Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, January 18, 2003

On December 16 the Indian Parliament adopted the Freedom of Information Bill, which gives citizens the right of access to government information. Indian President Shri Narayanan signed the bill into law on January 10.

Last night PBS NOW broadcast an excellent documentary on copyright in America, Tollbooths on the Digital Highway. Jack Valenti and Pat Schroeder spoke for the content industry, while Eben Moglen, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Nancy Kranich, and Jim Griffin spoke for reform. Rick Karr narrated. PBS offers a transcript but not a webcast of the show. (Thanks to Jason Bobe for the link.)

Quoting Jim Griffin: "You know, equalizing access to knowledge is one of the hallmarks of a civilized society. Depriving people of access to knowledge based on the size of their parents' wallet is a hallmark of a despotic society." Quoting Siva Vaidhyanathan: "We're allowing the content holders, the content producers, to have a...remarkable amount of control over the manner and amount and re-use of all this material. We don't want to build a cultural environment, in which the media companies have that much control over our daily lives."

The license accompanying Network Associates software requires that anyone writing a review of the software must get the company's permission in advance. The New York State Supreme Court just ruled that this licensing term is not enforceable. (PS: These days every victory for fair use is worth celebrating, even painfully obvious slam-dunk victories like this one.)

Lawrence Lessig has an op-ed on the Eldred case in today's New York Times, Protecting Mickey Mouse and Art's Expense. He has a constructive suggestion for moving forward. Since the Supreme Court has deferred to Congress on these issues, Lessig proposes a small change to the copyright statute that Congress could adopt without offending the Disneys of the world and that would put perhaps 98% of copyrighted works more than 50 years old into the public domain. Send copies to your Congressional delegation.

BioMed Central's pages explaining its open-access business model have now been translated into Japanese and French. Translations into other languages are coming.

As announced in the latest update from BioMed Central, dated 17 January 2003, a new open-access journal, Health and Quality of Life Outcomes has been launched. The Editorial Board has a strong representation from Italy, and also has substantial international representation. For example, it includes the names of several individuals who have made well-known contributions to the field, including Barrie Cassileth (USA), David Cella (USA), Lesley Fallowfield (UK), David Gustafson (USA), Robert Kaplan (USA) and others. This new journal will be in direct competition with Quality of Life Research, a toll-access journal of Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Friday, January 17, 2003

More on the Eldred decision....Jack Balkin, Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale Law School, now argues that the Eldred decision provides new grounds for overturning the DMCA. (Thanks to LawMeme.)

More on deep linking....Newsbooster, the Danish company ordered to stop deep linking to newspaper stories last July, refuses to give up. It will remove the deep links from its web pages, but allow the public to download a P2P application called Newsbrowser that contains the prohibited links. The theory is that either Newsbrowser will not be subject to the EU Copyright Directive or at least it cannot be shut down. Quoting Nicolai Lassen, Newsbooster's editor-in-chief: "Newsbooster cannot and will not accept limits on the free possibilities of the Internet. We will continue to fight for a legal ruling that recognizes the difference between a referral via a link and the copying of protected information. But in the meantime, there is Newsbrowser."

The Toyko Declaration issued yesterday by the Asian Regional Meeting (in preparation for the upcoming World Summit on the Information Society) encourages the development and use of use open-source software. The draft statement originally said that OSS should be "supported" but U.S. objections forced the delegates to change the word to "encouraged". The meeting represents 600 delegates from Asian governments, companies, NGO's, and international organizations. (PS: It appears that the declaration is not yet online.)

Today the World Health Organization added 43 countries to the set of countries eligible to participate in the HINARI project, which arranges tiered pricing of 2,200 medical journals so that the subscription prices for developing nations are either greatly discounted or entirely waived. Now the program embraces 112 nations and 28 publishers. (Thanks to Terry Foreman.)

Lynn Eaton's January 4 article on the Public Library of Science in BMJ is generating a good discussion of open-access issues in the BMJ "rapid response" forum. There are now postings by Douglas Carnall, James Till, Gunther Eysenbach (x 3), Stevan Harnad, and Jan Velterop. The forum is still open for further comments.

