Paul Pival wrote today and yesterday about “mafia tactics by Harvard Business School Publishing”, wherein they are trying to charge libraries to link to articles from Harvard Business Review in EBSCO for online classroom use and then are turning off PURLs to HBR articles in Business Source products if the school refuses to pay.

I’ve known about this for almost a year as my library had its links shut off because we didn’t want to pay to be able to link to HBR in our online classes. Fortunately there weren’t any links to HBR in the course management system when our links were shut off, so it didn’t have any real impact on us. I’d assume that we were approached by Harvard because our online programs spend quite a bit of money on case studies from Harvard Business School Press, since we’re certainly not a big fish otherwise. When I was told by our rep about the new service where we could pay to link to HBR articles in EBSCO, I’d had no idea that we had previously been unable to link to them in the first place (how many of us have access to our contracts with our vendors?). The links to HBR articles are available in the same way as links to any other article in the Business Source products. If there’s a persistent link in the database to an article that a professor wants to use for their class, they’re going to use it. And apparently, I’m not the only one who was unaware of this.

These are the current use restrictions, which have changed since my school signed an agreement with EBSCO:

“Harvard Business Review Notice of Use Restrictions, May 2009 Harvard Business Review and Harvard Business Publishing Newsletter content on EBSCOhost is licensed for the private individual use of authorized EBSCOhost users. It is not intended for use as assigned course material in academic institutions nor as corporate learning or training materials in businesses. Academic licensees may not use this content in electronic reserves, electronic course packs, persistent linking from syllabi or by any other means of incorporating the content into course resources. Business licensees may not host this content on learning management systems or use persistent linking or other means to incorporate the content into learning management systems. Harvard Business Publishing will be pleased to grant permission to make this content available through such means. For rates and permission, contact”

One has to wonder what “any other means of incorporating the content into course resources” means. Does that mean one can’t tell students in a class to access a HBR article from Business Source Premier without providing a link? Absurd!

Personally, I find the whole thing really sleazy. We are already paying to access the content from Harvard Business Review in the EBSCO database, just like every other journal in there. We link to other journals in EBSCO databases in our course management system without incident. Why not this one? Why we would need to essentially double-pay just to have a direct link to the content? And, as Paul also asks, how does EBSCO know that a school is using links to HBR content in a course management system or e-reserve?

I guess HBSP can make whatever rules they want with regards to their content, since they’re big and basically essential to any MBA program. But I’m curious — are any of your libraries actually paying HBSP to be able to create permalinks? And have any of you had your EBSCO permalinks to HBR shut off because you wouldn’t pay?