SFB Blog “Transformation of Property”

The SFB Blog “Transformation of Property” provides an interdisciplinary public platform through which we share thoughts on property relations in contemporary and past societies. We offer a wide spectrum of views, comments, interpretations, and opinions on all property-related topics from the perspectives of history, law, economics, politics, sociology, and anthropology. We also present and discuss alternative property arrangements and institutions, including indigenous or decolonial perspectives. The blog aims at both an academic community and an interested non-academic public and welcomes wide engagement with our property research from academic and broader public.

 Please send contributions for the blog to: blog-sfb-eigentum@uni-jena.de

Michael McCullough. Source: Flickr, License: CC BY 2.0
Teilen als Alternative Part II

Teilen als Alternative – zu was? Teil II:

Ambivalenzen der Sharing Economy am Beispiel des Homesharings

Henrike Katzer

Familienkutsche und Eigenheim oder Carsharing und Homesharing

Die Sharing Economy ist heute ein sehr vielfältiges Feld und dennoch lässt sich eine Grundformel der vielen verschiedenen Praktiken innerhalb der Sharing Economies finden: ‚Teilen statt Besitzen‘. Projekte der Sharing Economy treten an mit einer ökologischen sowie sozialen Kritik am sozial ausschließenden Charakter des Privateigentums. Die Hoffnung ist hier: Durch das Teilen der Dinge kommt es zur Schonung von Ressourcen sowie zur Stärkung des sozialen Zusammenhalts. Teil 1 dieses Blogs legte eine Differenzierung dieser Praktiken des Teilens anhand der Eigentumsformen dar. Das hilft, nicht zu romantisieren, wenn wir vom Teilen sprechen und hier auch den Blick zu weiten für Ambivalenzen bei der Nutzung. Henning weist in diesem Zusammenhang auch auf die ökologischen Rebound-Effekte von geteilten Autos hin: Junge Menschen, die sich noch kein Auto leisten können, greifen auf ‚free-floating Modelle‘ des Carsharings zurück, anstatt ihren Alltag mit Bus und Bahn zu bewältigen. Dies ist eine folgenschwere These für die in die Sharing Economies gesetzten Hoffnungen. Juliet Schor, eine wichtige Forscherin im Feld, erkennt nach 10 Jahren Felderfahrung, dass sich die Diagnosen über die Sharing Economy in zwei Lager teilen – Befürworter:innen und Kritiker:innen. Zukünftige Untersuchungen sollten diese dichotomische Perspektive versuchen zu vermeiden, indem sie das Feld der Sharing Economies durch eine Multiplattformanalyse erforschen (Schor 2020). In diesem Sinne ist auch die Frage zu verstehen, die ich in diesem zweiten Teil stelle: Lässt sich beim Gegenstand Wohnraum von einem ähnlich widersprüchlichen Verhältnis von Versprechen und Verwirklichung der Sharing Economy sprechen?

Die eigenen vier Wände für eine Nacht mit Fremden teilen

Zugrunde liegt beim Carsharing die Vorstellung, dass Autofahren und damit auch das Teilen Geld kostet. Anders sieht dies im Bereich Gastfreundschaftsplattformen aus. Hier unterscheidet sich die Praxis des Übernachtens maßgeblich dadurch, ob sie umsonst ist oder ob innerhalb eines Abos oder pro Übernachtung Geld für sie bezahlt wird. Und es gibt noch einen zweiten strukturellen Unterschied zum Carsharing. Während das Auto nacheinander genutzt wird, bietet das Homesharing auch die Möglichkeit des gleichzeitigen Teilens des Gegenstandes Wohnung. Natürlich lassen sich auch andere Nutzungsweisen des geteilten Wohnraums in der Sharing Economy aufzeigen: so z.B. die Kurzzeituntervermietung der gesamten Wohnung, wenn die Besitzenden im Urlaub sind oder die stark umstrittene Kurzzeituntervermietung einer besessenen Wohnung, ohne dass die Besitzenden diese selbst bewohnen. Homesharing soll hier allerdings das gleichzeitige Teilen der Wohnung bedeuten. Die Wohnung ist dann im Besitz einer Person, welche andere an einer Nutzung für kurze Zeit teilhaben lässt. Die Vernetzung von Host und Gast geschieht dabei über digitale Plattformen.

Diese Plattformen existieren auf verschiedenste Weise: Manche wie Hospitality Club, BeWelcome oder Couchers bauen auf der Kooperation der Community auf und sind spendenfinanziert. Sie können auch an andere soziale Netzwerke gekoppelt sein wie die Facebook-Seite Host a Sister – Paradebeispiel einer gewinnorientierten Plattform. Zwar sind die Nutzung und Vernetzung kostenlos, doch das Einspeisen der Daten in Facebook generiert Profite für Meta. Die Anbindung an soziale Medien hat den Vorteil, eine große Reichweite für die Praxis zu generieren. Die Plattformen können sich aber auch über monatliche Gebühren (Abonnement) ihrer Nutzer:innen finanzieren, wie Couchsurfing es 2020 eingeführt hat. Wenn nicht die Nutzung der Plattform, sondern die Übernachtung Geld kostet, können Plattformen auch Transaktionsgebühren erheben und sich darüber finanzieren. Das bekannteste Beispiel ist AirBnB. So kommt es hinsichtlich der beiden letzteren zu dem paradoxalen Umstand, dass Gastgeber:innen bei AirBnB viel verdienen, indem sie ihre Wohnung teilen, während bei Couchsurfing Gastgeber:innen zahlen müssen, um ihre Wohnung mit anderen teilen zu können.

Mehr noch als die ökonomische Struktur der Plattformen ähnelt sich die Praxis der Nutzer:innen. Es gibt Hosts, die ihren Wohnbereich für kurze Aufenthalte zum Teilen anbieten und Gäste, die dort bei Fremden für einige Nächte wohnen. Eine Hoffnung, die mit der Praxis des Homesharings einhergeht, ist es, im Alltag – der durch Einsamkeit und Vereinzelung geprägt ist – bedeutsame Begegnungen zu schaffen (Farmaki/Stergiou 2019). Die gemeinschaftliche Nutzung der eigenen vier Wände benötigt dabei ein gegenseitiges Vertrauen (Botsman/Rogers 2011). Im Homesharing begegnet man Fremden wie Freund:innen – ein gemeinschaftliches, soziales Verhältnis, welches anderswo in der Gesellschaft vermisst wirdDieser Wunsch der Akteure nach Gemeinschaft im privaten Wohnraum mit Fremden ist ein spannender Befund für die weitere soziologische Auseinandersetzung. Schor und Kolleg:innen sehen, dass der private Haushalt eine immer größere Rolle spielt. Aufgefallen ist ihnen hierzu in ihren Interviews ein oftmals nostalgischer Rückgriff auf ein, wie sie es benennen, ‚domestic imaginary‘: eine Häuslichkeit, die dem marktvermittelten, ausbeuterischen globalen Lieferketten und den entfremdeten Sozialbeziehungen entgegensteht. Demgegenüber sollen Interaktionen innerhalb der Sharing Economy eher wie in einer Familie ablaufen, um so bedeutsame Begegnungen im Alltag zu schaffen.

