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Thousands of scientific papers uploaded to The Pirate Bay (gigaom.com)
200 points by nextparadigms on July 21, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 46 comments

"Thousands of scientific papers uploaded to The Pirate Bay"

Is it any surprise that the fed is attacking torrent sites? Even a tech news site puts incorrect titles on its news articles.

He didn't upload papers to the Pirate Bay, he uploaded a 165kb torrent file to the Pirate Bay.

It may sound like semantics but it has real legal repercussions.

The attacks on torrent sites have little to do with headlines and more to do with the reality that they are critical points in the distribution of information people don't want shared.

To many people the distinction you point out is meaningless.

"Thousands of scientific papers torrented at The Pirate Bay"

'torrented at' seems to be emerging as the favoured idiom denoting the hosting of a torrent file.

" a .torrent file pointing to thousands of scientific papers has just been uploaded to the pirate bay" doesnt really fit into a headline

"Thousands of scientific papers were shared via The Pirate Bay"

This is still pretty misleading. TPB only hosts the .torrent file, they don't have any of the contents of the files being shared. They don't even run a tracker anymore! Any method of distributing a small file to a large number of people would have worked in the exact same way. The only thing TPB has that (e.g.) Google Docs doesn't is mindshare.

Yes, I agree. I guess the problem lies in mentioning The Pirate Bay in the first place. The facilitator is unimportant.

It's like saying that the documents were mailed via TNT.

They don't run a tracker anymore?! Are they using other people's trackers or just the DHT feature?

The .torrent file can list multiple trackers. If it includes TPB's old trackers, connections will fail but the DHT and other trackers usually manage just fine. In fact, TPB said that trackers are obsolete ("not up-to-date") and that everyone should just use DHT and peer exchange (PEX) instead of relying on centralized trackers from now on. Some people still use trackers, but it's not really necessary.


"A way to get thousands of scientific papers on The Pirate Bay"


Please don't conflate the pay walls with public domain, these journal articles are clearly in the public domain. And they should not be behind a pay wall.

Locking in of the worlds historical knowledge is even worse, I think, than locking in current research. The economic return to the holders of the keys to the garden have no moral or legal right to assert control over the this knowledge, when their articles of incorporation most likely expose the oposite of their actions. These organizations are greedy wholesale hypocrites.

I'm no legal expert, but I'd guess it's illegal to sell what is in the public domain. Why hasn't anybody done anything?

I am not a lawyer or expert either but I do not believe it is illegal to sell something in the public domain. That's sort of the point of Public Domain. No one can tell you not to sell it.

You've really never seen a Dover book?


Publishing works that are in the public domain is their bread and butter.

Kudos for compensation to the downvotes I received. I don't know what happened to the "ask and learn" culture.

I am not a native English speaker, and the term public domain was not self-explanatory (rather, it explained itself in the wrong way).

In Hungarian, public domain means közkincs, which is roughly equivalent to "treasure of the public". So the question seemed reasonable to ask.

You can sell works in the public domain. Go to your book store, I'm sure you can buy a copy of Frankenstein, which is in the public domain. The whole purpose of public domain is that no one owns the copyright, so there are no restrictions to anyone on what may be done with them. I could publish Frankenstein and sell it to people, but I can't stop other people from selling it.

If these documents really are under public domain, then JSTOR can't stop people from distributing the copies obtained from them. However, it is possible for JSTOR to claim copyright on the form of the distributed copies, but not the content (assuming the papers are in the public domain). That is, if they had a JSTOR logo on the papers, or something 'unique', JSTOR may have a basis for claiming copyright infringement. This is assuming they were actually obtained legally, and JSTOR didn't have a strange TOS.

Don't downvote this question, it is valid.

We sell water don't we?

Exactly, you can charge for providing access to anything, as long as you are not obstructing public property to do so.

Even if the works are in the public domain, the copies that you maintain are yours and you can charge for access to those copies.

I'm not sure if you're joking. I'm going to, for my own sanity, pretend that you are joking.

Taking things on face value I congratulate him. There's been a few times when I've tried to access an interesting academic paper only to find that it's only available behind some pay- wall.

Why should we have to pay for a scientific paper if it was produced by a public funded institution?

What's the long term effect on the spread and advancement of knowledge if access is restricted and "gamed" for profit?

If he's sued (against assuming I properly understand the issues here) I'll probably contribute to his defence because he's acting in everyone's interest.

once you start taking a closer look at academic publishing practices quite a lot of it ranges from "silly" to "morally questionable".

and not just in publishing.

there's particularly one practice that I find particularly distasteful, and that is the practice of putting the names of people who had nothing to do with the publicaion on papers. either to market the paper itself ("ooh, look, I have a famous professor's name next to mine!") or to boost the publication list of some tenured has-been.

a few years ago there was a scandal here in Norway. a doctor got caught fabricating research results. as the shitstorm hit the media his "co-authors" (none of which seemed to have done any of the work or the writing, and some of which denied even knowing about the paper) ran for cover. oh and how they ran.

