[open-science] Elsevier are telling "mis-truths" about the extent of paywalled open access

Heather Morrison Heather.Morrison at uottawa.ca
Mon Feb 20 22:41:38 UTC 2017

CC-BY permits downstream use without restrictions except for attribution, including commercial use.

While it is problematic to define precisely what constitutes "commercial use", with respect to copyrighted works the paradigmatic meaning is sales of the works per se.

This is where copyrighted started, back with the Statute of Anne. Printers who had invested in preparing works for commercial sales objected to others making copies of their work and selling them.

If one does not wish for works or rights to be sold, do not use a license that grants blanket downstream commercial rights.

With respect to Elsevier, setting aside the ethics of the matter, they are on solid legal ground if they sell works that are licensed CC-BY. So is anyone else.


Heather Morrison

-------- Original message --------
From: Peter Murray-Rust <pm286 at cam.ac.uk>
Date: 2017-02-20 5:26 PM (GMT-05:00)
To: Ross Mounce <ross.mounce at gmail.com>
Cc: open-science <open-science at lists.okfn.org>
Subject: Re: [open-science] Elsevier are telling "mis-truths" about the extent of paywalled open access

I want to thank Ross for the hard work he has put in on this. I know how hard is it because I did much the same 4 years ago in exposing Elsevier failure to make Open Access articles visible, and to charge rights fees on CC BY articles. This led to their seemingly uncaring "bumpy road" dismissal of the seriousness of misselling.

Nothing seems to have changed. Elsevier either cannot or doesn't care to put in place a system that works without error. Prices are so high that even a small error rate effectively deprives the world of significant amounts of money.

It seems that the most of the University/Library/Funder world does not care enough to take effective action when sold unacceptable goods and services. I have consistently argued that until we have a regulator with legal teeth the waste of public money and knowledge will continue.

On Mon, Feb 20, 2017 at 9:11 PM, Ross Mounce <ross.mounce at gmail.com<mailto:ross.mounce at gmail.com>> wrote:
Hi folks,

Remember last week I found an article that had been paid-for by the Wellcome Trust to be hybrid open access, except it was for sale behind an Elsevier paywall at the journal Mitochondrion for $35.95 + tax? [0]

Well, Elsevier have responded, first by sowing doubt on the claim, then 3 days later admitting I was correct. But stranger still, they said:

“We’ve gone through the system, this [the Mitochondrion article] is the only article affected.”

Which would be great if this were true but it isn't. There are more paywalled "open access" articles that are currently on sale at ScienceDirect right now, including one at The Lancet, which Wellcome Trust paid Elsevier £5,280 to make open access [1]. Which makes me think:

A) Elsevier’s entire system for handling hybrid open access is broken
B) Elsevier are evidently incapable of accurate self-assessment

In 2014 they eventually refunded "about $70,000" to readers who had mistakenly been charged to access articles that should have been open access. I wonder how much they will pay out this time...?

Please do share this with colleagues. I am outraged.

[0] http://rossmounce.co.uk/2017/02/14/elsevier-selling-access-to-open-access-again/
[1] http://rossmounce.co.uk/2017/02/20/hybrid-open-access-is-unreliable/

Ross Mounce, PhD
Software Sustainability Institute Fellow 2016
Dept. of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge

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Peter Murray-Rust
Reader Emeritus in Molecular Informatics
Unilever Centre, Dept. Of Chemistry
University of Cambridge
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