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Academic librarians’ reflections on SciHub

I’m finally catching up on the news surrounding SciHub. Here’s a roundup of my favorite reflections from academic librarians so far.

The Academic Librarian reminds us that what’s illegal is not necessarily unethical:

“There’s a moral case for arguing that current copyright law is unjust law that creates a form of information apartheid for researchers who aren’t affiliated with the relatively wealthy institutions that can afford the access.”

Kevin Smith at Scholarly Communications @ Duke calls our attention to copyright’s true purpose:

“Copyright law is an instrumentality, not a good in itself. It’s role in our legal system is to encourage creativity and the production of knowledge. When it ceases to do that it deserves to be challenged and changed.”

The always-on-point Gavina Libriana brings us back to our moral obligations as librarians:

“It’s our soul. We had best get to shaping it into something we can live with.”

Marcus Banks aptly points out the contradiction that many academic librarians wrestle with in the course of their duties:

“I’ve long raged against having to think about and deploy access control mechanisms within the libraries where I have worked. I became a librarian in order to maximize access to information, not to meter it out stingily. But dem’s the breaks baby cakes. Part of being an academic librarian today involves providing uncompensated copyright enforcement for publishing interests, in order to reinforce values you do not even believe in.”

The Chronicle’s piece on the role of librarians in this fight too quickly assumes we are all “stuck in the middle.” I would bet that many of us wouldn’t hesitate more than a few seconds before “pirating” published research for the sake of a patron. If you want more, check out John Dupuis’s roundup.

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All established institutions seek to persist

I don’t often agree with Scholarly Kitchen, but this has a point:

“In my view, publishers are making a very, very big mistake in not addressing the interests of librarians about lending rights. Libraries are in the business of lending books and other materials; when publishers hesitate in making e-books available to libraries, librarians naturally act to preserve their interests. Telling a librarian that “this is the future; deal with it” is not a wise strategy — because all established institutions seek to persist. Librarians have gathered formidable intellectual talent to further their aims and the first-sale doctrine is being prepared to go on stage in the digital age. The prudent action for publishers is to establish library-lending programs for e-books so that first-sale does not become a rallying cry against all form of copyright.”

Source: The Time Machine Investigates the First-sale Doctrine