Journal Publishing Compared to Slavery
“Traditional publishers are the slave traders. And the research articles and the many academics are the slaves.” — Richard Smith, board member, Public Library of Science (PLoS).
Last month, Richard Smith, a member of the board of directors at the Public Library of Science (PLoS), gave a speech (.mp3) in which he accused journal publishers of acting like slave owners and open access of acting like abolitionists. A PowerPoint presentation (.ppt) containing gory images of slavery accompanied the speech.
While we at Copycense support the core aims of the open access movement, we find any attempt to use the gruesome, wrenching, genocidal reality of human slavery as a comparative or promotional tool for open access is insulting and entirely unacceptable.
As we condemned former MPAA CEO Jack Valenti for comparing piracy to terrorism, and RIAA spokesperson Matthew Kilgo for comparing the profit from mixtapes to profits gleaned from the sale of illicit drugs, we must also condemn Richard Smith for comparing publishers to slave traders.
The increasingly dark, dire imagery used to characterize issues within the digital content debate too often goes far beyond framing, spin, or public relations. Language like this is grossly unprofessional and personally indecent. Nothing in this debate is nearly as urgent or serious as terrorism, illegal drug trafficking, or slavery, and the people who insist on perpetuating this language should be censured. Enough is enough.
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