by Olivia LaRosa, Decembrrr 19, 2013
I responded thusly: Elsevier and the like exist only to make money. That can best be done by stifling academic freedom. And if you can pile up a few dollars while throttling free thought, all the better. Thinking otherwise is kind of like thinking that your insurance company insures you because they care about you.
This is an evil plot if I ever saw one. ~Ed.
One of the world’s largest academic publishers has launched a wide-ranging takedown spree, demanding that several different universities take down their own scholars’ research.
Elsevier is a commercial firm that publishes some of the leading journals in many academic fields. In recent weeks, it has sent takedown notices to the academic social media network Academia.edu, as well as to the University of Calgary, the University of California-Irvine, and Harvard University.
In these cases, Elsevier is within its legal rights to demand the material be taken down. The firm often requires researchers to surrender their copyrights in a paper as a condition of publishing it. But the takedown campaign goes against a long-standing industry practice in which journal publishers look the other way when academics post their own work.
Elsevier’s new hard-line posture is likely to intensify a debate over the future of academic publishing. Thanks to the Internet, academics no longer need traditional academic publishers to distribute their research to the world in paper form. And a growing number of researchers are beginning to wonder if legacy publishers are becoming more of an obstacle than an aid to distributing their work. Outrage over Elsevier’s takedown spree could intensify their search for alternative models that allow academics to share their work directly—without companies like Elsevier taking such a big cut.
The new wave of takedown requests
The first signs of Elsevier crackdown trickled out online in early December, when Academia.edu saw a huge spike in takedown notices. “In the past we really got one or two takedowns a week,” says Academia.edu CEO Richard Price, “Only very recently did Elsevier start sending take-downs in batches of thousands.” Price says the company received around 2,800 take-down requests within the course of a few weeks. The site e-mailed notices to the academics affected, explaining why the papers were taken down.
Many recipients took to Twitter to express their dismay. But given that Academia.edu is a for-profit company that competes with a similar platform purchased by Elsevier in April of this year, Mendeley, those takedown notices don’t seem all that out of the ordinary.
But it now appears that the Academia.edu takedowns were part of a broader effort to take down unauthorized copies of articles published in Elsevier journals from across the Internet.