In solidarity with Library Genesis and Sci-Hub

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# In solidarity with [Library Genesis]( and [Sci-Hub](http

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 margin1 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 Ashgate5, 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 access6.

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 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

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.

30 November 2015

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. Lariviere, Vincent, Stefanie Haustein, and Philippe Mongeon. “[The Oligopoly of Academic Publishers in the Digital Era.](” PLoS ONE 10, no. 6 (June 10, 2015): e0127502. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0127502.,
“[The Obscene Profits of Commercial Scholarly
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, 2015.  ↩
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 "expeditiously".  ↩
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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