Friday, February 20, 2009

Wait, don't count on Open Access yet!

Peter Suber, at Earlham College, and Open Access News, raises the alarm that there is a bill reintroduced to Congress to stop federal agencies from maintaining an open access policy, forcing them to push their research out through third party vendors. Here is Peter's post in full,with a link to his site here:

Yesterday Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) re-introduced the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act. This year it's H.R. 801 (last year it was H.R. 6845), and co-sponsored by Steve Cohen (D-TN), Trent Franks, Darrell Issa (R-CA), and Robert Wexler (D-FL). The language has not changed.

The Fair Copyright Act is to fair copyright what the Patriot Act was to patriotism. It would repeal the OA policy at the NIH and prevent similar OA policies at any federal agency. The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, where Conyers is Chairman, and where he has consolidated his power since last year by abolishing the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property. The Judiciary Committee does not specialize in science, science policy, or science funding, but copyright.

The premise of the bill, urged by the publishing lobby, is that the NIH policy somehow violates copyright law. The premise is false and cynical. If the NIH policy violated copyrights, or permitted the violation of copyrights, publishers wouldn't have to back this bill to amend US copyright law. Instead, they'd be in court where they'd already have a remedy. For a detailed analysis of the bill and point by point rebuttal to the publishing lobby's rhetoric, see my article from October 2008.

I'll have more soon on ways to mobilize in opposition to the bill and support the NIH and the principle of public access to publicly-funded research. Meantime, if you're a US citizen and your representative is a member of the Judiciary Committee, it's not to early to fire off an email/fax/letter/phone call to your representative opposing the bill and defending the NIH policy. You can find ammo here:

* the open letter from 46 law professors objecting to "serious misstatements relating to copyright law" in the publisher arguments against the NIH policy, September 8, 2008
* the open letter from 33 US Nobel laureates in science defending the NIH policy against the Conyers bill, September 9, 2008
* my article on the bill from October 2008
* the OAN posts on the bill from the last time around
Be sure to set up an RSS feed to this site if you want to follow up on this issue! P.S., as a librarian, I should note that all the links in the pasted article above were Peter's own -- he did a great job linking to the various websites. Kudos!

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