Did I just ‘make’ all of APA Open Access?

The American Psychological Association (APA) is one massive, (primarily) closed-access publisher in psychology, which Tilburg University accesses through EBSCOhost. This has accidentally made all of the APA published journals free to access. I assume both the APA and EBSCOhost are unaware of this.

During my mining endeavors I also wanted to mine the APA (for research purposes, as described in earlier posts here and here). After collecting links to access these articles via EBSOhost with my spiderer, I accidentally tried to access one of those links outside of the university network — to my surprise, I could!

I tried a VPN to access it from several other countries in the world, and it still worked. Other computers, the same. Open access to closed articles — a seeming paradox but possible apparently.

Direct links to EBSCOhost simply bypass all technical walls implemented by EBSCO, which the APA will not be all too happy with. A stable session ID works fine, even when the collected links are accessed more than six months later. I figure this generalizes to non-APA articles in EBSCOhost, but I have not tried that.

For example, this link (try it!) provides access to the paper on “Arab Youth Involvement in Delinquency” (no specific reason why I chose this one, just the first random pick). You can even navigate to the PDF that is attached to it. If you follow the link based on the DOI, you hit a paywall. You can play around with one of these 1000 links to see this actually works (see this spreadsheet). I collected more than 70,000 (!) of these, which are all free to access with these direct links, even when the APA probably wants them paywalled outside of Tilburg’s network.

An example of accessing a closed article freely through EBSCOhost.

An example of accessing a closed article freely through EBSCOhost.

And of course, if you have these links, it is relatively easy to systematically download these and identify which link is which paper. I am not dumping an entire database of 70,000 links with article DOIs and article titles simply because I figure this is a flaw in the system and I do not want to encourage the APA and their lawyers, considering I am already busy enough with Elsevier. However, if you need these links for mining purposes, send me an email or tweet.

If closed access publishers worry so much about the widespread use of Sci-Hub and how to maintain revenue in an increasingly Open Access world, these kinds of technological flaws undermine even their closed model. I did not actively try to hack their system (although I might be accused of hacking for this), I just stumbled upon this per chance. They can just as well dump all their articles in the Open if this is so easy (please do).

UPDATE: The example link now requires a login. Here are some additional examples, from the spreadsheet — example, example, example.

One thought on “Did I just ‘make’ all of APA Open Access?

  1. Pingback: Fighting for “non-negotiable” copyright | Chris H.J. Hartgerink's Notebook

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