Cannon fodder

Mar 18 2016 Published by under Uncategorized

Yesterday on the twits there was a suggestion that teachers (of the K-12 kind) use #icanhazpdf and/or SciHub to obtain paywalled papers. Even before contacting the authors directly.*

No. Just. No.

#icanhazpdf and SciHub are illegal.** Those pushing their use know this, and it's their choice if they want to use those venues. But do most K-12 teachers know about the legal issues? I doubt it.

Using others who may not know better to forward your agenda - no matter how noble an agenda it is - is reprehensible.

And before you go on and on about how the public should have free access, US taxpayer dollars etc., stop. That's not what this post is about. It's about the kind of extreme evangelism that uses others as cannon fodder. The kind that is more likely to hurt your agenda than help it. The kind that's repugnant.



* Some have at least recanted this position, so I won't name and shame.

** At least here in the US.

7 responses so far

  • You're right about this. As much as I love the civil disobedience of sci-hub, we have to remember that not only is its existence illegal, so is its use. And while I think it's extremely unlikely people will be charged for getting papers through it, it is a possibility.

    I'm not a lawyer, but it seems like #icanhazpdf might be different as I don't think it's clear that people are always breaking the law by sharing papers they get through a university, and therefore I'm not sure that requesting a paper is necessarily illegal.

    I also want to point out that manu of the other things listed on that chart are equally illegal - such as going to the author's website, or even, absurdly, requesting a copy of a paper from an author - as many authors do not retain even the right to share PDFs of their own papers.

  • Or said otherwise, to the extent that getting access to paywalled copyrighted material is illegal, I'm not sure it matters how you get that access. Access through sci-hub may somehow seem more illegal than getting it through authors, but unless the author has specifically reserved that right, it is no less illegal. So I think that flowchart should make it clear that a lot of these forms of access - not just #icanhazpdf and sci-hub - are illegal.

  • ecologist says:

    I am not a lawyer, but every license agreement I have ever signed permits me, as the author, to send a copy of my paper to someone who asks. I don't know of any journals that deny this right.

    I am still not a lawyer, but I believe that responding to a request for a copy of a paper would qualify as fair use under copyright law, unless it was very specifically prohibited by a license agreement that you signed.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Eisen, stop lying by rare cases. Ever publisher agreement I've ever signed allows me to share the PDF of my papers on the one-on-one-request basis. Given the response I get to my own requests for papers I can't access (100% as far as I can recall) I suspect others have mostly a similar situation.

    So which publishers do you know of that do not permit authors to share their work on a request-by-request basis?

  • drugmonkey says:


    You are neglecting to remember that publishers write agreements, that authors sign, which delineate what is permitted and not permitted. It isn't up to your personal introspection about what seems the same or different to you.

  • BenK says:

    I'm confused. What part of posting a request for a PDF is illegal?

  • potnia theron says:

    There are those who respect the rule of law, and chose to abide by it. There are those who don't care about the rule of law, and chose to ignore it. And then there are those who think that their cause/rationale is more important than the law, and who say "in this case...". Sometimes that position is valid, sometimes not. It's not an easy call:
    When Thoreau was in jail for civil disobedience, Emerson visited him and said "Henry, what are you doing in jail?" and Thoreau replied "Waldo, the question is what are you doing out there?".

    If your civil disobedience is so valid, so important and fighting an evil so wrong, are you willing to go to jail for it? I didn't think so.