Die Gemeinschaft schlägt zurück: soziale Schließung und Ungleichheit im Feld

Das neue Teilen in den quasi-familiären Strukturen will auch eine Alternative bieten für die mit den Eigentumsverhältnissen assoziierte Privatheit, die den Ausschluss anderer mit sich zieht. Hat sich dieser Anspruch verwirklicht?

Zum damals kostenfreien Couchsurfing urteilte Jun-E Tan (2013), dass das Vertrauen, welches für die Übernachtung bei Fremden aufgebracht werden muss, an eine ‚Szene‘ gebunden ist. Der Wunsch der Akteure nach wahren Begegnungen richtet sich also nicht an alle, sondern nur an ‚Insider‘. Diese Community stiftet sich durch performative Erzeugung eines ‚Kosmopolitismus‘ – also durch Eigenschaften, die Offenheit, Mobilität, kulturelle Versiertheit und nicht zuletzt Inklusion demonstrieren. Zu sehen ist dies auch in den mühevoll ausgefüllten Profilen der Plattform, die darstellen, welche Sprachen man spricht, welche Länder man besucht und welche Bücher man gelesen hat, oder was einem sonst unter ‚Lehren, lernen, teilen‘ einfällt. Diesen Kosmopolitismus deutet Tan als subkulturelles Kapital.

Beim Homesharing via AirBnB hingegen ist die Praxis nicht nur über Vertrauen, sondern über Ansprechpartner:innen der Plattform und vor allem über Geld vermittelt. Zu erwarten wäre also, dass der Mechanismus der ‚sozialen Schließung‘, der durch das Anrufen einer Gemeinschaft entsteht, bei AirBnB weniger stark ausgeprägt ist. Grob betrachtet lässt sich dies bestätigen. Menschen, die Homesharing via AirBnB nutzen, bilden keine Community, sondern breite Teile der Gesellschaft nutzen diese Plattform und haben scheinbar keine Vertrauensprobleme, ihren Urlaub nicht über den klassischen Urlaubsmarkt vermittelt – etwa in Form von Pauschalreisen – zu organisieren, sondern in Privatwohnungen zu verbringen. Aber auch hier schlägt die Gemeinschaft zu: Hosts entscheiden, anders als Hoteliers, ‚aus dem Bauch heraus‘, wen sie zu sich in die Wohnung holen. Und so zeigt Schor in ihrem Interviewmaterial, dass die Überlegungen offensichtlich scheinen: Wenn ich meine Wohnung für eine kurze Zeit mit Fremden teile, möchte ich mich mit ihnen auch wohl fühlen. Ich lasse also nur in mein Heim, wer auch Freund:in sein könnte. Auch gibt es bei AirBnB keine aufwändige Selbstbeschreibung auf Profilseiten, in aller Regel sieht man nur einen Namen und ein Bild. Diese wenigen Informationen können dann zur Grundlage dafür werden, wer Freund:in sein könnte und wem ein Aufenthalt genehmigt wird. Anders als bei Hotels schlagen Präferenzen anhand dieser sozialen Marker ungehindert durch – eine klar erkennbare Quelle für Diskriminierung. Diese Diskriminierung im Digitalen bleibt nicht folgenlos für die analoge Welt. Der Wunsch nach Gemeinschaft und Authentizität, der sich in den Sharing Economies ausdrückt, wird zwar inklusiv formuliert: Gerade weil die Sharing Economies nicht über den Markt vermittelt sind, können alle mitmachen – auch benachteiligte Gruppen. In der Praxis gibt es allerdings Hinweise darauf, dass sich diese sozialen Ungleichheiten nicht nur wiederholen, sondern sich durch exkludierende Gemeinschaftsmechanismen sogar noch verstärken. ‚Mein Heim, meine Regeln‘ – das wird durch das Sharing nicht überwunden. Nur wird das ‚Heim‘ als Ort quasi-öffentlich, da Besitzer:innen einen Teil ihrer Wohnung zur Nutzung auf die digitale Plattform stellen und Fremde herein lassen. Als Soziologin fragt man hier nach den Akteuren: Wessen Heim und wessen Regeln? Die Antwort ist klar: Host ist, wer das ökonomische Kapital für ein Extrazimmer und das kulturelle Kapital für das notwendige Vertrauen aufwenden kann.

Das Versprechen auf nicht-entfremdete Begegnungen in der Gesellschaft durch die Sharing Economy wird also nur bedingt gehalten. Schor bemerkt in Bezug auf das Verhältnis von Nutzer:in und Plattform, dass diejenigen der ‚Gig-Worker‘, die es sich leisten können auf Gigs zu verzichten, die sie nicht machen wollen, von den Versprechen und Vorteilen der Sharing Economy profitieren können. Wer es sich nicht leisten kann, ist den oben beschriebenen Mechanismen hilflos ausgeliefert (Schor 2020). Für zukünftige Analysen der Praxis des Homesharings stellen sich mir daher die folgenden Fragen: Wen lässt man in sein Heim und warum? Welche Rolle spielt also die Community in den Sharing Economies? Und was passiert innerhalb dieser Praxis mit den Dingbeziehungen? Ist es am Ende noch ‚mein Heim‘, wenn Gäste meine Regeln neu schreiben?

 

Fahrzeuge in Khwang Wat Bowon

Teilen als Alternative – zu was? Teil I:

Ambivalenzen der Sharing Economy am Beispiel von Autos

Christoph Henning

Rückzug des Eigentums heißt nicht Ende des Kapitalismus

Mit Privateigentum werden häufig positive Werte wie Freiheit und Sicherheit verbunden: Wer über Eigentum verfügt, fühlt sich unabhängig von kurzfristigen Ereignissen oder dem Einfluss anderer. Doch gibt es auch Nachteile: Wer Eigentum hat, trägt Verantwortung. Es fallen Wartungs- und Reparaturarbeiten sowie Steuern an, Kapital braucht Verwertung und profitable Absatzwege. Vor allem ist man an die Sache gebunden. Wer ein Haus oder Auto hat, ist nicht von laufenden Ausgaben befreit, im Gegenteil: Regelmäßig müssen Dächer und Leitungen erneuert, muss geheizt und renoviert werden. Autos brauchen Parkraum, Reifen, Betankung, Reparatur, „Pflege“, Steuern und Versicherungen. Eigentum fördert Dauerkonsum also eher als von ihm zu befreien. Es kann ganz schön lästig werden.

