[Update 2015-03-13: I have blogged further about this here and provided a recap here. This post has been viewed over 10,000 times. Clearly some people want to sweep this under the carpet and pretend this is just ‘a storm in a teacup’ but it did happen and people do care about this. Thanks to everyone who spread the word.]
Today, Elsevier (RELX Group) illegally sold me a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licensed article:
Colson, P. et al. HIV infection en route to endogenization: two cases. Clin Microbiol Infect 20, 1280-1288 (2014).
I’m really not happy about it. I don’t think the research funders will be happy about it either. Especially not the authors (who are the copyright holders here).
Below is a screenshot of how the content was illegally on offer for sale, for $31.50 + tax.
To investigate if it really was on sale. I decided to make a test purchase. Just to be absolutely sure. Why not? The abstract looked interesting. The abstract was all I was allowed to read. I wanted to know more.
Below is the email receipt I received confirming my purchase of the content. I have crudely redacted my postal address but it’s otherwise unaltered:
So what’s the problem here?
The article was originally published online by Wiley. As clearly indicated in the document, the copyright holders are the authors. The work was licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).
The terms of this widely used license clearly state: “You may not use the material for commercial purposes.”
Wiley respect this license. They make this content freely available on their website here. The authors, or their research funder or institution probably paid Wiley money to make sure that the article could be made freely available to the world.
But tonight, Elsevier were selling it to me and all the world via their ScienceDirect platform.
This is clearly an illegal copyright infringement.
I have tweeted Elsevier employees @wisealic & @TomReller to see how I can get a refund for my purchase at the very least. This article should never have been on sale.
I have also contacted the corresponding author (Didier) to see what his thoughts are.
I do hope the authors will take legal action against Elsevier for their criminal misdeeds here.
Showing 4 Reviews
1Speaking as someone who personally believes strongly in the value and importance of open access - and does not believe hybrid OA is the best tool we have for it - I am still somewhat taken aback by the rhetoric used here. Calling for legal action and criminal sanctions as a way to report what is essentially a software bug?It's abundantly clear (to me, at least) that this is a systems mistake by Elsevier. A hybrid journal with ~30 OA articles was moved from one publisher to another; someone simply ingested it into the new publishing system without checking the metadata properly (or, given the rarity of hybrid journal transfers, they may not even have thought a check was needed). The specific license of the articles is more or less irrelevant to what happened - though, yes, of course an article with a CC-BY-NC license should not have been sold.
Problems like this do happen - and given the way hybrid OA is being shoehorned into existing systems, are almost bound to happen. They're *errors*, and the response to an error is to tell someone so they can fix it, not to assume conspiracy and immediately publish about their "criminal misdeeds". This is as true in scientific publishing as it is in any other part of science.
This article gets right to the point and makes it pretty clear that Elsevier was selling something that they weren't supposed to be. The license that this article was sold under explicitly prohibits this type of redistribution. These are the words of the relevant CC license.
- No additional restrictions — You may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits.
So as you see there is no license given for this sort of transaction and if the author wants to protect their rights they should sue Elsevier for royalties.
Royalties are what authors get in any other publishing process. If readers are paying then authors should get royalties even ...no...especially in academic publishing.
From the Wiley Copyright and Open Access Licences page: "Use of Wiley Open Access articles for commercial, promotional, or
marketing purposes requires further explicit permission from Wiley
and will be subject to a fee."
So, Elsevier paid for a commercial redistribution license for the paper, added some mark-up to that license fee, and quite legally, and very happily, charged you for it.
I think you are taking an honest mistake and trying to turn it into something much worse than it really is. You say, "I do hope the authors will take legal action against Elsevier for their criminal misdeeds here." This is an outrageous and false accusation. No criminal act was committed. If anything, this was at worst a minor civil infraction, not a criminal one.
Why are you so transfixed on Elsevier? OA zealots like you are so hung up on a single publisher when there are dozens of predatory publishers that are truly hurting and defrauding honest researchers. I think it's negligent to focus on this tiny honest mistake when predatory publishers are threatening to bring down the entire scholarly communication system.
This article and its reviews are distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and redistribution in any medium, provided that the original author and source are credited.