Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, June 04, 2005

From the ACS past: public funding and anti-trust allegations

Richard Poynder, No Stranger to Controversy, Open and Shut, June 3, 2005. Excerpt: 'Critics have been quick to point out that the threatened CAS Registry database was itself built with taxpayers' money in the form of a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). They also argue that as a non-profit organisation CAS has over the years benefited substantially from the public purse in the form of tax concessions. As open-access advocate Jan Velterop put it on the Liblicense mailing list "It's not just the generous tax concessions that come with a non-profit status, but also the NSF grant (I hear it was in the order of $25 million) that enabled the ACS to establish a chemical registry system."...Those who have followed the development of CAS over the years, for instance, will recall that on 7th June 1990 the online service Dialog made a 36-page complaint about ACS to the Washington DC Federal Court, alleging unfair competition, and seeking $250 million in damages....Dialog argued that CRSD "has no substitutes and thus constitutes a separate and distinct market" which CAS was monopolising in contravention of anti-trust laws. Amongst the 10 claims made by Dialog were five alleging monopoly practices, one alleging unfair competition, and one relating to a subsidy of $15 million plus that had been provided by the NSF at the time the CAS database was being created (the same database and the same grant that critics of the ACS complaint against PubChem are now citing), and which Dialog claimed obliged ACS to license all data at a fair price. This obligation had been breached by CAS, alleged Dialog, both by its withdrawal of connection table data essential for graphical structure searching, and because CAS had for some years refused to licence its abstracts of the chemical literature....ACS responded to the lawsuit by countersuing on issues of accounting. The case was eventually settled out of court.'