Date: Fri, 4 Mar 2016 15:28:13 -0500
Mark Seeley, in effect, tells us that all is for the best in the best
of all possible worlds. I imagine Leibniz smiling ... as well as Dr.
Pangloss... According to Leibniz, God's reason for creating the actual
world is that it is the best of all possible worlds. According to Mr.
Seeley, the reason for Elsevier being created is that it is the best
of all possible Elseviers (and even, possibly, the best of all
A. Assuming all that Mr. Seeley says about the financing of
infrastructures is true, if only for one paragraph, is it enough to
justify profit rates in the 35-40% range sported year after year by
Elsevier? Is this the "publishing business model" we need?
B. Much of the infrastructure is the Internet itself, not Elsevier or
Springer or Wiley, or...
C. Supply-side payments - economics jargon to mention the author-pay
model - is not equivalent to Gold OA: many Gold journals function
without article processing charges. Repositories are financed by
libraries and other institutions, not by Elsevier.
D. Access to published content is not "incredibly high at most
institutions in developed markets". Incredibly from whose perspective?
Most researchers are dissatisfied with the leval of access they can
This being established, we also see what libraries and scholars really
are for Mr. Seeley: MARKETS. Well, I am sorry, but the world of
knowledge creation is too fundamental, too crucial to human well-being
to be treated merely as another market, and when I go to a library or
use a library service, I am not a consumer; I am a user, a colleague,
a member of a collegial constituency, etc. There are still a few
things in this world that do not succumb to the "market" category.
And I learned about a new category that intrigues me: fast developing
markets! Does this relate to a new category of "products", or does it
refer to a certain category of countries?
But thank you all the same, Mr. Seeley, to insist on the fact that
your sole perspective is economics. I assume it translates into the
relentless quest for profits (6% increase at Elsevier last year!) that
your investors insist on.
As for the programmes such as Research4life, what do they do to the
attempts to develop support for indigenous journals where questions of
greater relevance to the surrounding countries could at last find some
room and raise some interest?
It is indeed difficult to sell something that others give away, but
should research results given to publishers be sold, or should we
simply try to find ways to finance the cost pertaining to the
validation and dissemination of research? This question is
particularly grievous when we talk about research paid by taxpayers,
and taxpayers still have to pay for access to the results.
The last part of Mr. Seeley's argument is really the worst. He writes:
"The US has an incredibly vital information and entertainment
infrastructure, and probably leads the world in the production of
copyright content, an important part of our balance of trade."
1. The issue of knowledge production is not limited to the US; in fact
the US produces about 28% of the world knowledge, no more
2. Conflating information and entertainment is exactly the problem.
Research results should fall under a legal framework distinct from
3. The production of human knowledge is not logically related to the
US balance of trade, but it is quite instructive that the issue should
be couched in this manner by Mr. Seeley. He turns out to be severely
limited by both economic and nationalistic biases.
With regard to the US historical attitude to copyright, it might be
useful to remember that it long spurned copyright agreements (e.g.
Berne) so long as it allowed the "young republic" to pirate much of
the British literary output. if Dickens went around the US reading his
own works, it was partially to recoup the loss of revenues due to US
piracy. Symmetrically, if Mr. Samuel Clemens ended up writing under
the name of Mark Twain - a delightful pun, by the way - it was to take
advantage of trademarks agreements that the US had indeed entered into
with Britain. Mark Twain sold his books under his (twin) trade mark,
not an author's name.
In short, the US reversed course on piracy when it fitted with its
interest, and this is what Mr. Seeley seems to vindicate. Should I
detect a trace of cynicism in this attitude?
Far from me the horrible thought... I am sure Leibniz is at fault here.
Université de Montréal
Le jeudi 03 mars 2016 à 18:18 -0500, LIBLICENSE a écrit :
From: "Seeley, Mark (ELS-CMA)" <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Thu, 3 Mar 2016 15:42:22 +0000
When I look at scholarly publishing, I think the current system is
digital, nuanced and highly networked. Looking at some recent posts I
get the impression that critics of publishing paint a picture of
adaptive failure-- that's far from the case. Researchers are able to
follow links to references and now increasingly data. Editors
identify potential peer reviewers through online systems. Publishing
is faster than ever. Much of this infrastructure is based on revenue
from publishing business models. Supply-side payments (Gold OA) are
becoming increasingly important and are moving into a complementary
phase to subscription revenue. Access to published content is
incredibly high at most institutions in developed and fast-developing
markets. With respect to low-income developing markets, publishers
have many programs out there to support libraries through the
Research4Life program [and others] as you all know. Subscription and
transactional access (pay per view, rental models etc) models will
continue to rely on exclusive rights/copyright, as it's difficult to
sell something that someone else is giving away.
This infrastructure absolutely depends on the work of researchers and
academics themselves, serving as editors and reviewers (and of course
in the first place as authors). On the journal side, scholarly
publishers are well aware that article authors are looking for
visibility and a good service, and to be successful, journals need to
provide such services. Journals also need to find means to support
authors who want to make their preprints available, work with
institutional repositories and comply with funding agency
requirements, means that wouldn't seriously undermine business models.
If we can't find the right balance, then publishers won't be able to
afford to maintain their investments in the infrastructure noted
above, which in my opinion would be a net negative for research and
Universities have never stopped being publishers themselves, to my
knowledge, and I think new efforts and steps have been taken along
these lines-- you can think of the SPARC-PLOS alliance for example.
Sci-Hub/LibGen is about both journal content and book content, and as
many have pointed out obtains this content through security holes at
university sites. There are lots of reasons why these activities are
problematic for publishers, societies, authors and universities as has
been pointed out in prior posts here and on Scholarly Kitchen.
The point re changes in US copyright law in the 19th century is an
incredibly good one-- but of course the way I see it is that as the
young Republic began to be a net exporter of publications we started
to think more about being more protective of "foreigners" works in the
US-- entirely appropriately as I am sure Charles Dickens would agree.
The US has an incredibly vital information and entertainment
infrastructure, and probably leads the world in the production of
copyright content, an important part of our balance of trade.
Dismantling such a system seems like a recipe for adaptive failure--
we should instead look for a more thoughtful evolution.
Mark Seeley, Senior Vice President & General Counsel
50 Hampshire Street, 5th Floor, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
M: [log in to unmask]
Internal Elsevier Legal department intranet site:
External information at http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/homepage.cws_home