Excerpt from the New York Times Editorial for January 16: "In effect, the Supreme Court's decision makes it likely that we are seeing the beginning of the end of public domain and the birth of copyright perpetuity. Public domain has been a grand experiment, one that should not be allowed to die. The ability to draw freely on the entire creative output of humanity is one of the reasons we live in a time of such fruitful creative ferment."

More on the Eldred case....For a large number of links to recent news stories and comment, see Lawrence Lessig's blog.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

John Willinsky, Policymakers' Online Use of Academic Research, Education Policy Analysis Archives, January 11, 2003. (Thanks to Paul Pival.) Abstract: "In addressing the question of how new technologies can improve the public quality and presence of academic research, this article reports on the current online use of research by policymakers. Interviews with a sample of 25 Canadian policymakers at the federal level were conducted, looking at the specific role that online research has begun to play in their work, and what frustrations they face in using this research. The study found widespread use of online research, increasing the consultation of this source in policy analysis and formation. The principal issues remain those of access, indexing and credibility, with policymakers restricting themselves in large part to open access sources. Still, online research is proving a counterforce to policymakers' reliance on a small number of academic consultants as gatekeepers and sources for research. What is needed, it becomes clear, is investigations into whether innovative well-indexed systems that integrate a range of academic and non-academic resources might increase the political impact of research in the social sciences and education."

The other day I said that the list of eprint archives created by the new eprint subject categorization discussion "appears to be the most complete list of eprint archives anywhere". Charles W. Bailey Jr. just drew my attention to the Virtual Technical Reports Center: Eprint, Preprints, & Technical Reports on the Web from the University of Maryland Libraries. It is superbly done and clearly more comprehensive. (Thank you, Charles, and thank you UMaryland Libraries.)

More on the Eldred decision....Jack Balkin, Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale Law School, criticizes the Supreme Court for its shoddy treatment of the First Amendment issues in Eldred. (Thanks to LawMeme.)

Excerpt: "Ginsburg argues that there is no conflict between free speech and copyright terms because the 'copyright scheme ... incorporates its own speech-protective purposes and safeguards.' She begins by noting that 'The Copyright Clause and First Amendment were adopted close in time. This proximity indicates that, in the Framers’ view, copyright’s limited monopolies are compatible with free speech principles.' This argument proves both too much and too little. It proves too much because the First Amendment was ratified at a time when lots of laws against libel, blasphemy, and indecency (judged by 1791 standards) were thought to be consistent with the First Amendment. Indeed, Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts only seven years later. If Ginsburg’s argument is correct, most of contemporary First Amendment law is wrong. The argument proves too little because the length of the copyright monopoly at the time of the Founding was much much shorter than it is today, and the modern doctrines that have expanded the scope of copyright protection did not exist in the 1790's. The fact that some degree of copyright monopoly was thought compatible with the First Amendment does not demonstrate that any degree of monopoly, no matter how large or extensive, would have been thought compatible."

In today's SearchDay, Gary Price reviews five of his favorite non-commercial web directories, most of which focus on academic content across the net.

Gigi Sohn's public statement on the Eldred case for Public Knowledge (cited in my previous post) is the first I've seen to make an explicit connection to FOS issues. Excerpt: "Finally, today's decision highlights the importance of mechanisms like the Creative Commons and the Budapest Open Access Initiative. These initiatives are designed to work outside of the policy process in ways that give creative artists and researchers greater ability to control their works and make them available to the public under terms more generous than copyright law normally allows." (PS: This is right. Creative Commons and BOAI don't require copyright reform and can both proceed unhindered by this new obstacle to copyright reform. Instead of asking legislators to change the law, these initiaitves ask copyright holders to consent make their works available to the worldwide online audience without charge or permission barriers.)

More on the Eldred case....Here are some of the major news stories and public statements.For more coverage follow Google News or Donna Wentworth's Copyfight.

