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Swedish ISP Protests ‘Site Blocking’ by Blocking Rightsholders Website Too (torrentfreak.com)
455 points by kawera 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 116 comments

As a Banhof subscriber I'm a bit saddened that they have to engage with blocking any sites at all, but since they do, I'm happy that I'm paying an ISP with some sense of courage and integrity.

As with all copyright related issues, the application of hilariously outdated rules onto modern situations never cease to amaze.

> As with all copyright related issues, the application of hilariously outdated rules onto modern situations never cease to amaze.

What do you view as the justification for having copyright before modern situations, and what about modern situations makes that justification no longer applicable?

Most of the time I hear arguments that some older law is outdated in modern times, the underlying human and economic relations that the law is dealing with have not changed. All that has usually changed is that it is now easier to violate the law. That usually strengthens the case for the law, not weakens it.

For example, I've seen arguments that libel laws are outdated when applied to online forums, comment sections, mailing lists, and similar. (Reminder: libel is written defamation, as opposed to slander, which is spoken defamation). Due to those outlets, compared to a few decades ago a much bigger fraction of our communication is in writing. It's also much more informal now, more off the cuff, and more often with people we do not have an in person relationship with. This makes it a lot easier to commit libel.

If the basis of libel laws is that it is wrong to intentionally falsely damage the reputation of someone else, then the technology changes over the last few decades do not change that. If it was wrong to make some accusation in a printed flyer posted around your town, it is is wrong to make the same accusation posted to Facebook.

On the other hand, we might justify libel law as a way to limit the power that comes with access to printing presses. When producing and distributing printed material was expensive, those who owned the presses or those wealthy enough to afford to hire them would have a lot of influence over public opinion. Libel laws would put some restraint on that power.

If that is how we justify libel, then you can make a case that it should not apply online because there is much more equal access. (I'm not sure, but I think historically the justification for libel law is the "wrong to intentionally falsely damage" justification, not the "power restraint" justification).

There are several ways copyright and patent laws are outdated, though most aren't directly relevant to this discussion.

Scientific journals are an especially interesting case. They way copyright law applies to scientific journals is certainly broken, but I think it has been broken for a long time. Afaik, in most cases scientists are not paied royalties for the papers they publish in journals, and in some cases even have to pay for the privilege of submitting a paper. Peer reviewers also aren't paid for their time reviewing papers. Yet publishers charge very steep rates for access to the journals. Essentially all the publisher does is, well publish the papers, and select which papers they think are important enough to include in the journal.

Technology changes the landscape in three ways. First, digital publishing is significantly cheaper and more efficient than publishing hard copy journals, so in a competitive market you would expect the price for journals to go down. Second, in digital publishing, there is less need to limit the number of published papers in an issue to a set number, which again should reduce cost. Finally, it makes it much easier for "pirates" to distribute copies of journals without restrictive paywalls.

I would also be very surprised if many of the scientists whose papers were "pirated" would complain that their papers are easier to access by other scientists. I mean, the more scientists that have access to the papers, the more likely the paper is to be read and cited. And most scientists will care much more about that, than how much money the journal is making off of it. The only people that benefit from high pawalls for access to scientific papers, is the publisher.

But as usual such ridiculous rulings "help" to push forward the adoption of encryption and distributed web. Is there sci-hub on IPFS?

Until everyone is running their own IPFS nodes ISPs can block the content just the same.

What a great way to fight back. I hope other ips take notice and block elsevier elsewhere.

If someone put another domain up could the court be unable to assess whether it breaks the law with the court blockage?

More interestingly could the isp put a rule in there terms forbidding anyone employed or hired by Elsevier from assessing the isp services so anything submitted by this company becomed null and void?

It's just too bad they didn't block the journals rather than the corporate site.

Sweden has recently cancelled all Elsevier subscriptions, so we can’t access the journals anyway (except Open Access papers)

Discriminating against someone because of their employer sounds like a very dangerous precedent to set.

I don't understand what you mean by "assessing the isp services". Could you clarify?

> Discriminating against someone because of their employer sounds like a very dangerous precedent to set.

The court employees are still free to surf Bahnhof's web site from their own Internet connections. They don't discriminate against individuals, they block traffic from an institution.

Is it though? It is always interesting to me how some seem to not be concerned with their employers' conduct, isn't that what led Adolf Eichmann to do the bureaucratic work for concentration camps in World War 2?

How is this different to engineers writing the code for drones that murders children in Yemen? Does anyone have any thoughts on this, or if they see it differently?

What is a government or corporation but a group of individuals? What about the collective behaviors and values? Should we not use our human empathy and evolve them?