Privateigentum ist auch mit dem Kapitalismus verbunden: Profit wird von Eigentümern der Produktionsmittel angeeignet; was verbraucht wird, muss zunächst besessen werden. Kritisiert also, wer Privateigentum problematisiert, automatisch den Kapitalismus? Nein, das wäre ein Kurzschluss. Das Zurücktreten des Privateigentums kann der Kapitalismus nämlich gut verkraften: der Fischerei gehört der Ozean ebenso wenig wie brasilianischen Rinderzüchtern der Amazonasregenwald, den sie abbrennen. Umgekehrt muss man auch Dinge bezahlen, die man nicht erwirbt: ein Kinofilm gehört mir nicht wie eine DVD, ein gestreamter Musiktitel nicht wie die LP. Rechte der Titel mögen Anbietern noch gehören, doch sie können auch Dinge vermarkten, die ihnen nicht gehören, und dennoch Renten einfahren.
Privateigentum ist damit nicht verschwunden, sondern nur ‚verrutscht‘: es verliert im Alltag an Bedeutung, weil es Teil eines unvermeidbaren Interaktionsrahmens wird. Wer ihn nutzen will, muss Daten hinterlegen (selbst um Nachbarn etwas zu leihen, wie auf Nebenan.de) oder Gebühren zahlen (wie bei Couchsurfing.com). So haben gerade in Corona-Zeiten superreiche Plattformen (Amazon, Alibaba, Google, Microsoft, Meta, TikTok, Zoom) Reichtum und Einfluss vermehren können. Es ist wie eine Wiederkehr des Verdrängten: Erst jüngst verloren öffentliche Institutionen im globalen Freihandel die Möglichkeit, Abgaben auf den Handel zu erheben, obwohl sie lokalen Produzenten häufig unter die Arme greifen. Nun haben private Plattformen die Leerstelle besetzt. Sie verdienen an der Vermittlung des Zugangs zu Dingen, die ihnen nicht gehören, und verausgabter Arbeitskraft, die sie nicht bezahlen (Fuchs 2019 und Zuboff 2019 sprechen daher von Ausbeutung). Das Gewinnprinzip der digitalen Plattformen erinnert an Wegelagerei: ‚Du willst hier durch, also zahle.‘ Volkswirtschaftlich sind die Riesenverdienste der Plattformen unproduktiv: sie erheben Durchgangszölle für Vermittlungen (Nymoen/Schmitt 2021).
 

Orte des Privateigentums beim Sharing

Das Zurücktreten des Privateigentums bedeutet so keine automatische Transformation des neoliberalen Kapitalismus in friedliche und gerechte Wirtschaftsformen. Es kann den Kapitalismus auch intensivieren, indem es ihn von Hemmschuhen befreit. Aber wie ist das beim Teilen? Es steht bei Vielen für eine Überwindung des sozial ausschließenden Charakters des Privateigentums, daher der Wahlspruch „Teilen statt Besitzen“: etwas zu teilen spart Ressourcen und schont Haushaltskasse wie Umwelt. Abzugeben und Dinge miteinander statt gegeneinander zu nutzen verspricht uns geschwisterlicher zu machen. Das klingt gut, aber wie realistisch ist diese Utopie? Sahen wir nicht gerade, dass beim Teilen Privateigentum als Vermittlungsinstanz oft dabei ist und mitunter kräftig mitverdient? Es gilt also näher hinzusehen.
Der egalitäre Nimbus des Teilens stammt aus der langen, prähistorischen Phase des Menschseins, als erbeutete Lebensmittel nicht gelagert, sondern zeitnah gemeinsam verbraucht wurden (Woodburn 1982, Widlok 2017). Eigentumsstreit kam nicht auf. Nichts ist je ganz vorbei, daher ist dieses Teilen ohne Eigentum bei Festen oder beim Camping noch vertraut. Teilen in der Sharing Economy dagegen setzt Privateigentum schon voraus, das macht es kompliziert. Doch Privateigentum kann auf verschiedene Weise genutzt und geteilt werden. Daher ist zu unterscheiden, wie Privateigentum in das Teilen eingebunden ist, weil dies unterschiedliche Dynamiken freisetzt. Als Beispiel diene hier das Auto, in Teil 2 dieses Blogs dann das Sofa.
Die Negativfolie, von der Teilen sich absetzt, ist (a) die exklusive Nutzung von Privateigentum: jemand hat etwas und schließt andere beim Nutzen aus. Doch der Ausschluss ist nicht zwingend: individuelles Eigentum kann (b) von verschiedenen Menschen genutzt werden (wie beim Couchsurfen). Oder Nutzende können sich (c) das Eigentum teilen. Beispiele für ersteres wäre ein geteiltes Familienauto (b), das einer Person gehört, für zweiteres eine WG (c), die die Kosten teilt. Während Familienautos häufig gemeinsam (simultan) genutzt werden, tun Bekannte dies eher nacheinander (sequentiell). Doch Familien können nicht beliebig groß werden, und Nutzungspläne können zu Streit führen (wenn zwei es zugleich brauchen oder es zu fern parkt). Daher kann man Eigentum schließlich an Dritte auslagern (oft verbunden mit E-Plattformen). Der Vorteil sind Skaleneffekte: Ein Auto unter vier Nutzenden aufzuteilen ist komplizierter als zehn Autos unter vierzig Nutzenden oder 100 unter 400. Diese Instanz kann unterschiedliche Eigentumsstrukturen aufweisen: es gibt (d) Privatfirmen mit Gemeinwohlinteressen, manchmal aus Bürgerinitiativen hervorgegangen, oder (e) profitorientierte Privatfirmen, die viel Kapital mitbringen (etwa Autofirmen). Seltener ist zuletzt (f) die kommunale oder genossenschaftliche Trägerschaft.
 

