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<nettime> In solidarity with Library Genesis and Sci-hub

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              In solidarity with Library Genesis and Sci-Hub

   In Antoine de Saint Exupery's tale the Little Prince meets a
   businessman who accumulates stars with the sole purpose of being able
   to buy more stars. The Little Prince is perplexed. He owns only a
   flower, which he waters every day. Three volcanoes, which he cleans
   every week. "It is of some use to my volcanoes, and it is of some use
   to my flower, that I own them," he says, "but you are of no use to the
   stars that you own".

   There are many businessmen who own knowledge today. Consider Elsevier,
   the largest scholarly publisher, whose 37% profit margin^1 stands in
   sharp contrast to the rising fees, expanding student loan debt and
   poverty-level wages for adjunct faculty. Elsevier owns some of the
   largest databases of academic material, which are licensed at prices so
   scandalously high that even Harvard, the richest university of the
   global north, has complained that it cannot afford them any longer.
   Robert Darnton, the past director of Harvard Library, says "We faculty
   do the research, write the papers, referee papers by other researchers,
   serve on editorial boards, all of it for free ... and then we buy back
   the results of our labour at outrageous prices."^2 For all the work
   supported by public money benefiting scholarly publishers, particularly
   the peer review that grounds their legitimacy, journal articles are
   priced such that they prohibit access to science to many academics -
   and all non-academics - across the world, and render it a token of

   Elsevier has recently filed a copyright infringement suit in New York
   against Science Hub and Library Genesis claiming millions of dollars in
   damages.^4 This has come as a big blow, not just to the
   administrators of the websites but also to thousands of researchers
   around the world for whom these sites are the only viable source of
   academic materials. The social media, mailing lists and IRC channels
   have been filled with their distress messages, desperately seeking
   articles and publications.

   Even as the New York District Court was delivering its injunction, news
   came of the entire editorial board of highly-esteemed journal Lingua
   handing in their collective resignation, citing as their reason the
   refusal by Elsevier to go open access and give up on the high fees it
   charges to authors and their academic institutions. As we write these
   lines, a petition is doing the rounds demanding that Taylor & Francis
   doesn't shut down Ashgate^5, a formerly independent humanities
   publisher that it acquired earlier in 2015. It is threatened to go the
   way of other small publishers that are being rolled over by the growing
   monopoly and concentration in the publishing market. These are just
   some of the signs that the system is broken. It devalues us, authors,
   editors and readers alike. It parasites on our labor, it thwarts our
   service to the public, it denies us access^6.

   We have the means and methods to make knowledge accessible to everyone,
   with no economic barrier to access and at a much lower cost to society.
   But closed access's monopoly over academic publishing, its spectacular
   profits and its central role in the allocation of academic prestige
   trump the public interest. Commercial publishers effectively impede
   open access, criminalize us, prosecute our heroes and heroines, and
   destroy our libraries, again and again. Before Science Hub and Library
   Genesis there was or Gigapedia; before Gigapedia there was; before there was little; and before there was
   little there was nothing. That's what they want: to reduce most of us
   back to nothing. And they have the full support of the courts and law
   to do exactly that.^7

   In Elsevier's case against Sci-Hub and Library Genesis, the judge said:
   "simply making copyrighted content available for free via a foreign
   website, disserves the public interest"^8. Alexandra Elbakyan's
   original plea put the stakes much higher: "If Elsevier manages to shut
   down our projects or force them into the darknet, that will demonstrate
   an important idea: that the public does not have the right to

   We demonstrate daily, and on a massive scale, that the system is
   broken. We share our writing secretly behind the backs of our
   publishers, circumvent paywalls to access articles and publications,
   digitize and upload books to libraries. This is the other side of 37%
   profit margins: our knowledge commons grows in the fault lines of a
   broken system. We are all custodians of knowledge, custodians of the
   same infrastructures that we depend on for producing knowledge,
   custodians of our fertile but fragile commons. To be a custodian is, de
   facto, to download, to share, to read, to write, to review, to edit, to
   digitize, to archive, to maintain libraries, to make them accessible.
   It is to be of use to, not to make property of, our knowledge commons.

   More than seven years ago Aaron Swartz, who spared no risk in standing
   up for what we here urge you to stand up for too, wrote: "We need to
   take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them
   with the world. We need to take stuff that's out of copyright and add
   it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the
   Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file
   sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access. With
   enough of us, around the world, we'll not just send a strong message
   opposing the privatization of knowledge -- we'll make it a thing of the
   past. Will you join us?"^9

   We find ourselves at a decisive moment. This is the time to recognize
   that the very existence of our massive knowledge commons is an act of
   collective civil disobedience. It is the time to emerge from hiding and
   put our names behind this act of resistance. You may feel isolated, but
   there are many of us. The anger, desperation and fear of losing our
   library infrastructures, voiced across the internet, tell us that. This
   is the time for us custodians, being dogs, humans or cyborgs, with our
   names, nicknames and pseudonyms, to raise our voices.

   Share this letter - read it in public - leave it in the printer. Share
   your writing - digitize a book - upload your files. Don't let our
   knowledge be crushed. Care for the libraries - care for the metadata -
   care for the backup. Water the flowers - clean the volcanoes.

   Dusan Barok, Josephine Berry, Bodo Balazs, Sean Dockray, Kenneth
   Goldsmith, Anthony Iles, Lawrence Liang, Sebastian Luetgert, Pauline van
   Mourik Broekman, Marcell Mars, spideralex, Tomislav Medak, Dubravka
   Sekulic, Femke Snelting...

    1. Larivière, Vincent, Stefanie Haustein, and Philippe Mongeon.
       "The Oligopoly of Academic Publishers in the Digital Era." PLoS
       ONE 10, no. 6 (June 10, 2015): e0127502.
       "The Obscene Profits of Commercial Scholarly Publishers." Accessed November 30, 2015.  
    2. Sample, Ian. "Harvard University Says It Can't Afford Journal
       Publishers' Prices." The Guardian, April 24, 2012, sec. Science.  
    3. "Academic Paywalls Mean Publish and Perish - Al Jazeera
       English." Accessed November 30, 2015.  
    4. "Sci-Hub Tears Down Academia's `Illegal' Copyright Paywalls."
       TorrentFreak. Accessed November 30, 2015.
    5. "Save Ashgate Publishing." Accessed November 30,
    6. "The Cost of Knowledge." Accessed November 30, 2015.  
    7. In fact, with the TPP and TTIP being rushed through the legislative
       process, no domain registrar, ISP provider, host or human rights
       organization will be able to prevent copyright industries and
       courts from criminalizing and shutting down websites
    8. "Court Orders Shutdown of Libgen, Bookfi and Sci-Hub."
       TorrentFreak. Accessed November 30, 2015.
    9. "Guerilla Open Access Manifesto." Internet Archive. Accessed
       November 30, 2015.  

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