I've come to think about it as American imperialist/colonialist/domination thinking. It reminds me of some American's attitudes to non-Americans - the dehumanization used by it's corporate controlled media, e.g. 'terrorist'/'thugs'. Black Mirror has a great episode on dehumanization called 'Men Against Fire', for me the eye lens tech is a metaphor for being in control of the narrative: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WkiZaWvE4Q

If you're not following me, check out the book 'Columbus and Other Cannibals' by Jack D. Forbes to understand where I'm coming from. Or anything by Howard Zinn or Noam Chomsky.

Copyright stuff is just not comparable to death camps, so extreme forms of protest are not justified.

Isn't it though? Copy 'right' - think about it. Would you really charge a friend to borrow a book from you?

Can we think of a better way to share cultural wealth and sustain ourselves and meet our needs?


"Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world's entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the sciences? You'll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier.

There are those struggling to change this. The Open Access Movement has fought valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it. But even under the best scenarios, their work will only apply to things published in the future. Everything up until now will have been lost.

That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at Google to read them? Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It's outrageous and unacceptable.

Those with access to these resources — students, librarians, scientists — you have been given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world is locked out. But you need not — indeed, morally, you cannot — keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords with colleagues, filling download requests for friends.

Meanwhile, those who have been locked out are not standing idly by. You have been sneaking through holes and climbing over fences, liberating the information locked up by the publishers and sharing them with your friends.

But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It's called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn't immoral — it's a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy. Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed. The laws under which they operate require it — their shareholders would revolt at anything less. And the politicians they have bought off back them, passing laws giving them the exclusive power to decide who can make copies.

There is no justice in following unjust laws. It's time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture.

We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that's out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access.

With enough of us, around the world, we'll not just send a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge — we'll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?"

- Aaron Swartz

> I don't understand what you mean by "assessing the isp services". Could you clarify?

I suspect he means "accessing the ISP's services".

It's hardly a precedent.

>Discriminating against someone because of their employer sounds like a very dangerous precedent to set.

Kevin Smith's film 'Clerks' explored the morality of that position pretty well. The contractors on the second Death Star all understood the risks.


As Elsevier is behind the copyright lobby I really hope they enjoy being blocked.

Well, given the market size of that ISP, I am sure Elsevier has noticed and are running scared already ...

Sadly the only people being hurt by this sort of protest are researchers that happen to use the same network (i.e. Bahnhof's own customers) and now are unable to access neither the legit website nor the pirate one.

And no, as a researcher you rarely have a choice to not publish in Elsevier ran journals and conferences when your university/department is evaluated (and funding assigned) based on number of publications in these venues. This is often imposed by the government, the uni and even less the individual researchers have pretty much zero say in it.

I have worked at a uni in Denmark where the government literally had lists of "approved" journals and conferences. If you have published there, you have got a score weighed by the importance of the publication. If you have published elsewhere, you got nothing and were effectively working for free because the university funding was directly tied to those scores.

For some fields this was pretty much a death sentence because the "approved" publications were either stuff where most people never manage to get a paper in (like Nature) or most of their usual conferences/journals were not on the list (a lot of humanities and arts where otherwise producing an artwork or composing a piece of music counts as a publication).

The "Elsevier block" is just a PR stunt, there is a button on the bottom of the page that directs to the (unblocked) Elsevier website.

> The "Elsevier block" is just a PR stunt, there is a button on the bottom of the page that directs to the (unblocked) Elsevier website.

Better would have been to provide instructions on how to evade the Elsevier block using general purpose anti-censorship tools.

On that same "blocked" page there's also this:

Would you like some tips about avoiding DNS blocking? Take a look at our practical guide about VPN and DNS blocking here!

Which links to this (in swedish): https://www.bahnhof.se/press/press-releases/2018/11/01/bara-...

Google DNS and its IP addresses are mentioned, so they are probably enforcing just DNS blocking.

> neither the legit website nor the pirate one.

Most articles are indexed elsewhere, and besides Elsevier's websites are mostly just a paywall. They are not missing much

> where the government literally had lists of "approved" journals and conferences.

Scientists can certainly lobby as a group to change that. I have not seen much of that, except from rhetoric, sadly. Sci-hub currently makes the most fierce case for open access.

> they enjoy being blocked.

They won't give a shit. They make their billions from university subscriptions not home-users.

So am I understanding correctly that this is just DNS blocking? Surely this court-ordered blocking can be trivially bypassed by switching your DNS server.

Yup. They put out a press release explaining how to do it, and on the PR stunt blocking page they put up for elsevier.com they have instructions as well.

But they didn't include a link to the instructions on the court mandated blocking page =(

Depends on the method used. Virgin Media in the UK intercept HTTP requests (and send resets to HTTPS connections), so even tunneling my DNS traffic over a VPN doesn't help.

For dns blocks, DNS over HTTPS should work Firefox supports it, or you could run a local DNS resolver, or use host file for domains that you use and are blocked.