Warum Sharing nicht gleich Sharing ist: Effekte der Eigentumsstruktur

Diese verschiedenen Eigentumsstrukturen beim Carsharing haben unterschiedliche Effekte. Da sich das Autoteilen in Kleingruppen schwer verallgemeinern lässt (das ist bei Couchsurfing und Bibliotheken der Dinge anders) und Kommunen meist in Finanznot sind, lassen wir b), c) und f) einmal außen vor. Bleiben private Anbieter, also gemeinwohlorientierte (d) und profitorientierte Car-Sharing-Firmen (e). Dies überlappt sich mit der Unterscheidung in stationsbasiertes (d) Carsharing, das sich eher in Kleinstädten findet, und „freefloating“ (ohne Station) in Großstädten, das mehr Kapital voraussetzt (e). Anders als beim Couchsurfen begegnen sich Nutzende bei (d) und (e) kaum. Die teilende Gemeinschaft gibt es nur der Theorie nach. Im Prinzip ist die Grenze zum Autoverleih klein: Eigentum Dritter wird für kurze Zeiträume gemietet. Doch praktisch ist es ein Unterschied, da man nicht mehr an den Tresen einer Verleihstation muss, sondern durch schnelle Buchung per Smartphone flexibler und die Nutzungszeit kürzer und billiger ist. (Man bindet sich allerdings an die Plattform.)
Diese Niedrigschwelligkeit ist verlockend, Effekte des Carsharings sind daher umstritten: verführt der günstige Komfort zu zusätzlichen Fahrten, oder hilft es Autos und Fahrten einzusparen und so fossile Schlüsselindustrien zu schwächen? Studien dazu konnten Unterschiede aufzeigen (BCS 2016, Schreier u.a. 2018, Öko-Institut 2018): Kleinere Anbieter sind an einer Reduktion des Verkehrs, weniger Autos, Emissionen und Blockaden des öffentlichen Raums durch Straßen und Parkplätze interessiert. Sie erleichtern den Abschied vom Auto, weil man in typischen Fällen (Fahrt zum Baumarkt, zur Badestelle, zur Großmutter) auf eines zurückgreifen kann, ohne es zu kaufen. Anbieter müssen sich finanzieren, doch das Geld bleibt Mittel zum Zweck. Nutzt man geteilte Autos anstelle eigener, kommt es zur Reduktion. Der Hebel ist die Kostenstruktur: Haben eigene Autos vor der Nutzung schon viel Geld geschluckt und halten daher zu möglichst vielen Fahrten an, kostet hier jede einzelne Fahrt extra, was zum Weniger-Fahren anreizt.
An Profit orientierte Autohersteller dagegen können kurzfristig große Flotten bereitstellen, die Geld hereinbringen, auch ohne verkauft zu werden. Mittelbar hat das weitere positive Effekte für die Industrie: es sozialisiert auch solche Menschen ins Autofahren hinein, die sich (noch) keines leisten können; es bindet Nutzende an Marken und besorgt das „Greenwashing“ nach dem Dieselskandal. Man hat es hier mit einem Zusatz an Verkehr zu tun, denn die Nutzung geht auf Kosten des öffentlichen Nahverkehrs (wer die S-Bahn verpasst, nimmt schnell ein Auto). Wo der Profit zum Zweck wird, schrumpft der ökologische Subtext zum Mittel. Wenn beim freefloating auch SUVs, Sport- oder Luxuswagen bereitstehen, dann stachelt das etwa auch dann zum Fahren an, wenn eigentlich keine Notwendigkeit besteht – man macht Spritztouren nur aus Laune, um ein Modell auszuprobieren oder um anzugeben. Das hat den (durchaus intendierten) Effekt, dass der Verkehr wieder ansteigt. 
Dieser Vergleich veranschaulicht, dass Teilen und Privateigentum sich nicht ausschließen, Teilen also nicht per se eine Alternative zum Eigentum ist. Doch Teilen ist nicht gleich Teilen. Manche Praktiken beschränken die Macht des Privateigentums: Stationsbasierte Carsharing-Firmen bewahren die Gebrauchswertversprechen privater PKW – Flexibilität und Unabhängigkeit –, ohne Privateigentum zum profitorientierten Fetisch (das Auto als Distinktions- und Statussymbol und heiliges Blech der Verkehrspolitik, vgl. Canzler/Knie 2018) weiterwuchern zu lassen. Doch gibt es Gegenbeispiele, die Verkehr und Autokonsum eher vermehren. Um die Unterschiede zu erfassen, ist es zentral, Eigentumsstrukturen in den Praktiken des Teilens und ihre Auswirkungen auf das Verhältnis der Nutzenden zu den Autos zu differenzieren, wie die Grafik abschließend festhält. Teil 2 dieses Blogs wird den Blick dann vergleichend auf das Teilen von privatem Wohnraum richten.
 

Privateigentum und Praktiken des Teilens
 

Eigentums- struktur a) Privateigentum individuell b) Privateigentum individuell c) Privateigentum Gruppe d) Privateigentum Kleinfirma e) Privateigentum Großfirma f) Kommunal-eigentum
Praxis des Teilens

(-) Jede(r) für sich

Kleingruppe teilt (Familie) Kleingruppe teilt (WG) Teilen im Stadtteil Teilen in Großstadt Teilen in Kommune
Sozialer Effekt beim Auto Ausschluss (wie d, nur instabil) (wie d, nur instabil) Verkehr und Autos reduziert Verkehr und Autos nehmen zu (wie d, nur seltener)

 

Wind Turbines

Blowing in the Wind Turbines

by Marco Sonnberger, Daniel Horn, Maria Pfeiffer, Matthias Groß

The energy sector is not only an exciting object of study for engineers and climate researchers, but also holds relevance for sociologists. After all, the discourse around renewable energy is not limited to technical and economic issues of the decarbonization of the energy system, but also includes issues of societal acceptability and broader dynamics of socio-technical transformation such as contested visions of desired futures. In this regard, the German energy transition repeatedly raises questions of ownership of renewable energies, which can be critically discussed using wind energy as an example.
The use of wind energy emerged from a bottom-up process, a counter-design to the fossil fuel-based and centralized power generation. In Germany, coming from the anti-nuclear movement of the 1970s, the (already existing) technology for wind turbines was embedded in a new social context, in which new actors strove for a rethinking of energy policy along with a decentralization and democratization of economic structures. This pursuit gave rise to cooperative projects, for example, in the form of citizen energy projects and energy cooperatives. However, since the beginning of the 2000s and spurred by the Renewable Energy Sources Act (Erneuerbare Energien Gesetz), these niche actors have been increasingly flanked by other, more powerful actors. Currently, heterogeneous actors are involved in the expansion of wind energy such as energy cooperatives, municipal utilities, large energy companies, investment management corporations, banks, farmers, landowners, municipalities, and project companies. With growing competition, these actors are trying to retain or expand their access to wind and profit from its conversion into electricity. This raises two questions: Who is profiting from the access to the energetic use of the wind? And how is this access regulated?
This subject can be approached by asking “Who owns the wind?”. This question is fairly quickly answered: According to German law, wind counts as a commons (Gemeinschaftsgut), meaning that it is a good that cannot be owned by anyone but accessed by everyone, without any social or legal restrictions in relation to its use. In theory, this implies that every person has access to its use. In practice, however, in order to harness the kinetic energy of the wind, one needs both capital-intensive technology and a piece of land on which to install it, as David McDermott Hughes argues. This means that although wind is a commons, access to its energetic potential is limited by access to monetary resources, technology, and land.
While monetary resources usually enable access to technology, access to suitable land poses a greater hurdle. State and government agencies in particular prove to be crucial gatekeepers in this regard for granting access to wind energy development. They command vast tracts of land as, for example, in the case of the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (Bundesamt für Schifffahrt und Hydrographie), which controls the distribution of land use along the German coast. In addition, government agencies develop regulatory regimes that set the institutional frameworks for renewable electricity generation, and thereby intentionally or unintentionally contribute to advantaging (or disadvantaging) different actors in the field of energy. Some argue that current institutional frameworks create a disadvantage for smaller players, such as community energy projects. In particular, the auction-based support system for wind energy development introduced by the reform of the Renewable Energy Sources Act in 2017 has been criticized for favoring large companies in renewable energy development, as the approval procedures require high upfront investments, especially with regard to offshore wind farm development.
In addition to the question of access to the use of wind, further consideration of state regulations also raises questions about their impact on the expansion of wind energy in general. While wind energy is understood to be a ‘renewable’ and thus ‘sustainable’ resource, we are finding that with a growing expansion of wind energy, this is no longer entirely the case. As soon as the kinetic energy is extracted from wind by a turbine, the efficiency of neighboring downwind turbines is decreased, a phenomenon known as the wake effect. Due to the need for more electricity from renewable energy sources, the density of wind parks in Germany is increasing, and thus the distance between individual parks is decreasing. This means wake effects can now be observed and measured not only within wind parks themselves, but also between individual wind parks. Accordingly, the phenomenon of wake effects of one park can reduce the efficiency of a neighboring one. With an increased wind farm density on- and offshore, the estimated wind energy potential of individual wind sites is also impaired. Regulatory frameworks play a crucial rule here in ensuring the efficiency of wind energy use and thus the coverage of electricity demand by non-fossil energy sources in Germany.
Wind, which is ephemeral, not delineable, and unstorable, requires governance arrangements of access and withdrawal—in this case the withdrawal of kinetic energy—in order to be harnessed in a sustainable and efficient way. Otherwise, the common “ownership” of wind results in a degree of exploitation that is suboptimal on an aggregate scale, which means that the full potential of “wind harvest” on a national or even international scale cannot be realized. Accordingly, some actors are calling for more coherent and coordinated spatial planning, in particular in the case of offshore wind energy, where questions of international cooperation also arise. Furthermore, in terms of social sustainability, the distribution of costs and benefits of “wind harvesting” is crucial for the societal acceptability of wind energy projects. Maybe it is therefore not so much the question, “Who owns the wind?” but rather, “Who profits from the wind?”.