If you can't make the open-access conference in Paris (January 23-24), then watch the webcast, which will start at 10:00 am Paris time.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

The February issue of Walt Crawford's Cites & Insights is now online. There's less in this issue on FOS than in most recent issues, but there's a good section on tech predictions for 2003 and a retrospective on the predictions for 2002.

One outgrowth of the 2nd Workshop on the Open Archives Initiative (Geneva, October 17-19, 2002) is an online discussion of subject categorization for eprint archives. The site includes a list of the of the categorization schemes that might be used and what appears to be the most complete list of eprint archives anywhere, labelling each archive with the software creating it, the kind of subject categorization it uses, and its type (institutional, disciplinary, or both).

The December-January issue of Ariadne is now online. Here are the FOS-related articles.

Useful reminder from Gary Price in today's SearchDay: "For most of you, the library is a familiar place. However, what you might be unaware of is that many public libraries in the United States and Canada offer free access to databases that contain full-text magazine and newspaper articles, biographical profiles, full-text books, and much more. These databases also contain large amounts of material that you would never be able to access using a web engine. What's even more exciting is that these databases are available remotely."

More on the Eldred case....John Palfrey put it well: "Initial reax on the 2-7 decision in the Eldred case: 1) No one could have done a better job than Larry Lessig did, period. He is the standard-bearer. 2) This movement is bigger than this court case. It's about giving voice to the public domain and we're committed to it. 3) The challenges will keep coming, make no mistake. 4) More people than anyone could have expected cared about this case. 5) We need to think through new ways to make this whole copyright-and-the-Internet thing work." (Thanks to Copyfight.)

More on the Eldred case....Ginsberg's majority opinion (32 pages) is now online, as are the dissents by Stevens (22 pages) and Breyer (29 pages).

In the January issue of Library Link, Philip Calvert tries to show that some librarian criticisms of journal publishers are unwarranted. Excerpt:
If a private survey were done on what librarians think of journal publishers, I predict that the most common response would be something along the lines of ‘they are all money-grabbing exploiters of public intellectual property’. A public survey might garner slightly more polite responses, but you get the point. Many librarians, especially in the academic sector, seem to regard commercial journal publishers as an enemy who should be done away with as quickly as possible. Well, it is quite all right to let off steam when frustrated, and everyone would expect the serials librarian to gripe about journal price increases, but this becomes dangerous when senior managers talk nonsense about commercial publishers in public meetings, and that’s what I’ve been hearing lately.
In the rest of his opinion piece, however, Calvert suggests a couple of ways in which libraries and publishers should work together, which is a very different thing from showing that any criticisms are unwarranted.

More on the Eldred case....The Supreme Court upheld copyright extension 7-2. Justice Ginsberg wrote the opinion, which should be online in some form later today. More later.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Betsy Mason reports in The Scientist that Vivian Siegel has left her position as editor of Cell to become the executive director of the open-access publishing unit at the Public Library of Science. Quoting Marc Kirschner of Harvard Medical School: "It's an extremely good sign. She's a very knowledgeable, effective editor of the leading journal of biology, and she's well known in the scientific community. It's an indication that the leadership [at the PLoS journals] will be effective, fair and inspired." (PS: A coup for open-access publishing proving --again, but dramatically-- that high quality and high prestige are entirely compatible with the elimination of price and permission barriers.)

Stanford physicist Robert Laughlin argues that scientific openness is incompatible with economic pressure to patent or commercialize the results of scientific inquiry. "Research linked to property has a built-in conflict of interest toward the truth. For a research investment to be justified, it must produce value equal to or greater than that of the investment. When that value takes the form of intellectual property--knowledge that one can sell--as it commonly does, it must be kept secret, since no one will buy knowledge that is available for free. The core content of useful industrial research can rarely, if ever, be submitted to public scrutiny. This secrecy increases the opportunity for impropriety and thus makes the knowledge inherently less reliable than comparable knowledge produced in the open." (Thanks to Noteworthy.)

