Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, February 15, 2003

The presentations from the conference, Research Innovation and Scholarship: The Role of Open Access Publishing (Ottawa, November 21-22, 2002) are now online.

U.S. courts are looking for a standard for electronic court documents to ensure that they will remain readable for the long-term. The two leading contenders are PDF and XML.

A French court has acquitted Tim Koogle of "justifying war crimes" for allowing Yahoo auctions to sell Nazi memorabilia. Koogle is the former CEO of Yahoo. The danger here was cross-border censorship. If you could face criminal charges in other countries for internet content lawful in your own country, then the worldwide standard of free speech would drop to that of the least free nation. If Tim Koogle was guilty, then the next in line would be historians of the Tiananmen Square massacre and defenders of evolution. More coverage.

In Eldred, the Supreme Court ruled that copyright extension, or public domain depredation, is constitutional. To repeal or roll back extensions, then, or to restore the public domain, Marci Hamilton argues in the February 13 Writ that we must turn to legislation, voluntary industry restraint, or a constitutional amendment. But while all three are "uphill battles", Hamilton finds the most promise in a constitutional amendment. "The very philosophy of the Constitution is to expect, oppose, and correct the inevitable abuses of power. And over the years, the Copyright Clause has become a flashpoint for just such abuse. While it is corporate, not government, power that is being abused, it is an abuse of a power granted under the Constitution nonetheless. If the forces that already exist can become sufficiently organized to fight this battle, they will have fulfilled the Framers' highest ambitions."

(PS: By chance, or independently of my FOS interest, I've done a lot of work on the U.S. constitutional amending process and the strategies for adopting amendments. Primarily see this, but also this, this, and this. Here's one reason to doubt Hamilton's strategy. While copyright extremists have inspired wide, deep, and growing public opposition, this opposition will suffice for corrective legislation long before it suffices for a corrective amendment. Or at least this would be true if the legislative branch represented the people's will on this subject. But if Disney money makes that questionable, then here's an analogy that gives hope to the idea of an amendment. Copyright extremism is like Prohibition (the 18th Amendment) in at least this way: it is widely disobeyed and widely disapproved. Crackdowns that limit disobedience intensify disapproval. Enforcement perversely undermines respect for law. Might it be like Prohibition in a second way as well? Prohibition was repealed by constitutional amendment (the 21st) when the people finally asserted their will. If you wonder whether money has distorted the legislative process, then note one further point. The constitution (Article V) allows amendments to be ratified either by state legislatures or by state conventions specially called for the purpose. The rationale for the convention method is to permit constitutional change when the people suspect that the legislatures do not represent them fairly. It has been used only once in our history: to ratify the repeal of Prohibition. Proponents of repeal deliberately chose the convention method to show that Prohibition was adopted in the first place by extremists who didn't represent the people.)

The Austrian publisher Krause & Pachernegg has created an open-access archive of medicine containing over 1350 publications. (Thanks to Netbib and Klaus Graf.)

Friday, February 14, 2003

Today is the first anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative. To mark the occasion, it launched a new discussion list, the BOAI-Forum, which I'll moderate. I've put a copy of the first message in the FOS Forum. If you'd like to subscribe, first sign the BOAI. If you haven't signed before, then you can check a box on the signature page to subscribe to the Forum. If you've already signed the BOAI, then you can subscribe (and unsubscribe) through our web-based form.

In the new issue of eForum zeitGeschichte, Diann Rusch-Feja surveys four open-access initiatives: the OAI, SPARC, PLoS, and BOAI. (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Democracy in the Dark. "Although many courts now publish case law on the Internet for free, thousands of older cases are not available to those who cannot pay. Hundreds of public libraries across the country provide online access to their patrons in an attempt to bridge the digital divide, covering all areas of information need. Yet often these public libraries are not allowed to offer access — free or fee — to legal subscription databases maintained by the two largest legal vendors in the U.S." [via Slashdot]

Lund University is building a Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) with funding from the Open Society Institute and SPARC. The first phase of the project will provide "journal level" data and searching, the second phase "article level" data and searching. The directory itself is not yet online, but the DOAJ site contains useful background information and a form for suggesting journals to include. For more information see the press release. (PS: This is a major step, well-funded, and badly needed. Make sure that the DOAJ knows about the OA journals in your field.)