Acknowledgements: we would like to thank Jacob Blumenfeld for commenting on an earlier version of the blog post and in particular for suggesting the catchy title as well as the SFB blog team for their suggestions how to improve the general understandability of the text.

Februar_Blog_2022

Contesting the Unity of Constitutional Orders from a Property Perspective

by Petra Gümplová

I was recently invited to discuss a new book titled Constitutional Imaginaries. A Theory of European Societal Constitutionalism by Jiří Přibáň, a prominent Czech constitutional theorist, in a roundtable organized for the 13th CEE Forum of young legal theorists in Prague. I gladly accepted, of course. It was my first face-to-face academic event after a two-year pandemic hiatus. More importantly though, this book offers guidance on how to analyze sovereign territoriality as a property order and on how to critically question exclusive claims made by states on the natural resources within their territories.
Přibáň works in the interdisciplinary field of sociological constitutionalism, which focuses on the growing importance of constitutionalism in both domestic and transnational politics. Scholars in this field see constitutions not merely as sets of higher legal norms defining and limiting the system of political governance, but as broader normative structures which mediate conflicts and policy reforms in modern societies. A look at the wide variety of contestations in contemporary democracies reveals that these conflicts are either framed as questions of constitutional or human rights, or come down to the question of limits, scope and separation of powers, including the role of constitutional courts. The issues framed in constitutional terms include migration, gender equality, sexual and reproductive rights, minoritarian politics, public health and, most recently, conflicts over how to mitigate effects of the pandemic and climate crisis.
As it turns out, however, the contestations concerning the scope and extent of power over material objects (e.g. natural resources, lands and territories) and property rights more generally have not often been reflected upon in this field. Přibáň’s book challenges the apparent unity behind the constitutional order, and, in so doing, provides a possible blueprint for such an inquiry.

Constitutional Imaginaries and Contested Unities

Constitutional Imaginaries builds on Přibáň’s previous work, which analyzes how highly differentiated modern societies, which are also increasingly confronted with global problems and integrated into transnational legal and economic orders, deal with problems of legitimacy and the symbolic representation of ‘unity’. Přibáň’s latest book asks: what kinds of ‘imaginaries’ have traditionally underwritten the constitutional structure of nation states? Moreover, what imaginaries are reinforcing the above-mentioned ‘new’ role of constitutions to mediate an ever-expanding catalogue of conflicts in contemporary democracies?
How does Přibáň define ‘constitutional imaginaries’? In his view, they are clusters of ideas and narratives which represent societies as distinct wholes and are integrated by shared values and visions of a common good. According to Přibáň, there is a ‘classic’ version of the constitutional imaginary which informed the rise of modern nations and constitutional democratic statehood. This classic version assumes an overlap between ‘the people’ as a collective with a distinct identity, their state understood as a form of political organization of this collective identity, and a particular and separate legal order.
Přibáň’s main claim is that societies have become so pluralistic and globally interconnected that constitutional imaginaries can no longer invoke a unity of particular ethnos, topos, and nomos to fulfill their important functions, i.e. to mediate conflicts and legitimize decision-making. Merely assuming the unity of a particular society as one demos in one state on one land illustrates the point well. Přibáň reminds us that maintaining the unity of ‘the people’ as one political community often relies on the construction of one national culture, understood as collectively shared norms, languages, and practices which are then reformulated as the foundational values of a given polity and used to justify specific laws and policies. But in today’s pluralistic societies, invoking culture to integrate demos is doomed to failure. The task of integration and representation of unity requires an appeal to universal values that transcend particular communities. The global language of human rights and its emphasis on non-discrimination, inclusion, participation, and welfare is a prominent example of such a set of values which fulfills this role today.
In order to perform their important functions, Přibáň claims, constitutions internalize ‘imaginaries’ which do not rely on the unity of a distinct people, state or legal order, making an appeal instead to universalistic norms. The transnational legal and political order of the EU demonstrates that the imaginaries now used to legitimize domestic policies in member states often rely on non-parochial norms of legal and societal pluralism, administrative efficiency, economic performativity, social justice, and democratic mobilization.

