Security Lapses on Campuses Permit Theft From JSTOR Database

Dan Carnevale, Tidsskriftet for Universiteternes Efter- og Videreuddannelse, Dec 13, 2002
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Much heat is being generated over a "sophisticated attack" exploiting an open proxy server in order to gain access to the entire collection of scholarly journals kept in the JSTOR database. JSTOR is a non-profit organization that creates digital copies of journals and sells the licenses to academic institutions. There is an extended discussion of the incident on the LibLicense mailing list in which the thrust seems to be that much more security is needed for online digital collections. But I must admit, the whole thing leaves me puzzled. First of all, the attack wasn't that sophisticated. But more to the point, there is, but the publishers' own admission, a limited market for academic journals. That's why, they tell us, the prices are so high. So how could anyone gain by stealing them? What are they going to do, go to underground university librarians saying, "Psst, wanna buy a journal? Cheap?" There is something about this whole episode that leaves me a bit sceptical. Something that makes me think that a crisis is being manufactured where none exists.
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