Also I am not even sure it is possible to intercept any traffic over VPN without having the keys, so not sure why tunneling over VPN is a problem , DPI and MITM techniques are not even used by the Chinese government for the most part and people can generally VPN out if they want to.

For clarity, the HTTPS were in the clear. Only DNS traffic was over the VPN, to ensure I got an untampered DNS result (and I later verified that hosts files do not help either). You can obviously VPN out, I was just curious how the system was implemented (as the typical advice of change your DNS provider does not help).

OpenVPN runs on HTTPS port, and I suppose it's hard to block without DPI. If the VPN runs on a known port like various other VPN protocols do, it should be trivial to block those connections.

Is Virgin blocking SciHub in the UK? I'm on a Virgin connection, and can use it. Or that technique is just in general for sites that Virgin is blocking? (I wonder if there's a list)

As far as I can tell, SciHub is not blocked, but try something like yts.am

Over HTTP, you get redirected to http://assets.virginmedia.com/site-blocked.html Over HTTPS, you get ERR_CONNECTION_RESET (Chrome)

If you already have a VPN, why not just use it for the entirety of your traffic?

It was more experimental than anything - I don't particularly want all of my traffic in a VPN. I just temporarily forwarded my DNS resolver box over the VPN.

I wonder if the order was vague enough that it would allow them to comply by blocking the scihub domains but resolving elsevier to a scihub ip

I mean technically the requested URL was blocked, right?

That sounds like a good way to go from "block $x" to a new judgment that says "pay $y".

As the article says, they have also blocked Elsevier's website :)


I'm sympathetic towards the ISP and the readers of academic journals.

However, this is also a gross violation of net neutrality. The ISP's power over a website is evident from their ability to block a website they have differences with. This is both encouraging (that the ISP cares) & frightening (that the ISP has total control)

Seems eminently fair and reasonable to me.

Elsever got a court to order a gross violation of net neutrality.

The ISP had no interest or desire to implement blocking of any sort. Once it's hand is forced via legal means, it needs to obtain that capability - and using it with discretion as a protest is a perfect demonstration as to why they should _not_ have that capability.

About ideals and philosophies - they only matter when pushed to their limits. Free speech only matters when the said speech is disagreeable, ISP power only matters when the ISP disagrees with a website.

Yes - we all approve of the ISP's action, but this instance was in our favor. Will the next be against? Power begets corruption.

"The next"? How about "one of the previous"???



Banhof's stance is that they do not even want the capability to block websites. This is something I wholeheartedly agree with. It certainly means some speech with which I strongly disagree is protected as well as speech with which I do agree. ISPs should _not_ have this kind of power. Banhof do not want it, but since they're being forced into acquiring and using that capability, using it to protest against it seems eminently reasonable.

Then perhaps ISPs shouldn't be blocking any websites at all.

Unfortunately the courts have made this impossible though. In order to get net neutrality back, they would have to reverse that court decision that forced websites to be blocked.

Net Neutrality is less of a concern when you actually have a choice of ISPs. I can choose between around 100 ISPs where I live (going over a shared open-access fiber network) so if one ISP does something nasty it's easy to switch

In case of DNS blocking, I'm always wondering what would happen if ISP wouldn't provide DNS resolver? Instead recursive resolvers could be run on customers routers. Would they still be obliged to block it, even as this is not their resolver?

Blocking the court from accessing the company’s own website seems like a strange move. Do the courts in Sweden write laws or regulations, or are they enforcing the laws and regulations that were already written? Does anyone with the power to change the decision even see the company’s protest?

Courts establish precedents in how they rule cases. While they don't write regulations per se, they certainly clarify and establish how far they reach.

A taste of their own medicine. I wonder if the court will try to order Bahnhof to unblock Elsevier?

They cant without a legal reason. It's quite brilliant.

That's funny as hell. I dunno about the effectiveness of the tactic, but, the comedy is top-notch.


How do we feel about this with regard to net neutrality? Are we ok with the blocking they choose to do here because we agree with them ethically in this case?

Protesting like this is always a very fine line, but i'm personally okay with breaking a law if you are doing it for the sole purpose of trying to change that law.

That being said, i'm genuinely struggling to think of a situation where someone has done this kind of thing for a cause that I disagree with...

Went on a Carnival cruise a month ago. To log out of the internet in one device you had to visit logout.com. They redirected this internally to their own portal.

I'm pretty sure that this is not in line with EU NN law where blocking access to sites is only allowed for security, legal reasons, or to preventing impending network congestion (Article 3(3) of Regulation 2015/2120) Blocking arbitrary websites out of spite is probably neither of these reasons and therefore not justified.

It’s not strictly a block. Just a pop-over that explains how Elsevier sucks and has a button to proceed to Elseviers page.