Imagining Territorial Disunity

I think that Přibáň’s critical questioning of unity of a demos, topos, and nomos as empirically and morally untenable is plausible. It can serve as a critical analytical tool which helps to address a range of conflicts, for example contestations over conservative policies (strict abortion laws in Poland, opposition to gay marriage in the Czech Republic) or over the extent to which democracies are obliged to uphold the human rights of alleged ‘outsiders’ (refusing refugees at the borders and denying them the right to apply for asylum). Moreover, as the term topos suggests, I wondered if Přibáň’s call for post-national and universalistic constitutional imaginaries can also be used to question the very entrenched unity of a constitutional order within a bounded geographic space – and the state’s exclusive control of the territory that very much resembles private property rights over land.
Curiously, Přibáň does not understand topos in this sense, referring instead to the unity of a territorial state with its legally constituted political authority and the danger of deriving its legitimacy from that state’s raison d’état, or national interests. Topos, however, literally means place. This simple meaning invites us to think about a very concrete spatial location as the overlap between people, the state, and the legal order. Nation states have indeed developed as geographically situated and territorially exclusive entities. This dimension of territoriality implies not only spatial limits on the application of laws, but also the state’s ultimate authority to distribute property rights within its borders and claim valuable natural resources for its exclusive benefit.
In the contemporary international system, the territorial unity of states is expressed by norms of territorial integrity and sovereignty over natural resources. While the former protects states against aggression, the latter gives states exclusive rights to control the environment and freely use natural resources within their territorial borders. Following Přibáň’s method, we can identify the narratives that have supported this unity. They evoke principles of attachment, self-determination, common origin, history of occupation and cultivation of the land, and the effective use of resources. More importantly, we can ask what tensions are immanent in these imaginaries, and whether they should still support states’ exclusive control over natural space and exploit its resources in today’s world.
There are, in my view, tensions inscribed the territorial unity of states. To begin with, territories have been imposed on Earth’s geography primarily as a result of wars, conquests, colonial settlements, and superpowers’ agreements and territorial purchases. The exclusive claim to territorial space by a state and its people is thus (predominately) morally arbitrary. Yet it authorizes exclusive access to resources, allows the exploitation of parts of global commons (e.g. pollution, deforestation), and allows the use of resources which can be harmful for others. Just think of how much harm is inflicted on the neighboring country of Czechia by the Turów mine (the damage to ground water resources, dust and noise pollution, risks of landslide). There are also internal tensions which are usually caused by problematic distributions of property rights to resources or the usurpation of resources by illegitimate governments who use them to maintain their corrupt or authoritarian rule.
Many thinkers, including myself, have questioned the scope of this sovereign territorial privilege and its structural similarity to property (Gümplová 2021, Armstrong 2015, Barnes 2009). Following Přibáň’s blueprint, we can ask what imaginaries might help loosen the possessive hold on natural resources implied in the territorial embeddedness of constitutional orders. Such imaginaries are indeed necessary. States’ overuse of environmentally valuable assets, their unsustainable use of natural resources, and other political and distributive injustices following from states’ usurpation of resources cause global environmental crises, harm the interests and rights of future generations, and reinforce global inequality. While constitutional scholars are starting to take the property structures of sovereignty seriously, it is necessary that we start cultivating imaginaries that weaken states’ property claims on nature and its resources. Common ownership of the Earth, common heritage of life, states as trustees of the environment (Wood 2013), or rights of nature (Kauffmann/Martin 2021) are the most compelling recent candidates.

Literature cited:
Armstrong, Chris. 2015. “Against ‘permanent sovereignty’ over natural resources,” Politics, Philosophy & Economics 14 (2): 129-151.
Barnes, Richard. 2009. Property Rights and Natural Resources. Oxford:  Hart Publishing.
Gümplová, Petra. 2021. “Sovereign Territory and the Domination over Nature,” In: Arthur Bueno, Christoph Henning, and Hartmut Rosa (eds.), Critical Theory and New Materialism. Abingdon: Routledge, 31-41.
Kauffmann, Craig M. and Pamela L. Martin. 2021. The Politics of Rights of Nature: Strategies for Building a More sustainable Future, Cambridge: MIT Press.
Přibáň, Jiří. 2012. Constitutional Imaginaries. A Theory of European Societal Constitutionalism. Abingdon: Routledge.
Wood, Mary Christina. 2013. Nature’s Trust: Environmental Law in the New Ecological Age, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

Nico Kaiser. Source: Flickr, License: CC BY-2.0

Academic piracy

Researchers and students sometimes take illicit paths to access scientific texts

by Georg Fischer

Over the past two years I have visited my university library only once: the day I had to return a book that I borrowed in January 2020 before the pandemic restrictions began. My university library refers to the library of the university where I graduated some time ago – and where I have been an alumnus ever since. With alumnus status, I can use the services of the library like I did previously as doctoral student – for research, loans, interlibrary loans from other libraries, copy and scan orders, etc. This is a great help, almost a necessity in my scientific and journalistic work. Especially before the pandemic, I made active use of these offers. But what the university library could not fully do even before the pandemic was to provide me with all desired essays, anthologies and monographs at short notice.

Between intellectual desires and material possibilities

As a sociologist and journalist interested in both history and the present, I would like to look at offsite historical sources as well as new publications. I want to identify trends and turnarounds and new fields of research. I want to do targeted research, to stay up to date. I want to know what colleagues publish and where citation cartels are formed. I want to check sources and see what else can be gleaned from them. And, sometimes, I want to drift in the ocean of references without having a goal, to lose myself in rabbit holes, to descend into footnote cellars.
In short: I need open access and a wide selection of scientific literature. But I do not, or cannot, spend 30 euros or more on every book chapter or essay that could be interesting – and which I want to view beyond its abstract – as provided for by the (digital) offerings of the major academic publishers.
This gap between my intellectual desires and material possibilities is a problem. I became aware of the problem during the researching and writing of my dissertation between 2014 and 2018. While working from home due to the pandemic, the problem continued to worsen for me. Colleagues related similar difficulties. Almost all my colleagues who study, research, teach, or are unable to access the physical library seem to be affected.

A fantastically profitable business model

Simon Frith wrote about the music industry at the end of the 1980s:
For the music industry the age of manufacture is now over. Companies (and company profits) are no longer organised around making things but depend on the creation of rights. […] [T]he company task is to exploit as many of these rights as possible […].
For the academic media industry (i.e., the major scientific publishers) this insight is almost ideal. Elsevier, for example, achieves revenue margins of more than 30%. This is now also perceived as a problem in science itself.
The basis for this is a business model that makes maximum use of the copyrights of the published authors: scientists write academic texts, in most cases ensure their quality, and give them to scientific publishers who formally prepare these texts – and then sell back access to the texts to the libraries (or to interested individuals) by means of subscription models.
Unlike the music industry or the newspaper industry, for example, the academic media industry was able to transfer its business model into the digital age relatively unscathed. For some years now, however, cracks have been forming in the walls that scientific publishers have built around the texts they market. Similar to the MP3 crisis of the music industry, users are applying digital tools to overcome the paywalls of publishers.

