[Air-L] In Solidarity with Library Genesis and Scicence Hub

Seda Gurses seda at nyu.edu
Mon Nov 30 10:04:22 PST 2015

Hello everyone,
I am forwarding this initiative by Marcel Mars and others following the recent court case initiated by Elsevier against LibGen and SciHub. I am unfortunately not following these developments closely enough but I believe strongly that it is of interest to Air peeps and other academic communities. Please do consider spreading their message further even if you don’t agree but think that this is something we should be discussing and engaging in actively.

# In solidarity with Library Genesis and Sci-Hub

In Antoine de Saint Exupéry'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 privilege[^3].

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 trumps 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 Library.nu or Gigapedia; before Gigapedia
there was textz.org; before textz.org 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 knowledge."

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

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.

[^1]: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0127502,

[^2]: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/apr/24/harvard-university-journal-publishers-prices

[^3]: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/10/20121017558785551.html

[^4]: https://torrentfreak.com/sci-hub-tears-down-academias-illegal-copyright-paywalls-150627/

[^5]: https://www.change.org/p/save-ashgate-publishing

[^6]: http://thecostofknowledge.com/

[^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 "expeditiously".

[^8]: https://torrentfreak.com/court-orders-shutdown-of-libgen-bookfi-and-sci-hub-151102/

[^9]: https://archive.org/stream/GuerillaOpenAccessManifesto/Goamjuly2008_djvu.txt

If you want to disseminate further:

on twitter it says:
http://custodians.online  4LibGen&Sci-hub: share this letter, read it
in public, care for the libraries, water the ❀❀❀❀❀, clean the

on facebook:

In Solidarity with Library Genesis and Sci-hub

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 ❀❀❀❀❀ - clean the volcanoes."

if you want to check few more variations or add your own, please:

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