May be enough to skirt the NN law, or not.

> May be enough to skirt the NN law, or not.

Based on the wording of 3(3) (without doing further research), I'd suggest probably not:

> Providers of internet access services shall treat all traffic equally, when providing internet access services, without discrimination, restriction or interference, and irrespective of the sender and receiver


Wouldn’t the court have a hard time condemning them based on this clause, considering they previously ordered them to go break it?

Probably not. Even though they should.

Protest is legal.

Particular methods of protest, not always.

Presumes corporations have free speech rights.

shudder This is the closest I've come to identifying with the Mitt Romney quote "Corporations are people, my friend." I recognize corporations are a collective entity comprised of people and people have free speech rights. I'm trying to figure out for myself where the boundaries of those rights are, since a collective naturally has more power to impact others than an individual, simply because it takes less individual energy for a collective action than it does for an individual action of the same magnitude.

I have to meditate on this. Anyone have thoughts to share on this to help me find clarity?

Well, it depends on how you think rights should be granted. I personally don't agree with how rights is handled in a lot of cases, giving a sufficiently powerful entity freedom is equivalent to taking away freedom from every other lesser entity it happens to dislike.

Only an entity with greater authority than yourself can grant you any rights, so what happens when it reaches the point where a company is as influential as a small government? A national government?

Consider what you're saying and why a position against corporate speech rights may not be really what you're against. If you come into this with an assumption about what "those greedy, self-serving corporations" might use such rights to say, but second guess it when a corporation agrees with your position: aren't you really saying that it's not the idea of corporate speech rights that you care about, but only what they might say with those rights? If it is corporate speech rights that you care about, the content shouldn't matter at all.

I'm on the opposite side as you. Corporations are merely associations of people (shareholders) working in common cause. Sure that cause is usually profit, but it doesn't have to be only that. Just as a political party is an association of people, or a non-profit organization is an association of people, I firmly hold people can come together in common cause be that for profit or societal action.

Consider Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream and their current push against the sitting president: https://www.benjerry.com/flavors/pecan-resist-ice-cream. Should Ben & Jerry's be allowed to participate in this distinctly political discussion and during an election cycle? I would say yes. Ben & Jerry's does not support my ideology at all (OK, I'm not actually a Trump supporter or even a "conservative", so I don't have a horse in the "Resist" race, but that's besides the point). And that's even with them being foreign owned (relative to the U.S.) I disagree with the ISP's politics... but believe that those people that are making these decisions should have the right to use their company's resources in support of their beliefs.

You need to clarify whether you stand for principle or whether you are on a team. If principle, then it seems like the ISP's actions are not in line with your principles. If you're just on a team... we'll OK... then I guess it doesn't really matter, does it. :-)

I have no idea if it's legal or not and I could not care less. There is no obligation to obey the law. The law is wrong when it requires that ISPs block websites and I hope Bahnhof and other ISPs will do everything in their power to resist it.

I will choose the IPS that resist censorship and government spying the most even if it means I will have to pay extra. I know that these blocks are trivial to circumvent but I think the principal is very important.

Isn't that the exact point they are making?

They either not block or block anything.

They didn’t even block the domain, they put up a protest page. There’s a link at the bottom to go to the real site.

They are not blocking them indefinitely (or at all). I think it's not correct to even call this "blocking".

Basically they are mitm-ing to factually explain the situation at hand and then they offer the users to go-ahead with visiting Elsevier if they want to.

it's one of the reasons why we don't need NN

Bandwidth isn't unlimited.

Without net neutrality companies like Elsevier/Google/Facebook could pay a company like Bahnhof for a special treatment. Such as priority traffic for discounts. We -in Europe- decided we really don't wanna go down that road. This law, however...

It is necessary though because before you know it traffic such as Tor or SSH or OpenVPN or whatever is considered misc gets lower priority.

> We -in Europe- decided we really don't wanna go down that road.

Europe does not have net neutrality in mobile. Zero-rating is a way to subsidize specific services with "video pass", "social pass", "chat pass" etc, which are uber popular throughout europe

>Without net neutrality companies like Elsevier/Google/Facebook could pay a company like Bahnhof for a special treatment.

And customers could just use another ISP in that case. Net neutrality is only an issue when you have government enforced monopolies for ISPs like in the US.

Yeah, that sounds really fluffy and sweet until you realise there's a huge barrier for entry: you won't easily have ROI since you need to invest in infrastructure. Heck, you won't even have the wireless 4G licenses. There's only so many.

There are 4 major mobile telcos in The Netherlands. #3 wants to merge with #4 (Tele2) so we may end up with a triopoly [1], and #3 may then use the cheap LTE/4G license which #4 got for a cheap price.