Project COUNTER (Counting Online Usage of NeTworked Electronic Resources) has released its Code of Practice. This is the spec with which member organizations must comply in order to measure online usage in "a credible, consistent and compatible way".

In a December 12 article for Electronic Book Web, Aline Soules argues that the first-sale doctrine should be extended to electronic publications. "For years, we have taken for granted the idea that if we like what we buy to read, we can loan or forward it to a friend, and if we decide we no longer want that particular copy, we can give it away or sell it. It has become a fundamental part of how we share information, and, no matter how difficult or how polarized the views, we should find a way to translate that into the digital age."

Yesterday the New York Times took notice of Bruce Perens' series of open-source books on open-source software. "The electronic versions of the books, Mr. Perens added, can be frequently updated, and the authors can edit readers' contributions. He considers the series — in which his role is mainly selecting books and setting policy — to be a step toward broadening the application of open-source principles. 'We are expanding the scope of collaborative works beyond software,' Mr. Perens said."

Alf Eaton, Joining the dots - advances in online biomedical literature management, Hublog, January 14, 2003. An intelligent discussion of recent advances on six fronts: searching, current awareness, collaborative knowledge, archiving, retrieval, and local PDF stores. He invites users to post their own conclusions. Eaton is the developer of an alternative interface to PubMed.

More on scientific openness....In the January 13 issue of The Scientist, Willie Schatz offers his summary of the swirling currents at the recent NAS conference on national security and research in the life sciences. Pressure to classify more research is increasing and resistance to this pressure is also increasing. Quoting John Hamre, president of CSIS: "The security community looks at the scientific community as at best disobedient and at worst traitorous. The scientific community looks at the security guys as a bunch of dopes. Both views are terribly wrong, of course."

Monday, January 13, 2003

In today's Toronto Star, Michael Geist gives very good overview of internet regulation issues, especially jurisdiction and IP issues, likely to be resolved by U.S. and Canadian courts during 2003.

The Institute of Physics has digitized the past issues of all its journals, back to 1874, and put them online in searchable, interlinked PDF files. This comes to more than 500 volume-years of journals and over 100,000 articles, including some of the early works of Schrödinger and Boltzmann. Subscribers to the historical archive have access to full-text. Non-subscribers can run searches and read abstracts. Copies of the archive are also for sale. For more information, see the press release, visit the archive, or run a search.

In the January 10 Red Herring, Lawrence Lessig shows what happens when content companies are run by lawyers: they prosecute copyright infringement even when the unauthorized copying helps their bottom line. (PS: The lesson is that we won't know whether content companies can come up with business models compatible with consumer rights and digital freedom until these companies lift their gaze from a near-sighted focus on intellectual property rights and look for their own interests.)

The EFF has released version 2 of its report, Unintended Consequences: Four Years under the DMCA. Excerpt: "In practice, the anti-circumvention provisions have been used to stifle a wide array of legitimate activities, rather than to stop copyright piracy. As a result, the DMCA has developed into a serious threat to three important public policy priorities: Section 1201 chills free expression and scientific research...[it] jeopardizes fair use...[and it] impedes competition and innovation."

Sunday, January 12, 2003

Bruce Perens is editing a new series of open-source books on open-source software for Prentice Hall. The text of each book will be published under open-sources licenses, allowing not only free access, downloading, copying, and redistribution, but also modification. Each book will be available free online and in a priced, printed edition. Perens is now looking for authors. Congratulations to Prentice-Hall for its willingness to support this method of publication.

An article entitled "Kepler Proposal and Design Document", dated January 2003, by K. Maly, X. Liu and M. Zubair, is available as a Word document via the Publications section of the Kepler website. The Kepler concept is the brainchild of the Digital Library Group at Old Dominion University. An item about Kepler is included in the FOS Guide.

The 15 presentations from the First Nordic Conference on Scholarly Communication (Lund, October 22-23, Copenhagen, October 24, 2002) are now online. All 15 are relevant to open access. Recommended.