I must say that I found it somewhat questionable that they didn't get thrown out of academia for having put their name on a piece of fraudulent bullshit. if the paper was good enough to put their name on it should be good enough to stand by.

it ought to be a mandatory practice to mark these frauds in publication lists and databases as such: frauds.

most I have talked to who are still in academia defend the practice. and when they run out of sensible arguments in its favor, which they inevitably do, they go with the old "well, it is how it is done. so we shouldn't rock the boat".

quite a few of these people have a change of heart after leaving academia. or after having a re-think about ethics and honesty and why it really, really matters if you are to call what you are doing "science".

> most I have talked to who are still in academia defend the practice. and when they run out of sensible arguments in its favor, which they inevitably do, they go with the old "well, it is how it is done. so we shouldn't rock the boat".

Well scientists are no less irrational than the rest of us, and why would anyone in a position of power ever be interested in changing the status quo?

[…] I find particularly distasteful […] the practice of putting the names of people who had nothing to do with the publication on papers.

I heard an argument that I find difficult to take down: even though you may write a paper alone, the research it is based on probably wasn't done alone. Even if you did your research alone, it likely stands on the research done by your lab mates. Even if it doesn't, you don't really work alone. You talk to people, most notably your advisor, or your research director (depending on your position). Whether you know it or not, those conversations gives your insights that shouldn't go un-thanked.

The bottom line is, it's a team, and the signature should reflect that (non-)reality.

I don't buy that argument. A person who is responsible for nothing more than the research research ought not to be an "author" of the paper. Research is nothing but data; the choice of what research to use, and the conclusions drawn from that data, are what make the paper.

The argument you cite does not support listing all those folks as authors. For example, one could have papers "Authored by X, featuring original research by J, K, and L".

Oh, I don't buy that argument either. But I have heard it in more subtle forms. I just didn't know how to convince the very people that use it of its invalidity.

For that matter, your suggestion to classify the various authors by the nature of their contribution should shatter my argument to pieces. Adding something like "supervised by C" should blow those pieces to smithereens.

For most journals I have experience with as a (co-)author a signed form is required for every (co-)author on the paper. This way it's pretty hard to deny you have knowledge of the paper.

I agree with you that people that have not contributed should not be on a paper. For most high impact journals thesedays explanation is required of who did what. Of course this is far from 100% secure but it's an interesting step. Lying about the contribution of a certain co-author is something else than just adding a name to the list. Lying is fraud whereas adding a name might not actually be fraud I think.

... Scientific publications are some of the most outrageously expensive pieces of literature you can buy. In the past, the high access fees supported the costly mechanical reproduction of niche paper journals, but online distribution has mostly made this function obsolete.

Another reason they are so expensive might be that the reprints are almost always expenses against research grants, so there is little in the way of "market forces" working to keep the price commensurate with the true value.

It's interesting to note that the person who created this torrent, Greg Maxwell, is not trying to remain anonymous, he put his name and email into the torrent description.

...and a bitcoin address

Definitely in the event that he needs help paying legal fees.

Scientific publications/journals are highly ineffective, but what is the alternative? The current system is so entrenched in the politics of science - you need publications in respectable journals to advance your career or to get grants.

It's going to be very difficult to break.


It's difficult, but it's already working. PLoS journals are actually quite reputable, currently.

Yep. The New Journal of Physics has a lame name, but it has a 3.31 impact factor (high for physics) and all published papers are available for free in PDF and, impressively, HTML.

I don't disapprove of free and open publication, but without publishers, who is going to organize conferences with gala luncheons?

I think some sort of academic graph system could be a suitable replacement. Individual users could "like" papers they thought were worth reading and other users could "follow" them to have those recommendations factored in to their reading lists.

I've got an idea about this in the concept phase. Think OSS meets science.

Don't think this will work out as well. Not only can you get paid to do OSS, but we (programmers) also have the option of obtaining very high paying jobs while working on OSS projects on the side. Not only this, but lots of research requires quite a bit more expensive equipment than writing software. I mean I would love to see something like this work but I have my doubts :)

I'm not looking to profit from this so I'll give you a brief summary of the concept.

Essentially, the idea is to remove, or at the least, decrease, political influence over science. The problem right now is that very few scientists can research things which actually interest them. Often, they are working for a company which is attempting to make more money, or the military, which is attempting to kill more people, or academia, where the idea is to get the most prestige. All of those things directly decrease the quality of research and have no place in science.

As a scientist, I could go onto this site, write up a hypothesis and outline the experiment that needs to be performed to test it. Then, people who have an interest in the particular piece of research could provide funding, loan equipment or even directly contribute by becoming part of the team. After the experiment has been completed, the results are released in the public domain (this also helps to break up the monopoly that scientific publication have). Crowd sourcing is then utilised to verify the findings and discuss their implications.

To put it another way, science should be something that everyone can do, given enough free time and determination, yet, as things are, only a select few get to do this and often have to deal with mountains of politics to get to that stage.

Is software the issue? I think the problem is that the only way to get your science out to other scientists is through journals. Yeah journals filter the good research from the bad, but there has to be a better way. The review process itself isn't even great.

A better system would also allow for the release of negative data.

Interesting. This appears to be Greg Maxwell (gmaxwell) from Xiph.

Xiph is an organization that respects software patents. (As opposed to various other multimedia efforts like VideoLAN and libav that ignore them).

so where's the torrent?

I'm gonna seed the fuck out of this. There's always place for knowledge on my HDDs, and there will always be bandwidth I can sacrifice for spreading that knowledge.

I dare to say: For science!

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