One of the established publishers has been taking harsher steps lately against losing control over the dissemination of papers published in their journals: Elsevier started to send takedown notices to sites where they find papers whose copyright they own. There’s a nice and concise summary of essential points to be made about this behavior in Stefan Heßbrüggen’s comment on the blog article linked in the previous sentence.
Tying in with harsher measures against violations of their legal rights is a remark by David Tempest of Elsevier to the effect that confidentiality in their contracts with libraries is motivated by keeping subscription prices up. The business model of commercial academic publishing depends on secrecy.
Rigid defence of profits correlates with decreasing scientific relevance: Mark Liberman observed on the Language Log that the exchange of scientific ideas has moved away from journal articles to other means of communication. Traditional publishers survive on formal grounds, such as paper counts by funding agencies and their relevance in the academic job market. It is time to put an end to this.