Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, August 28, 2003

The August issue of Greenhouse Effects carries a short, unsigned story on the Public Library of Science. Excerpt: "PLoS represents a hugely disruptive force that could diminish the power and profits of large scientific and medical publishers, such as Elsevier, Blackwell, and BertelsmannSpringer....PLoS looks like it has a good chance of succeeding for a number of reasons. First, its founders are highly-respected scientists....Second, PLoS understands the importance of the traditional editorial and peer-review processes and, armed with a $9 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, it has hired a cadre of experienced editors and reviewers. Third, support for the open access concept is coming from a widening set of voices that are well outside of research and academia."

I haven't been covering the SCO lawsuit against IBM here, because open-source software and the fortunes of Linux are not in the scope of the blog, even if they are right next door. But today's is running an interview with Mark Heise, one of the SCO lawyers. In one exchange, Heise makes a claim that is strongly relevant to open access. He said, "We don't think the GPL applies [to Linux]. We believe it is pre-empted by the federal copyright law." This is fascinating and deserves a closer look. Why does Heise think federal copyright law preempts a contract like GPL? In general, the federal preemption cases have gone the other way, and this has generally been disastrous for libraries and access to scholarship. For example, licensing agreements that ask users to waive their fair-use rights (granted by federal copyright law) have been upheld in court, even when there is little or no negotiation by the parties. Let's put it this way. Either federal copyright law preempts licensing agreements (generally governed by state law) or it doesn't. Here's the good news: If it does, then most journal licensing agreements contain unenforceable clauses, and if it doesn't, then the GPL is valid and the SCO lawsuit fails. Here's the bad news version: If it does, then the GPL is preempted and SCO has a leg to stand on, and if it doesn't, then journal licensing agreements are altogether enforceable. If anyone has more detail on the SCO argument for federal preemption, I'd like to hear it. There's good news whether this argument wins or loses, and bad news whether it wins or loses.

More on the WIPO meeting....Declan Butler tells the story in today's issue of Nature. We're still hoping that WIPO will hold the meeting, and that the objections to it from Microsoft, the BSA, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will be recognized as ideological opposition based on ignorance and economic interest. Regardless of where you live, let your national delegation to WIPO know that responsible policymaking on intellectual property rights will hear from all parties and that Microsoft and the U.S. do not set WIPO's agenda. Again, remember that the meeting would have explored open-access science journals, not just open-source software. For more, see the July 7 public letter calling for the meeting (disclosure: I am a signatory), and the discussion in Lawrence Lessig's blog and Slashdot.

Today the ACRL released its important statement of Principles and Strategies for the Reform of Scholarly Communication. Among the principles it endorses are "a diversified publishing industry" that includes both "fair and reasonable prices for scholarly information" and "open access to scholarship". Among the specific strategies it endorses are the launch of new open-access journals, public and private funding for the processing fees charged by open-access journals, federal legislation requiring open access to federally funded research a certain time (such as six months) after it is published, the creation of new open-access institutional and disciplinary repositories, more self-archiving by scholars, and publisher agreements permitting authors to self-archive their peer-reviewed postprints. Excerpt:
One of the fundamental characteristics of scholarly research is that it is created as a public good to facilitate inquiry and knowledge. A substantial portion of such research is publicly supported, either directly through federally-funded research projects or indirectly through state support of researchers at state higher-education institutions. In addition, the vast majority of scholars develop and disseminate their research with no expectation of direct financial reward.
This is a balanced and forward-looking statement that deserves to be widely read and applied. It will also be published in the September issue of College and Research Library News.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Carol Tenopir, with the assistance of Brenda Hitchcock and Ashley Pillow, Use and Users of Electronic Library Resources: An Overview and Analysis of Recent Research Studies, CLIR, August 2003. Abstract: "This CLIR report summarizes and analyzes more than 200 recent research publications that focus on the use of electronic library resources (digital libraries and digital resources) and were published between 1995 and 2003. Eight major ongoing studies (each with multiple publications) are identified as Tier 1 studies and are analyzed in detail, while about 100 smaller-scale studies are classified as Tier 2 studies and are examined together. The goal of this report is to provide information that librarians can use to make important decisions about collections, services, and product design." (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Ted Agres reports in today's issue of TheScientist that the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has launched a top-to-bottom assessment of the way the U.S. funds science. It is soliciting comments from the public, due by September 22. The goal is to improve the "efficiency, effectiveness and accountability" of U.S. science funding. (PS: All three of these criteria invite comments that advocate open access. OA supports efficency because it costs less, effectiveness because it makes research results more widely accessible and useful, and accountability because it directs funds only to essential expenses whose amount is comparatively easy to demonstrate and justify. Please consider sending comments to the OSTP.)

The U.S. Department of Justice has approved the Candover and Cinven acquisition of BertelsmannSpringer and its plan to merge the publisher with Kluwer Academic Publishers. This will create the world's second largest academic publisher, after Reed Elsevier. The European Union approved the plan in July, and US approval was the final obstacle. Library groups have opposed it on the ground that it will raise prices and limit competition. The deal will probably close on September 15. News coverage.

The California Supreme Court ruled yesterday that if publishing source code would reveal trade secrets, then it would not be protected by the First Amendment. The case concerned Andrew Bunner's act of posting the code for DeCSS to one web site, after reading it on another web site. DeCSS is software to bypass copy protection on DVD's. The DVD Copy Control Association (DVD CCA) claims that the software revealed its trade secrets. The California Supreme Court merely established the legal rule that should govern this case, and asked the trial court to decide whether any trade secrets were actually revealed by Bunner's act. At that stage of the proceeding, it might finally become relevant that Bunner posted already-public information. News coverage.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Ted Agres, The Costs of Commercializing Academic Research, TheScientist, August 25, 2003. Excerpts: "The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, which allows US universities and research institutes to patent and commercialize discoveries financed with federal funds, may inadvertently hinder scientific research and impede innovation, scientists and legal experts say....Some legal experts contend that Bayh-Dole actually blocks scientific research when institutions claim ownership of fundamental discoveries and processes, such as new DNA sequences, protein structures, and disease pathways."

More on the GPO agreement with the National Archives....Miriam Drake reports on the agreement and its background in the August 25 Information Today. Excerpt: "Public Printer, Bruce R. James, and Archivist of the United States, John W. Carlin announced an agreement that will enable the Government Printing Office (GPO) and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to ensure free and permanent access to more than 250,000 federal government titles available through GPO Access....Joel Mokyr, in his book, The Gifts of Athena (Princeton University Press, 2001), points out how reduction of the cost of access to information increased learning and the transfer of useful knowledge. The transfer of information and knowledge lead to technological development and change, economic growth, and better educated citizenry. GPO and NARA, through this agreement, have given the nation and the world a very valuable gift for the future. As the storehouse of information grows, more people will be able to access our history and learn how we got where we are by reading original documents and the ideas and thinking of our national leaders."

Marjorie Heins patiently exposes the false claims expressed in the NTIA's new report on the effectiveness of internet filters. (Thanks to LIS News.)

The Distributed Library Project lists the personal book, movie, and music collections of participating users. You log on, find somebody near you with something you want, make contact, and borrow it from them. Apparently it launched in April, in the San Francisco bay area, and now has 160 users. (Thanks to LIS News.)

Sunday, August 24, 2003

BBC to open its archives This is probably related to the impending review of the BBC charter, including its online service BBCi, but it marks an important step in the right direction.