Access, ethics, and piracy

Author : Stuart Lawson

Open access has been progressively making more scholarship openly available. But a majority of journal articles are still behind paywalls so some people have turned to piracy to access them.

While some regard this practice as criminal and unethical, for others ‘liberating’ research is a justified act of civil disobedience.

This article considers both the efficacy and ethics of piracy, placing ‘guerilla open access’ within a longer history of piracy and access to knowledge.

By doing so, we can see that since piracy is not only an inevitable part of the intellectual landscape but can potentially drive progressive developments in communication practices, open access emerges as a contender for moving beyond proprietary forms of commodifying scholarly knowledge.

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Pirates in the Library – An Inquiry into the Guerilla Open Access Movement

Author : Balazs Bodo

2016 is the year when piracy finally became an unavoidable topic in the domain of scholarly communications.

The public exposure of Sci-Hub, a copyright infringing site that provides free access to paywalled journal databases, electrified the decade old debates about the role of scholars, (commercial) publishers, libraries, and copyright in creating an environment, where results of scholarly inquiry are equally accessible for all.

This article gives insight into the Guerilla Open Access (GOA) movement, which is responsible for the creation and maintenance of massive, copyright infringing, freely accessible online shadow libraries of scholarly works: journal articles, monographs, textbooks.

It reconstructs the developments in the western and global academia and scholarly publishing which led to the birth of the movement, and identifies some of the factors its ongoing existence depends on.

The article discusses several aspects of the GOA movement: the alliance of scholars in the global centers and at the global peripheries, the alliance of public and clandestine operations, and its relationship with, and its differences from the Open Access (OA) approach, which aims to facilitate the accessibility of scholarly communications through legal means.

The goal of this article is to contribute to the discussions of the future of scholarly communications through the description of a phenomenon which poses the single greatest challenge to the scholarly publishing status quo in recent history.


Back to the future: authors, publishers and ideas in a copy-friendly environment

How could scholars survive in a copy-friendly environment jeopardizing the established system of scholarly publishing in which scientific publishers seemed to be authors’ best friends? A backward itinerary across three German Enlightenment thinkers who took part to the debate on (unauthorized) reprinting shows us ways – usual and unusual – in which culture can flourish in a copy-friendly environment.

While Fichte endorsed an intellectual property theory, took the function of publishers for granted and neglected the interests of the public, Kant saw authors as speakers and justified publishers’ rights only as long as they work as spokespersons helping writers to reach the public. Eventually Lessing’s project was designed to foster authors’ autonomy by means of a subscription system that could have worked only on the basis of a free information flow and of direct relationships with and within the public itself.

Such a condition can be compared with the situation of ancient auctores, with one difference: while the ancient communities of knowledge were educated minorities, because of the limitations of orality and manuscript media system, we have now the opportunity to take Enlightenment seriously.