple a way as making it an NPO.