The Research Support Libraries Group (RSLG) is a two-year old organization launched by the four UK higher education funding bodies, in collaboration with the British Library and the national libraries of Wales and Scotland, under the direction of Sir Brian Follett. Its mission is "to ensure that researchers working in the UK can have access to the full range of world-class information resources." In practice this has meant to find a new national strategy for supporting research in the face of overpriced traditional journals and opportunities created by the internet. It has just released its important Final Report outlining such a strategy. Paragraph 23 says, "Common software tools and technical standards, and open access to publicly funded materials, are clearly desirable." Paragraph 150 find "[i]ncreasing support for the development of 'open access' publication and new pricing models – notably the Budapest Open Access Initiative and the new titles set up with the support of the Scholarly Publication and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC)." The same paragraph finds promise in the practice of authors retaining copyright, self-archiving, and OAI interoperability. Also see paragraphs 156-158. (Thanks to Colin Steele.)

The February 13 Library Journal Academic Newswire contains an interview with Rick Johnson, the director of SPARC. When asked whether SPARC's efforts on behalf of free and affordable journals are succeeding, Johnson replied, "Yes, SPARC's efforts are working. Of course, the forces we're trying to reverse have built up over many decades, so unfortunately the problems aren't yet solved. But there's good news. Price rises have slowed. Faculty members are widely engaged in discussions of how to solve the problem, not whether there is a problem. Open access journals are attracting energy, investment, and prestige. Alternative journals have become the leaders. Libraries are asserting an important role in scholarly communication as the instigators of and hosts for institutional repositories. Momentum is building. Change is underway."

The text of Duane Webster's presentation at the MLA in December, The Practical Realities of the New Copyright Laws: A Librarian's Perspective, is now online. Webster is the Executive Director of the ARL. Excerpt: "Librarians are often in the crossfire between publishers seeking more control over their digital information resources and users seeking easy, convenient, transparent access to needed information resources." Webster argues current copyright law harms libraries on five fronts: "1) availability of digital works, 2) electronic interlibrary borrowing and lending, 3) meeting our preservation responsibilities, 4) assuring the privacy of our users, and 5) availability of a robust public domain." (PS: This is an excellent overview of what I called the permission crisis in a recent article.)

In the February 5 issue of The Hill, Sarita Chourey reports on the massive digitization project underway at the Library of Congress under the direction of James Billington. Congress gave the library $100 million in fiscal 2001 alone for this work. Billington is as concerned to preserve already-digital content as he is to use digitization as a tool to preserve analog content. "The stuff that survives [on the internet] tends to be the least valuable: video games, particularly violent video games, pornography, adolescent chatter from chat rooms, even among adults. What vanishes is important scientific data sets, important other information, that is published only in digital form." (PS: Note how Billington's assessment is at odds with the Cornell researchers who just last week described a loose but positive correlation between online longevity and scholarly quality.)

Improv Everywhere has staged a funny bit of guerrilla theater on behalf of copyright sanity. See its fake Writers Against Piracy protest in front of the New York Public Library. Among the signs held by the protesters: "It breaks my heart when you pirate my art." "Library = Organized Theft." "Where's my cut of your late fees?" Unfortunately, a good number of bystanders were persuaded ("I see your point, good luck"). (Thanks to CNI-Copyright.)

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is urging Congress to revise the DMCA. The Felten and Sklyarov cases proved to the organization that scholarly and professional freedoms are in danger. Quoting Glenn Tenney, chair of the IEEE's Intellectual Property Committee: "As the law is written, engineers can do the research, but it isn’t clear if they can publish the results. This situation can have a very chilling effect on the industry." The IP Committee has written a position paper asking Congress to clarify when research on encryption and computer security may be published without fear of criminal sanctions. This clarification would not only remove the direct chill on academic freedom, as researchers censor themselves to avoid liability, but would also disarm private companies who use the DMCA to inhibit lawful research by threatening groundless lawsuits. A second position paper asks Congress to revise the notice-and-takedown procedures that enable publishers to force ISPs to remove allegedly infringing content without any proof of infringement. (PS: While both these position papers are dated June 2002, the IEEE newsletter drew special attention to them in a February 7 story. Is a new lobbying campaign in the works?) (Thanks to C-FIT.)