Designing accesses, laying tunnels, overcoming paywalls

Among these users are not just researchers, students and teaching staff, but also journalists and the interested public who wish for open, free access to scientific findings. To this end, they use resistant, sometimes guerrilla-like strategies to circumvent, undermine and open up the (digital) restrictions of the major publishers.
The best-known example is probably the shadow library SciHub (short for Science Hub), which currently provides access to more than 75 million documents. It was founded in 2011 by Alexandra Elbakyan, who was frustrated that she could not access the required texts from her place of residence in Kazakhstan. Elbakyan decided to program an automatic circumvention of restrictions; in order to obtain a certain text, SciHub pretends to be a library that has already acquired access to this text. SciHub tricks the publisher's website into believing an IP that belongs to the library in question. The text becomes accessible via this digital tunnel and the user can download it as a PDF. Access granted.
To ensure the highest possible availability, SciHub works together with the Russian shadow library LibGen (short for Library Genesis). Beginning in 2008, LibGen aggregated various collections of texts circulating in Russia and put the entire corpus online. In 2014, LibGen offered about 25 million documents, including scientific literature and works of fiction in various languages, resulting from mass downloads of repositories and leaks from university networks and publishers.
Together with LibGen, SciHub is an example of a technically delegated, automated circumvention strategy allowing users to circumvent the copyright issues of accessing literature. This gives them flexibility in the short term but does not solve the underlying problem in the long term.
The whole thing remains a cat-and-mouse game: the sites have to regularly change their top-level domains to escape the access of governmental authorities. Instructions on how to bypass the locks circulate quickly.
Of course, shadow libraries are a thorn in the side of the major publishers – so bad that they have even considered having the university libraries install surveillance software in order to be able to track (illegal) access from university networks. A paper of the German Research Foundation (DFG) recently described the practice of data tracking and addressed it as a problem.
Following a lawsuit by several major publishers, SciHub did not add any new texts to its database for a few months in 2021. On Reddit, a rescue operation has formed for almost 80 terabytes of scientific texts, which should remain available for users via the file sharing system BitTorrent. In addition, the programmer Elbakyan has been targeted by governmental authorities: According to Elbakyan, her Apple account, for example, has been monitored by the FBI for the last two years. In September 2021, SciHub celebrated its ten-year anniversary by uploading more than 2 million new articles.

From peer to peer

SciHub and LibGen are well-versed technical solutions based on a central distribution principle. In contrast, decentralized peer-to-peer-practices have also established themselves in social media.
Under the hashtag #IcanhazPDF users make search queries for scientific texts. Colleagues with access to the desired texts can see who is looking for what and help. The associated Twitter account formulates an etiquette for such search queries containing three rules:

  1. DOI link
  2. Your email address
  3. Delete tweet once PDF received

The third rule in particular serves to protect sources and to prevent possible warnings. In most cases, sending a text violates the copyright of the publisher – although the authors are allegedly less likely to object to it, as they benefit from their work being known, read and quoted by colleagues.
The practice around the hashtag appeals to the community idea of globally networked science and entails a particular principle of the exchange of gifts: the greater the willingness of individuals to provide texts, the higher the general chance of receiving the desired text. At the same time, #IcanhazPDF expands the common practice among researchers to recommend and send each other literature by email.
#IcanhazPDF does not set any limit to scientific disciplines or years of literature sought. In using the hashtag, researchers also provide some insight into their own work, exhibit their own consumption of literature, and show which texts they (want to) receive.
A similar practice takes place in the exchange of literature via Telegram groups. The messenger service was originally developed by Russian programmers and has officially relocated its headquarters to Dubai. Telegram sometimes receives public criticism: not only can short messages be sent free of charge, but the service also provides the technical infrastructure for illegal activities, such as drug trafficking, the spread of conspiracy ideologies, or the organization of political upheavals.
Telegram is obviously weakly regulated. And this is one apparent reason why the sharing of scientific literature also takes place within self-organized groups on the platform. Similar to #IcanhazPDF on Twitter, students and researchers make a text request in one of the various groups, often combined with an indication of the library at which the text is digitally accessible.
The sending of the desired texts usually takes place in private messages. Presumably, this is a safety feature so that the senders cannot be prosecuted for making a copyrighted text publicly available to a large audience.
If you are interested in a text that another person has requested, you can express this via text abbreviations or emoticons. This shows that academic piracy is at best legally questionable but serves the general goal of scientific exchange and can lead to substantive recommendations of literature.
Telegram groups arose in part as a reaction to the pandemic situation, which cut many students off from access to scientific literature and thus made a technical and solidarity-based solution necessary. In some cases, comparable offers existed even before the pandemic.

Shadow libraries as a viable but illegal practice

I admit that I not only research copyright, but also break copyright laws from time to time. Without the techniques and offers listed above, which are largely in the shadow of the law, I would not have been able to write my dissertation, for example. And while I'm thrown back into home office because of the pandemic, for me – as for many others – legal access to scientific literature through libraries is deteriorating. For the year 2020, academic libraries in Germany recorded an average decline of 25 percent in the number of loans compared to the previous year.
Regardless of the pandemic, the shadow libraries and techniques described above are an indication that formal copyright rules (and their application by publishers) collide with the actual wishes of users; students, researchers and the interested public want fast, direct, easy and affordable access to scientific literature. This is needed for studying, research, teaching, and pursuing education.
To achieve their own goals – such as writing a scientific qualification thesis – many students and researchers are willing to take advantage of legally-questionable or even clearly-illegal offers. They value the benefits of the illegal offers more than the resulting damage to themselves or the scientific publishing industry. Organizational researchers refer to this phenomenon as ”useful illegality”, by which they mean the various practices, strategies and mechanisms that are illegitimate or illegal, but very necessary to keep an organization running and give it flexibility in the application of formal rules.
Many people may also see no point in paying out of their own pockets for access to already-publicly-funded research. They bypass the helpful and absolutely necessary, but usually insufficient offers of their university libraries and facilitate new paths that help them better reach their access goals. In the case of peer-to-peer exchanges, users sometimes slip into the role of librarians themselves to do their own colleagues and fellow students a favor, helping to obtain the desired literature and, if necessary, to recommend more. A para-librarian structure is thus created and consolidated.

Desire paths: Not seen as part of the problem, but as part of the solution

Bypassing hurdles relates to a phenomenon that urban planners call “desire paths”: These are defined as “paths and tracks made over time by the wishes and feet of walkers, especially those paths that run contrary to design or planning”. Urban planners have recognized the potential of such desire paths: for example on the university campus in Michigan where users were explicitly allowed to create the paths they wanted between buildings. Later, these organically generated trails and sneaky backways were developed into official paths.
With digital ways of sharing academic texts (such as SciHub or #IcanhazPDF), desire paths also emerge in the digital sphere. They provide shortcuts between the official structures of libraries, albeit through informal, illicit, or even illegal means. The music industry was the first media industry to be turned upside down by the media break of digitization and increased copying possibilities of users; user-generated side paths became the main arms of digital music distribution that could no longer be ignored.
After the music industry initially fought hard against MP3s, illegal file sharing was gradually transformed into a legal business model. iTunes and Spotify appeared as external players with convenient digital offerings, and labels and publishers had to move. Gradually, the understanding spread that MP3 streaming on platforms could fulfill many users' desires for easy and fast access to music – a convenient shortcut to the ways of the CD business. In addition, it activates fans as resources; they can recommend music to their friends, curate in playlists, rate, collect, comment, and pass on music on social media.
In science, a similar process seems to have started with shadow libraries. This is certainly worth considering not as part of the problem, but more as part of a solution that solves an underlying problem in the procurement of scientific literature. For this, the wishes of users for a useful and legal system for obtaining scientific literature would have to be taken much more seriously – and not fought as copyright infringements.

This text was originally published in June 2021 at Verfassungsblog. For the SFB Blog, it was translated into English and slightly adapted. Both original and adapted version are licensed under CC BY-SA-4.0.