For wired, if you're lucky you can pick fiber. Otherwise you're stuck with cable or DSL from the duopolists [2], if they even both provide decent network at your location, that is. All the others are merely resellers who don't own the actual network(s).

It isn't much different in the rest of Europe. What is different is that there's more opponents of net neutrality, and obviously a duopoly is better than a monopoly, and a triopoly is better than a duopoly or monopoly. However it is far from an ideal situation; it isn't a healthy market. Who'd have thought if you sold entire infrastructures to companies (the cable infrastructure were owned by the local governments before, and the telephone network by the government as well) or if you sell a limited amount of licenses.

[1] KPN, Ziggo (VodafoneZiggo joint venture), T-Mobile.

[2] KPN, Vodafone (VodafoneZiggo joint venture).

Sounds like a pretty significant violation of net neutrality to be blocking companies that they don't "like" out of spite. Doesn't Sweden have NN laws?

This is a protest demonstrating exactly how bad blocking is. The message is: so you really want to go down this path?

As such I’m fine with it. For any other purpose - not so much.

This seems to be a different conception of net neutrality than we have in the US where registrars have a right to terminate service at will.

I just find it ironic that in NN threads here, the prevailing thought is "NN is necessary to prevent censorship!" and then in censorship/deplatforming threads like this one, the prevailing thought is "this is a good thing and actually necessary"

I don't. The isp is forced to censor, so they choose to also censor the entity that abused the system.

The difference is astronomical. The purpose is also to send a signal...

> I don't. The isp is forced to censor, so they choose to also censor the entity that abused the system.

Exactly. There is a huge difference between wanting to censor your enemies and not wanting to censor anybody but being forced to, and then responding by doing so in a balanced rather than asymmetric way.

It would be best for the ISP not to be blocking anything, but given that is not a permitted option...

I actually haven’t found NN to be framed in terms of censorship at all.

In addition, the version of censorship people find evil is state censorship. I’ve found this to be a relatively easy thing to agree on in western society. In terms of non-state platforms, what would be censorship is both widely used (curation, bowdlerization, protection of identities of anonymous sources, etc) and in certain circumstances desired. My point being: “censorship” is not a useful thing to discuss in the abstract, and crying censorship whenever service is terminated is less useful that discussing the event in concrete terms. I think the uncanny part here is that the perception of DNS is that it is a public space, but it is implemented in the private space. I’m emphatically not sure what the right thing is to do here but I can’t help but feel glee that the weapons capitalists use to enforce control can also be used against them.

People are biased even if they claim to not be.

Let me get this straight an ISP is choosing to censor a website of it's own volition out of spite, and people are cheering for it?

This is a protest move, and arguably political. I don't want my ISP to have a tantrum. What if next time it decides that some party or movement doesn't fit it's views and block that?

I think the context matters here. The ISP is demonstrating the dangers you've pointed out in site blocking by blocking a site that opposes site blocking -- that's genius. Why wouldn't people cheer? Clearly this is indicative that the ISP wouldn't support any kind of block in the future, even for material that doesn't support its views.

If your argument is that this should be put into law and enforced, I imagine this ISP would also agree with you.

Well, it's a small ISP and they've always been involved in Internet politics. Their customers know that, and probably chose them (at least in part) because they are political.

OTOH, maybe blocking sci-hub is for the best. Blocking sci-hub is a bigger inconvenience to scientists, who often take it for granted and use it as a cop out to keep publishing with closed access.

Oh , and maybe google should consider pushing Elsevier's websites down in their search ? I mean almost all articles are indexed in pubmed which even loads faster.

90% of scientists have no choice. Your funding and career as a scientist are directly linked to where you publish (impact factors and so on). So if you have a "choice" between publishing in a major journal published by Elsevier and a no-name but open journal, guess where you send your paper ...

And the "open access" options offered by Elsevier and others are just an insult added to injury - "pay $4000 for making your work publicly accessible" or "pay nothing but then we put your work behind a paywall, will own the copyright on it and will charge you exorbitant subscription fee to access it".

Unless universities and governments start to actually boycott this and outlaw these practices, nothing will change. That's really not in the hands of the individual researchers that are pressed to publish publish publish and collect "points" for their departments by doing so.

And I feel like governments can easily change this, simply by requiring that all publicly funded research must be published in open access journals. So, y'know, the people who actually fund it can read it.

As it stands, I'm fully behind Sci-Hub simply because I'm not affiliated with an academic library, and can't afford to pay all their damn fees. It harms individual researchers as well as individuals who are just plain interested in the material.

Many agencies do that, e.g. ERC requires it. However it hasn't changed anything, because these publishers charge (a lot) for open access, and ERC just ends up subsidizing them even more.

Then perhaps those agencies could create their own journals which are open access and then publish everything through those? That'd be an easy way, without having to pay for the open-access?

