Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, July 06, 2007

More on OA and the new German copyright law

Monika Ermert, German Parliament Reforms Copyright Law, Leaves Unfinished Work, IP Watch, July 6, 2007.  This is a very detailed, English-language account of the new bill.  Here's what she says about its implications for OA:

...The bigger problem of the new law lies elsewhere, said [Volker Kitz, researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Intellectual Property, Competition and Tax Law and former legal expert at BITKOM]. “It’s a pity that the German Parliament did not follow proposals coming for example from the Bundesrat (the upper house of the German Parliament populated by the governments of the states) to promote open access models for research publications,” he said. “It’s in the interest of the general public that research can be accessed easily over the Internet.”

Rainer Kuhlen, professor at the Department of Computer and Information Science at the University of Konstanz and spokesperson for the “Coalition for Action ‘Copyright for Education and Research’” is more blunt: “The law cares for a permeation of obsolete business models, instead of opening the space for innovation and open access models,” he said.

The criticism of scientists and representatives of the opposition in the Parliament – the Green Party and the left - mainly is addressed at “exemptions from copyright for research and education” that are so tightly restricted that the coalition calls them “grotesque.”

Libraries in the future will be allowed to offer their readers electronic versions of books but are restricted to offering only as many electronic copies as they have on their shelf in order not to hamper publishers’ business. The principle of the so-called “double asset accessoriness” applauded by some members of the coalition and the German liberals shall prevent, for example, universities buying a book once and making it electronically available to every student. This was reintroduced overnight on Tuesday by the Legal Committee after being taken out because of protests. Members of Parliament only got the final draft Wednesday evening.

The second “exemption,” intended to introduce a form of “fair use” in German copyright law, addresses the possibility of ordering copies of documents available from other universities. The electronic document delivery service of research libraries in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Subito, might have to be restricted to fax and old-fashioned mail delivery, depending on whether there is a reasonable offer from the publisher....[T]his will lead to a price for an email-delivered article of about 15 euros in the future, warned Kuhlen.

While scientists themselves might be able to route around the problems and ask their colleagues for a private email of the article, Kuhlen said, the price increase might add up to the costs for students, on top of recently introduced fees. Students also have started to solve the problem their way by just using what they can find through Google or Wikipedia, he said, adding that the crux is, “making information a scarce resource creates the wrong attitude and will have bad effects in the long run.”

Open access models now are on the list of some who declared a third basket was necessary. The “coalition” in a press release welcomed the third basket....