Hakan Dahlström. Source: Flickr, License: CC BY 2.0

How the transition to Open Access is changing scientific publishing

by Tilman Reitz

Free and unrestricted access to scientific texts is likely to become standard soon. Scientific publishers are trying different approaches to take advantage of the transition to Open Access, for example by charging publishing fees and tracking user data. Tilman Reitz analyzes what the Open Access transformation means for science and what options there are for shaping it.

Open Access is coming, albeit slowly. Even during the pandemic, where the need for digital text access in research and teaching has become essential, there has not been much significant progress. Recent copyright reforms have seen the criminalization of platforms such as Sci-Hub, designed to skirt paywalls, and yet a legal exception for the purposes of science (i.e., the lifting of copyrights for academic use) has been only marginally established. Currently, only up to 15 percent of a published work may be used unpaid or without publisher approval for research and teaching.
Scientific practice, which would require full access to the overview of existing research, has not been taken into account. Even the approach of requiring the results of publicly funded research projects to be made publicly accessible is still far from institutional realization. 
The EU's "Plan S", which pursues this goal, is not being adequately supported by organizations such as the German Research Foundation. Thus, in large parts of the market, academic publishers are able to cash in twice off research, as described by Leonhard Dobusch:

"Predominantly publicly funded research is [...] peer-reviewed for free by publicly funded scholars and then sold back to publicly funded libraries for expensive money by publishers whose service usually consists of editing, typesetting, and distribution."

In the course of digitization, this problem has expanded and worsened into a "journal crisis" for university libraries, which are running out of money for necessary purchases in the face of rapidly rising subscription prices. Many researchers, universities and research organizations have fought back against this; in the meantime, the leading nations in research are negotiating transitions to Open Access with the major publishers.

The fee burden shifts to authors

But even if scientific publications do become generally accessible in the medium term, the economic scandal of the old paywall oligopoly will continue. Instead of access fees, publishers now earn money from Open Access by charging publication fees, which usually go far beyond the services rendered and can be demanded directly from the authors or their institutions.
Those at fault here are, on the one hand, scientific organizations and science policy, which simply aren’t taking a stand against the market-dominating publishers – and, on the other hand, the reputational needs by which researchers themselves are governed. When publication in a highly cited journal – ScienceNature, or even The British Journal of Sociology – is the ticket to professorships, proposal approvals, and government support for individual institutions, many will pay dearly for the privilege of publication.
The greater the prestige of a magazine, the more inflexible the demand to publish with them, excessive prices notwithstanding. Top publishers with market-dominating positions can easily charge very high prices. As a result, Open Access is allowing an open exploitation of researchers and their institutions, or the explicit extraction of monopoly rents. Critical reactions to approaches such as Plan S argue that funded (early career) researchers should not be prevented from placing their results in well-known journals.   Thus, publication fees are gaining acceptance. However, despite the name "Article Processing Charge" (APC), publication fees have little to do with actual costs. According to calculations by Alexander Grossmann and Björn Brembs, prices of 200 to 1,000 US dollars per article would be sufficient (about 168 to 840 euros; editor's note). However, the standard asking price is currently around 2,000 euros, and leading journals are often well above this. Nature, for example, charges up to 9,500 dollars per article.

What it means for science when Open Access becomes the standard

What can we expect for publication conditions in the medium term if Open Access becomes the norm? First, it’s clear that the new model will coexist with the paywall system for quite a while, as science organizations and policies are negotiating individual contracts with major publishers instead of aggressively setting new standards. The German science organizations have already reached agreements with Springer and Wiley through the Projekt DEAL initiative; Elsevier is still proving particularly resistant.  
Second, these publishers – namely Elsevier, Sage, Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis, and Wiley-Blackwell – will use the long transition and their privileged bargaining positions to consolidate their market power. With proliferation of Open Access in academia, publishers will be increasingly unable to persuade libraries to purchase expensive aggregate journal access portfolios. Rather, they will either charge extremely high APCs for the right to publish or combine these APCs with considerable standard prices for accessing their journals.  
In the initial DEAL agreements, there is an interesting mixed model: Instead of APCs, publish-and-read fees ("PAR fees") of 2,750 euros cover the costs of publishing new work as well as grant access rights to a selection of the publisher’s existing catalogue (see, for example, the DEAL contract details for Wiley and Springer).  
Smaller publishers, however, do not have the bargaining power to negotiate such advantageous transitions. And even after the transition to Open Access, they will probably still be unable to collect high fees. Thus, the problems of monopoly pricing and the marginalization of smaller academic publishers look likely to continue.
There are other threats as well. Universities in the Netherlands have succeeded in negotiating an Open Access package with Elsevier. However, in doing so they made major financial concessions and also granted extensive rights to use data for new business models (described here only in outline, ranging from metadatabases to career support).  
Anyone who thinks of a high-profile, carefully managed catalogue of books and periodicals when they hear the word "publisher" will have to reconsider: In the future, scholarly publishers could turn into data brokers who see publications only as the raw material to profit off user data.  
The emerging new structures are rather advantageous for smaller academic institutions and their researchers in countries such as Germany or the UK, where publication fees are borne by the entire system and thus a poorer institutional position does not limit publication opportunities.  
At the same time, however, researchers from less financially strong countries might find it increasingly difficult to publish their results with any visibilty. And those who work outside the organized academic establishment can hope less and less for the opportunity to bring their results to the scholarly public at all. Such groups will be able to afford reading more and more, but (without individual funds) will be publishing less and less.

Alternatives to the publishing oligopoly – and who could drive them forward

If the prospects are so unfavorable, the question naturally moves to what alternatives there are and who could possibly lead the way. What should be done is not difficult to say: In principle, the transition to Open Access needs to be significantly accelerated, including introducing a legal exception which would make copyrighted material generally free of access under certain conditions (e.g, non-commercial use for research and teaching).  
At the same time, fair criteria for publication fees should be established and these fees capped accordingly. More than 1,000 euros per text cannot be justified. In this way, the public sector would save a lot of money, which could then be better spent (for example, to finance more permanent academic positions). Moreover, publishers beyond the market-dominating five would get a chance to assert themselves in an open price and performance competition.  
It is much more difficult to foresee who could drive such a change. Many researchers in the mathematical and natural sciences have been committed to Open Access publication structures for 20 to 30 years, but their bottom-up initiatives have been slow to bear fruit at best. In the humanities and social sciences, on the other hand, there is still no widespread awareness of the problem or potential for action. This is due partly to their prevailing book culture, and partly to a quiet competitive conformism.  
Here, self-organized Open Access journals and forums are the most likely to take shape; Kathrin Ganz has pointed out that fee-free publications are prevailing in these subjects. In order to not only encourage such approaches, but to generalize them, science organizations and legislators in particular need to get involved. However, they will need to experience much more pressure from below in order to take action and change the situation. Otherwise they will remain on the chosen path of maintaining the oligopoly.  

This post originally appeared in German on irights.info licensed under CC BY-4.0. It has been translated and republished with permission of the author.