The problem with open access is that typically you, as an author, get a choice:

- assign copyright to the publisher, have your work paywalled and pay for the access to it via exorbitant subscription fees the university pays

- ask for having it available as open access - and then the publisher charges you thousands of USD/Euro ($4000 is common) for the privilege as a condition of having it published.

Very few university departments can afford to pay such fees so you can guess where the papers end up.

And if you mean open access journals that don't demand these fees - well, that's of little use to an average researcher when their career depends on peer reviewed publications in reputable journals. Publishing it wherever, in a journal nobody heard about with who knows who doing the reviews has zero value and you won't get any credit for that.

That's definitely part of the problem, and would inhibit laws since the publishers know they'd get the free money. Perhaps the government could also regulate the publishers and say they can't charge any more for open access than they can for subscription fees?

Or, perhaps the different agencies can create their own journals for their funded projects and let the research appear in them? Basically, create new reputable journals precisely for open access? Or make it where a paper has to be submitted to a "prestigious" one and an open access one a year or so later (i.e. author keeps copyright, period), which would hopefully build up the prestige of them?

I'm not sure the solution, just trying to think of ideas.

Perhaps we can craft a section to include in research papers citing research showing peer review is currently insufficient for driving science and is in fact contributing to reproducibility crises? How research gets published and the pressures impacting any singular study seems like important metadata to include in reports.

almost all journals let you upload your preprint in arxiv or biorxiv etc.

I've often wondered why universities themselves don't publish each others papers. I understand that there will be cliques as that is standard human behavior but:

-They can maintain their own web servers and have a service charge

-It's an extra project for IT departments that holds real world importance

By eliminating the publisher wanting to make a profit the cost of publishing an be decreased.

Is this a viable start?

They do that and have done it all the time and it's called grey literature: self-publications with dubious peer-reviewing policies, that are prone to fraud and corruption.

In most cases grey literature will nowadays count against you if you apply somewhere, but there are quite a few countries and professors who made their careers with it in some less acclaimed universities during the 70s and 80s.

As I laid out in another post (see above), unfortunately you cannot just start some open access journal and expect it to have a reputation as good as a journal that exists for more than a hundred years. It takes several decades of 95% rejection rate and rigorous editorial work to build up that reputation.

Still, it's the right way to go in the long run, new open access journals open all the time and some have good editorial boards. It just can't happen overnight and for young researchers like me in my area, there is currently no alternative to also publishing in closed journals. It's either publish in those journals, or give up any prospects of making a career in academia.

That's why the current EU open access policies are, as noble as they seem, quite problematic and have a potential to destroy many promising careers within the next 5-10 years.

> That's why the current EU open access policies are, as noble as they seem, quite problematic

The purpose of government funded research isn't to help university faculty build portfolios for professional advancement. It's to find new original knowledge about topics that are in the public interest. That goal is frustrated if the public can't access the knowledge afterwards.

> have a potential to destroy many promising careers

"Destroy careers" sounds too dramatic. I'm expect there will be some churn, and some exceptions, but I expect that a strong P&T case will continue to be a strong P&T case, with the committee noting that some publications were in less established journals because the corresponding research was publicly funded.

> The purpose of government funded research isn't to help university faculty build portfolios for professional advancement. It's to find new original knowledge about topics that are in the public interest. That goal is frustrated if the public can't access the knowledge afterwards.

I'm talking about the evaluation criteria of the government funding agencies. You should tell them them your opinion, not me.

>"Destroy careers" sounds too dramatic.

You don't understand. This is about the quality of the research. If you put arbitrary open access journals on a par with the top journals that have been established over 100 years, or even rank them higher, then even more bullshitters will make a career at the cost of serious scientists.

I'm in the humanities where this is a real concern. I already have colleagues who publish 10 lousy papers/year in bad journals and make a career out of this, rather than publishing 3 good papers/year in top journals.

I wouldn't put this into so drastic words if I wasn't 100% convinced that the problem exists. There is already a race to mediocrity due to excessive indicator counting, pushing researchers away from the top journals to mediocre journals with less quality control will make things even worse.

In my field there are maybe 2-3 halfway acceptable open access journals, and all the top journals are proprietary, mostly Springer and Oxford Journals.

> 90% of scientists have no choice.

100% of scientists have an option to publish a copy in arxiv or biorxiv. It's not happening.

> are directly linked to where you publish

And therein lies the problem, which, if solved, will make open access redundant. I have never seen a conference with a panel "how to change funding criteria". Publishers like elsevier act as a trusted "third party" that validates scientists, and are trusted precisely because they are a third party (i.e. they are perceived as immune to academic politics). Whatever solution is to be found, it will probably have to include such a third party, but in the form of a reviewer who gives grades, not one who withholds the world's scientific output for its own gain. It might be a simple third-party ratings system , like how ratings agencies rate banks. It is a discussion that should have started years earlier.

