Thursday, January 26, 2012

Librarians Oppose Research Works Act HR3699

A coalition of 10 library groups joined in a letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which is considering action on HR 3699, the Government Works Act. AALL, ALA, ACRL, and ARL among others signed the letter strongly oppposing the bill. The bill privatizes research performed with federal grant money, preventing agencies from requiring the results of the research be made equally accessible to all. From the letter:

Our government funds research with the expectation that new ideas and discoveries from this research will propel science, stimulate the economy, and improve the lives of all Americans. Public support for science is enhanced when the public can directly see the benefits from our investment in scientific research.

Unfortunately, H.R. 3699 is designed to protect the business interests of a small subset of the publishing industry, failing to ensure that the interests of all stakeholders in the research process are adequately balanced.

Scientific progress depends on the broadest possible dissemination of knowledge, and the subsequent building upon the work of others. To this end, the highly successful NIH Public Access Policy currently ensures that the results of our nation's $29 billion annual investment in biomedical research reach the broadest possible audience. The Policy simply requires that, in exchange for receiving federal research dollars, grantees make a copy of any electronic manuscript reporting on the results of that research available online via the agency’s PubMed Central database within 12 months of appearing in a peerreviewed journal. (snip)

H.R. 3699 would overturn this vital policy, rolling back the gains that the public has made in these crucial areas. It would prohibit any other federal agency from enacting similar policies, stifling our nation’s ability to effectively leverage our investment in scientific research in areas other than the biomedical sciences, including areas such as energy research, sustainable agriculture, and green technology.

At a time when our focus should be on providing mechanisms to encourage innovation, fuel the development of new ideas, and stimulate job creation – H.R. 3699 does exactly the opposite. It imposes restrictions on access to peer-reviewed research results that benefit one small sector of an industry, rather than encourage their use by the widest possible audience. (snip)

We fully respect copyright law and the protection it affords content creators, owners, and users. The NIH Public Access Policy operates fully within current U.S. Copyright law as articles reporting on NIHfunded research are copyrightable, and the copyright belongs to the author. The NIH Policy requires only the grant of a non-exclusive license to NIH, fully consistent with federal policies such as Circular A-110 and Circular A-102. The author is free to transfer some or all of the exclusive rights under copyright to a journal publisher or to assign these anywhere they so choose – a freedom crucial to the authors of scientific articles, who rightly want to determine where and how their work is distributed.

Under H.R. 3699, authors of articles reporting on federally funded research would face a new restriction. The proposed bill requires authors to seek the permission of a publisher before their work can be distributed through an online, networked government channel such as NIH’s PubMed Central, even if they themselves - as the author of the work and the relevant rights holder – have already consented to do so, potentially limiting the authors ability to distribute their work as widely as they may wish.
Peter Suber at the Berkman Center is keeping a running list of the various organizations that have come out in favor or against the bill. Simmons is hosting the Open Access Tracking Project (OATP), which includes a monitor on this bill, tagged oa.rwa. In Google+ discussions, use the hashtag #rwa.

In the Google+ conversation, somebody raised the point that RWA is similar to ACTA and SOPA, and PIPA and other efforts to rein in free speech on the internet; here is the comment:
For those who are keeping track of the massive architecture of control being erected around us, here is one to add to the list:


See this link for a crash course. What Is ACTA ?

The other pieces that belong on the list are:

#EEA (Enemy Expatriation Act, HR 3166 which could strip Americans of citizenship)
#NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, HR 1540 which allows indefinite detention)
#SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act, HR 3261.IH, which has been withdrawn by its sponsor after massive protests including a blackout from Wikipedia and black-page from Google.
#PIPA (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011, S 968, likewise withdrawn after the massive protests from the tech community)
#RWA (Research Works Act HR 3699 (see this post)
#GooglePersonalSearch (this is worth a whole 'nother post, kiddos!)

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