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RE: Monopolies in publishing

Not to willingly poke holes in what has been said below, and which we
suspect to be true, there are a few arguments which I've encountered in my
own discussions of these matters which I'd like to share and which may
bring about some enlightened responses from the list.

(1) While we know that many journals are monopolistic in nature (because
of things like 'peer review' or 'prestige' or 'impact factor'), it has
been argued that unless a publisher published the *only* existing journal
on a topic, it would not be considered a monopoly by a court of law since
other journals for that discipline exist in other publisher stables (thus,
it seems that prestige, impact, and peer review are not taken into account
by courts to establish monopoly - indicating, perhaps, a need to educate
the legal sector).

(2) While published articles are unique, one does not have to subscribe to
a journal in order to obtain articles because of such things as ILL and
Document Delivery systems. As long as these other means of obtaining the
required information exist, there is no solid evidence that a journal
title is a monopoly. Indeed, one might in all good faith recommend that
libraries engage in this print version of 'pay per view' as a way of
controlling journal price escalation since it would take lots of copyright
compliance fees to overtake the yearly subscription cost of some journal

(3) Authors who are up for promotion and tenure do not necessarily have
all the freedom in the world as to where to submit their papers since in
some instances their p&t committee's standards require peer reviewed
journals, or journals with a certain publsher (and the fact that some
departmental administrators are part of the editorial boards or peer
review committees of some of these journals is, perhaps, not entirely
coincidental). Thus one encounters a certain vested interest in
controlling where articles are published in order to receive the rights
and priveliges of p&t. (One cannot help but be reminded of a certain
scientific society which not only controls its subject literature but also
is the accrediting agency for its discipline).

As mentioned earlier, these are arguments I've encountered in my
discussions of the points which were raised in the posting below. I'd be
interested in others' responses to them.

Peter Picerno

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
[mailto:owner-liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu]On Behalf Of Jan Velterop
Sent: Thursday, July 10, 2003 12:03 PM
To: 'liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu'
Subject: RE: Monopolies in publishing

It seems so obvious to me that subscription-based scientific journals are
monopoloid. Research articles are only published once. They are by
definition unique. Access to unique research articles is often crucial to
further research. They can only be obtained from one ultimate source
(albeit sometimes via agents). There is no opportunity to go to another,
possibly cheaper, source to find something equivalent, because equivalents
don't exist. So there is no choice if you need the article. No choice in
need means monopoly, no?

Authors of articles *do* have a choice of where to publish (at least where
to submit their papers). They can choose to submit to those journals that
serve their purpose best (e.g. to those that guarantee optimal
dissemination via open access). Open access journals are freely accessible
by the readers. This makes open access journals non-monopoloid.

Jan Velterop
BioMed Central