Friday, February 20, 2009

Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship

Dick Danner posted this to the Law Lib Directors' list following a discussion on law journals -- whether libraries have been canceling them, should they be kept in some "analog" format in addition to the Hein/Westlaw/Lexis digital formats, etc.. This is an interesting development.

Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship

11 February 2009

Objective: The undersigned believe that it will benefit legal education and improve the dissemination of legal scholarly information if law schools commit to making the legal scholarship they publish available in stable, open, digital formats in place of print. To accomplish this end, law schools should commit to making agreed-upon stable, open, digital formats, rather than print, the preferable formats for legal scholarship. If stable, open, digital formats are available, law schools should stop publishing law journals in print and law libraries should stop acquiring print law journals. We believe that, in addition to their other benefits, these changes are particularly timely in light of the financial challenges currently facing many law schools.

Rationale: Researchers – whether students, faculty, or practitioners – now access legal information of all sorts through digital formats much more frequently than in printed formats. Print copies of law
journals and other forms of legal scholarship are slower to arrive than the online digital versions and lack the flexibility needed by 21st century scholars. Yet, most law libraries perceive a continuing need also to acquire legal scholarship in print formats for citation and archiving. (Some libraries are canceling print editions if commercial digital versions are available; others continue to acquire print copies but throw them away after a period of time.)

It is increasingly uneconomical to keep two systems afloat simultaneously. The presumption of need for redundant printed journals adds costs to library budgets, takes up physical space in libraries pressed for space, and has a deleterious effect on the environment; if articles are uniformly available in stable digital formats, they can still be printed on demand. Some libraries may still choose to subscribe to certain journals in multiple formats if they are available. In general, however, we believe that, if law schools are willing to commit to stable and open digital storage for the journals they publish, there are no longer good reasons for individual libraries to rely on paper copies as the archival format. Agreed-upon stable, open, digital formats will ensure that legal scholarship will be preserved in the long-term.

In a time of extreme pressures on law school budgets, moving to all electronic publication of law journals will also eliminate the substantial costs borne by law schools for printing and mailing print editions of their school’s journals, and the costs borne by their libraries to purchase, process and preserve print versions.

Additionally, and potentially most importantly, a move toward digital files as the preferred format for legal scholarship will increase access to legal information and knowledge not only to those inside the legal academy and in practice, but to scholars in other disciplines and to international audiences, many of whom do not now have access either to print journals or to commercial databases.

Call to Action: We therefore urge every U.S. law school to commit to ending print publication of its journals and to making definitive versions of journals and other scholarship produced at the school immediately available upon publication in stable, open, digital formats, rather than in print.

We also urge every law school to commit to keeping a repository of the scholarship published at the school in a stable, open, digital format. Some law schools may choose to use a shared regional online repository or to offer their own repositories as places for other law schools to archive the scholarship published at their school.

Repositories should rely upon open standards for the archiving of works, as well as on redundant formats, such as PDF copies. We also urge law schools and law libraries to agree to and use a standard set of metadata to catalog each article to ensure easy online public indexing of legal scholarship.

As a measure of redundancy, we also urge faculty members to reserve their copyrights to ensure that they too can make their own scholarship available in stable, open, digital formats. All law journals should rely upon the AALS model publishing agreement as a default and should respect author requests to retain copyrights in their scholarship.

Richard A. Danner
Duke Law School

Taylor Fitchett
University of Virginia

Margaret A. Fry
Georgetown University Law Center

Paul M. George
University of Pennsylvania School of Law

Claire M. Germain
Cornell Law School

S. Blair Kauffman
Yale Law School

J. Paul Lomio
Stanford Law School

Harry S. (Terry) Martin III
University of Texas Law School

Kent McKeever
Columbia Law School

Jim McMasters
Northwestern University School of Law

John G. Palfrey
Harvard Law School

Radu Popa
New York University Law School

Judith M. Wright
University of Chicago Law School


Marie S. Newman said...

I agree with the aspirations underlying the Durham Statement, and I am a strong proponent of open access. However, at the same time, I have a lot of concerns about the stability of digital formats. Until we have a truly permanent solution, I think we are stuck with some level of redundancy in our collections, at least in academic libraries.

Betsy McKenzie said...

Now, you can sign the Durham Statement at the Berkman Center, at