Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Panel discussion on copyright barriers to research and teaching

MIT has released a 101 minute webcast of a January 2007 panel discussion, Managing Copyright to Advance Research and Teaching.  (Thanks to Gary Price.)  From the description:

Ann Wolpert’s panel should set off alarm bells among academics who imagine they may enter blithely into a publishing agreement in the digital age.

Claude Canizares sets the stage, describing the transformative changes in academic publishing....

The archives of Britain’s Royal Society going back 350 years are available online today, says Thinh Nguyen, “but the catch is, you have to be a current subscriber to download” this content. Newton’s article on the invention of the telescope costs $9. “This is the essence of the current model: a gated community of information.” Nguyen’s open access movement attempts to smooth the way for academics to be published and for others to see and use their work. His Science Commons enterprise attempts to reduce legal barriers to scientific research....Nguyen encourages scientists who publish to consider alternatives to signing over copyright to publishers without first attempting to negotiate the terms of ownership.

In her job as intellectual property overseer for MIT, Ann Hammersla works to retain as many rights for authors as she can. She’s engaged in the challenging job of working out arrangements with publishers that enable authors to use their own materials in future work, in their classrooms, and to publish on the internet after first publishing in print. She sees an increasing demand by private and government funders for public posting of authors’ works, a demand that runs directly counter to the copyright agreements publishers insist on....

The best way forward for individual scientific authors, declares Ellen Finnie Duranceau, is through “collective and institutional action.” Together, authors must demand in their publisher agreements the right to “share work as widely as possible,” which will increase their readership and citation rate; and the right to reuse their work flexibly, and to authorize others to use their work. Duranceau discusses “chilling stories,” including an MIT faculty member who gave a publisher copyright to his own hand-drawn maps, and then could not use them on his MIT OpenCourseWare site. She worries about scholarly societies that impose “digital rights management technology on consumers of technical papers,” permitting only single printouts of a paper or viewing only onscreen. Duranceau recommends an MIT amendment to copyright transfer agreements that entitles authors more access to their own work, and more access by others through public repositories.

Brian Evans sees an imbalance, where researchers and universities “are being preyed on by large companies.” Researchers lose rights to their own work, and libraries pay excessively for journals: Says Evans, for “every $10 thousand we pay to a publishing company, it’s $10 thousand we can’t do something else with at the Institute.” He exhorts his colleagues “to consider publishing in public access journals or starting one in your own field,” and to reduce copyright restrictions through individual negotiations....