> 100% of scientists have an option to publish a copy in arxiv or biorxiv. It's not happening.

This is not about publishing, this is about peer-reviewed publishing. Putting something on an open Internet archive does not count as a publication you could put on your CV. Were I work, for example, our publications are analyzed with bibliometric tools based on a point system, and our funding and tenure directly depends on that. Putting something in an archive or on a web page: 0 points. Not peer-reviewed: 0 points. Peer-reviewed but not indexed by Scopus: 5 points (probably should be 0 though). Indexed by Scopus and peer-reviewed: 10 points.

The third party rating system you suggest makes no sense and could not possibly work. You have to understand that it's not Elsevier who do the peer-reviewing, but your own colleagues who do anonymous peer-reviews and are, of course, not paid for that. No mandated 3rd-party authority could possibly determine and warrant the quality of scientific publications. After all, where would the assessors come from? From the pool of our colleagues, of course.

Elsevier and Kluwer themselves do basically nothing. They provide some final editing in India. They don't run the journals, don't compose the editorial boards, don't control the reviews, and have nothing to do with the content of publications. What they have is the prestige of the journals they took over or bought from the 70s until now. For the top journals, which are the only journals that count, this prestige includes a vast pool of reviewers and a famous editorial board, as well as many decades of highly acclaimed publications. You cannot just replace that with a open access journal, it takes 30-50 years of good editorial work for that journal to get the same reputation.

That's the problem.

"Peer-reviewed but not indexed by Scopus: 5 points (probably should be 0 though)."

Why 0?

Scopus is a huge index (unlike Web of Science), so you won't find any good journals that are not Scopus indexed.

Because it's usually only "peer reviewed".

you can get peer reviewed and also submit your preprint in biorxiv. It's disappointing that it's not happening on a broad scale however.

I am sorry but you are completely incorrect here.

If you publish to Arxiv you can't publish in a journal that actually gets you the "points" you need to advance your career or secure your funding. The only exceptions are domains like mathematics or theoretical physics where publishing pre-prints and sometimes full papers on Arxiv is the norm. Most research fields are not like that.

One of the first things most journals will ask you to do is an exclusive copyright assignment as a condition of publication. The only thing you can do afterwards is to publish the paper on your own website (and often not even that, at least not the version that the journal has a copyright on) and use it privately e.g. for teaching or further research. Nothing more. So there is no way to publish the same text both in e.g. Elsevier's journal and on Arxiv without risking getting sued. And few people have the time (unpaid, of course) to write a second version of the same paper only for the sake of uploading it to Arxiv.

The part about the rating systems - this hasn't been created neither by scientists (who work mostly on reputation) nor publishers. This pressure to score, evaluate, grade research output is a purely governmental thing - bureaucrats and politicians wanting a simple number they can compare and use to decide on who gets and who doesn't get funded, who can and who can't apply for tenure and so on.

Elsevier and others (Scopus, for ex.) only filled the demand by providing easy to use statistics, such as impact factors, citation numbers and so on based on their databases. Oh and they have very good lobbyists and e.g. in Germany Elsevier was put in charge of all this data tracking for the German government ...

However, none of this requires any of the publishers - all publications are recorded by the universities anyway, citation numbers are quite easy to estimate even by googling (Google Scholar does that, without any access to the proprietary databases).

And getting stuff like impact factors (which are a largely arbitrary metrics comparing cited vs all published articles in a certain journal) is in the interest of publishers because otherwise their journals will be irrelevant.

> if you publish to Arxiv you can't publish in a journal that actually gets you the "points"

Wrong . Most journals allow publishing of preprints https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_academic_journals_by_p...

I hear this a lot but don’t fully agree to the premise of ‘having no choice’. I published an article once and asked the professor if he was willing to publish open access. His answer was that he was open to it, but that if I was looking for a career in science, publishing OA in the current journals would require more effort from our side to justify the importance of our work. (The other author wanted to stay in science, and wanted to take the easier route, so in the end we decided to publish the old-fashioned way)

Just to say: you have a choice, the OA path just requires more effort. And depending on your area of expertise, the OA journals can actually be very good.

I agree with your conclusion though: change at scale requires universities to change their behavior. Before boycotting Elsevier, a good start would be to move evaluations away from ‘impact factors’ to e.g. h-index.

What you probably haven't been told is that the "more effort" typically means paying a rather exorbitant sum of money to the publisher to have the paper opened up.

You can certainly do that - but nobody does because for that fee you can pay two postdocs' salaries instead. Also good luck justifying that to the university bean counters - "Why do you need this $4000 fee paid when you can publish it for free?!".

