Megauploads, ifile.it, and now library.nu – a domino effect of closures of websites that offer all manner of free access to stuff you used to have to buy. Library.nu is close to the heart of many a student, researcher and writer, but now a court decision in Munich has served an injunction on the good people at lnu. Why? A consortium of 17 major publishers have pursued such injunctions against 170 sites that offer various forms of free texts. Their stated reasons include old-style copyright laws and a desire to preserve the ‘creative industries‘. What a load of crap. Sites such as library.nu fundamentally threaten the profits of publishers, if not their viability. More insidiously, the old way of publishing is perhaps one of the most exploitative forms of running a business. They rely on the largely free labour of researchers and writers, assume all the copyright, pay at most 5% royalties and then garner the rest for themselves. In order to make such an exploitative system seem acceptable, a whole ideological system has fallen into place: the quality of one’s work depends on being published in a leading international or university press; authors are grateful and thrilled to get a manuscript accepted; the possibility of a job depends on such publishing; people ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at an ‘impressive’ CV; and if you wonder about selling a body part to buy a book, then you pay for what you get. On top of all this, many people in parts of the world where books are simply unaffordable are probably the highest users of sites such as library.nu. So the publishers are saying: can’t have all these lesser human beings reading anything much.
Thankfully, as they say with a grey hair in one’s private regions: pull out one and seven come to its funeral.