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Ownership Rights Online

Some science publishers are beginning to bristle at the habit many researchers have of posting their studies on their websites, The Economist notes.

In the years before the internet, journal publishers really didn’t mind much if people shared their articles and even photocopied them now and then.

But now, when most investigators have websites and many of them make their articles downloadable, publishers have decided they do mind.
Netherlands-based Elsevier, for example, is using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a US law that lets copyright holders require the removal of anything posted online without permission, to require these individual researchers to eliminate from their websites any papers that were published in its journals.

"In doing so it has stirred a hornets’ nest," the magazine says.

In the short-term, scientists and universities are likely to find "legal workarounds."

"There is nothing to stop scientists making earlier versions available. Many universities run repositories in which such drafts can be deposited for anyone to read," The Economist says.

But in the long-term, "cracking down in this way risk having the perverse effect, from the publisher's point of view, of accelerating the rise of 'open access' publishing, in which papers are made available online at no cost to the reader, and which therefore sidesteps at least some of the administrative headaches of traditional journal publishing."