The deck is intentionally stacked so high against open access publishing that it is basically unviable in the form it exists today.

Unless scientists start collectively taking responsibility for the state of the world in which they live, I don't anticipate quick change.

Everyone has a choice, even scientists who disempower themselves by telling themselves they don't. Learning to stand up for one's self, individually and collectively, can be much harder work than ins and outs of everyday living, especially when it comes to standing up to authoritarian states/industries.

I can trust my fellow scientists to pull together. We shall overcome.

I mean, if your future career and livelihood depends on you doing something, odds are you don't really have a choice. Now, maybe the few tenure professors can do something, but non-tenured ones don't really have many options.

I always have a choice, even if it's one I may not like.

It may require my career being put on pause so I can conduct my research without such pressures because I recognize Science as a greater purpose.

I choose my values and make decisions based on those. My life is infinitely more joyful and free as a result. I used tell myself about not having a choice (a logical fallacy, btw). Then I admitted to myself some choices are harder than others and I can't expect anyone to change their life for the sake of preserving my values.

The beautiful thing I never heard anyone mention in the past about living true to my values: when I choose to stick by my values without having a plan for the future, it's immediately easier for me to come up with a plan!

That's super tricky and requires being comfortable with uncertainty, which idealized Science is a practice in accepting, though the current climate doesn't really reflect that.

Scientists could benefit from researching and practicing empowerment.


Try to build a science career when you are living from the slave wages and short term contracts most universities give to grad students and postdocs. Oh and that doesn't even mention student debt, in case you are in a country where you had to take a loan and pay tuition.

Also, if you don't publish e.g. 2 major papers per year, then your career will be certainly put on pause for you - permanently. There is pretty much no way to get back unless you have a list of current publications on your CV.

Dude, please, before trying to lecture someone about moral choices, at least try to research the subject and the conditions in which most of the research is done.

For your information, most of the work is not done by the tenured professors who can afford to take e.g. a year of sabbatical to ponder their values because their employment is secure. The professor is there to raise funding and to do management work, in the most cases they are only signing their name on work produced by the nontenured staff who certainly doesn't have any of those luxuries.

janoc this is a (correct) description of a corrupted system. It is possible to do research and not to bend to these rules, at least in mathematics.

Publishing in closed journals limits the dissemination of the work. Moreover peer review is not as rigorous as replication or validation of work which is public, related discussion today on HN [0].

Why should I take seriously a researcher who puts carrier over public validation?

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18364518

It isn't my intent to lecture, but to speak my truth. I don't presume to speak for others; I simply know my experience taking disempowering stances in the past and am sharing that perspective because nobody ever told me I could live life the way I am now. I found this path through my own privileged sabbatical from the world as I recovered from porn/gaming/media/sex/love/sugar/anxiety/information addiction on my parents' dime. I don't think such a break from the world is required to break from societal programming because it's possible for someone to learn from my experience if they're open to doing so.

I'm building my science "career" outside of academia for these reasons. I put "career" in quotes because I'm not sure if this word fits for me: science is part of my personal spirituality, ie. how I connect with the world around me & I don't know how you define career. I don't need academia for sustainable living because I've worked hard to develop a giving and supportive community. We share a lot of our things and expenses. It's most certainly not the norm and took a lot of work to abandon the scarcity mentalities of the world, especially around money.

It's my intention to share how I live and what I've learned from it, and not to tell anyone how to live. I'm saying everyone literally has a choice every moment, even when there's a gun to their head. I don't fault or judge anyone for their decisions in the face of coercive systems. I had to realize I can have everything I need without using money and that took me decades of struggling within these highly codependent systems before realizing I could trust myself and others to meet my needs. I still use money because some things are harder to share than others in a small town of 9000, like gasoline.

Interdependent living requires massive mental shifts from cultural norms. I'm pursuing my career without a single degree to my name and am loving every moment of it. I'm more privileged and free than most people, despite the little money I have. Several of my friends are doing the same. Some come from privileged families, some don't. Freedom from money is possible and hard af. It doesn't require not having any or giving what you have away.

There's always another way. When I choose to believe there isn't, science says (& my experience confirms) I'm engaging cognitive biases in my brain/mind that'll keep me from seeing alternative paths. This led me to realize learning to choose my beliefs wisely is a skill progression necessary for crafting the life I want for myself.

I like to say "there's no wrong ways, only long ways." I think I've figured out quicker ways to achieve internal changes leading to dramatic external effects than society teaches/enables/encourages. In the future, they may wind up being long ways. If you choose to not believe anything I'm saying or otherwise dismiss it as lecturing or whatever, ok. You do you & I'll do me.

In the meantime, citizen science exists. I invite the refugees of capitalist academia's psychosocial enslavement to free themselves of their bonds and transform into more free researchers.

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