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

More on UCITA....From the February 11 issue of ALAWON (American Library Association Washington Office Newsline): "On February 10, 2003, a resolution recommending approval of UCITA (the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act) by the American Bar Association (ABA) House of Delegates was withdrawn by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL), the body responsible for drafting UCITA. The ABA delegates were asked to vote on a resolution approving UCITA's readiness for consideration by state legislatures. A positive ABA vote is a customary step in the process of successfully passing proposed uniform laws such as UCITA. The withdrawal of the UCITA resolution followed in the wake of increasing opposition to this controversial act within the ABA..."

The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics hosts an open-access Lecture Note Series that now numbers 11 volumes. Each volume is available in PS or PDF format. The latest volume (December 2002) is devoted to Evolution and Convergence in Telecommunications. (Thanks to David Bigwood.)

In the February 14 Chronicle of Higher Education, Edward Johnson argues that UCITA is "the law against sharing knowledge". The full-text article is only accessible to subscribers, but I've put some excerpts online in the FOS Forum. One short excerpt here: "Today...licensing is taking over the world of academic libraries, and putting scholars' ability to exchange information at risk. Stories of draconian contract terms in licenses from software vendors and the publishers of electronic databases and periodical indexes circulate like tall tales --but they are usually true....UCITA poses real threats to our traditional rights as scholars, researchers, and teachers. The free and unfettered exchange of information that has characterized the scholarly communications system for so long is in danger." Johnson is the dean of libraries at Oklahoma State University.

Derek Keats, Collaborative development of open content: A process model to unlock the potential for African universities, First Monday, February 2003. Abstract: "Given the cost of content, the under-resourcing of universities and the scattered nature of expertise in Africa, the collaborative development of open content seems like a useful way to get high-quality, locally-relevant content for using to enhance teaching-and-learning. However, there is currently no published operational model to guide institutions or individuals in creating collaborative open content projects. This paper examines lessons learned from open source software development and uses these lessons to build the foundations of a process model for the collaborative development of open content."

Monday, February 10, 2003

The ICSU has launched a discussion forum on Science and Technology in the Information Society. Discussion is welcome on these four topics:
  1. Scientific data and information for decision-making and better governance
  2. Ensuring universal access to scientific knowledge internationally
  3. Scientific data and information as a global public good
  4. Using Scientific data and information to improve all levels of education and training
The ICSU hopes that the discussion will help prepare participants for the UN World Summit on the Information Society (Geneva, December 2003, and Tunis, 2005).

In today's Chronicle of Higher Education, Andrea Foster describes how Elsevier has revised its article-retraction policy in response to criticism from researchers and librarians. Under the new policy, most retracted articles will remain online but with a new watermark and links to an explanation of the reasons for the retraction (e.g. multiple publication, plagiarism, fraudulent data, false statement of authorship). When defamation or health risks force Elsevier to remove the article from its database, searchers will still find the author's name, the article's title, and an explanation that the text has been removed for legal reasons.

In today's New York Times, Mike Goldstein reports on how copyright extension is hurting for-profit publishers of classic books in the public domain.

Last month, CLIR and the Library of Congress released their joint report, Copyright Issues Relevant to the Creation of a Digital Archive: A Preliminary Assessment, by June M. Besek. (Thanks to LIS News.)

Sunday, February 09, 2003

The March issue of Walt Crawford's Cites & Insights is now online. This issue has a large section on copyright, with Walt's comments on the CTEA, DMCA, DeCSS, DMCRA, CBDTPA, the Creative Commons, and compulsory licensing. He also has a note on the role of librarians in self-archiving (responding to Guy Aron, co-contributor to FOS News), an extended comment on ebooks and etext, and a perspective piece on the Eldred case with a good survey of responses to the verdict.