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News from the open access movement

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Publisher objections fail, OA mandate for NIH passes another hurdle

Publishers Fight Hard to Strike NIH Policy, but Congress Holding Firm, Library Journal Academic Newswire, July 12, 2007.  Excerpt:

Although the bill's official language has not yet been released, sources tell the Library Journal Academic Newswire that the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) policy proposal that mandates deposit of NIH-funded research papers into PubMed Central has survived the House Committee on Appropriations, which approved the FY 2008 appropriations bill deliberations yesterday. If not modified at the 11th hour, the NIH policy is further down the path to becoming law, but still would have to be passed by Congress as a whole and signed by the president.

Although the battle has not been waged in the headlines as fiercely as it was in 2005, publisher opposition to the NIH policy is said to be stronger and more organized than ever. Indeed, after consulting public relations consultant Eric Dezenhall last year, publishers have pressed a new case to lawmakers: that the mandatory deposit policy might violate U.S. copyright law and/or international copyright treaties, an argument has apparently gained some traction with lawmakers.

In a letter obtained by the Library Journal Academic Newswire, Reps. Howard Berman (D-CA) and Howard Coble (R-NC), ranking members of the House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property urged Reps. David Obey (D-WI) and James Walsh (R-NY), ranking members on the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Committee on Appropriations, to kill the NIH language. "In light of the importance and complexity of the intellectual property and peer review issues impacted by this proposal, we respectfully urge your Committee to take no action to alter the current NIH policy until the Judiciary Committee has examined its implications for the copyright protections of these important works," they wrote.

Although Berman and Coble said they "understand and share the goal of widely disseminating the results of publicly funded research," they suggested that there "are concerns the provision may, through blanket application, ultimately undermine incentives for publishers." Berman and Coble suggested that the NIH policy proposal was in fact a "major change," and required further, deeper consideration by Congress, and pledged to hold hearings on the issue, should the policy be delayed to illuminate the issues....

Comment.  This is big.  Now the NIH OA mandate has been approved by the appropriations committees in both the House and Senate.  Moreover, the House committee was not impressed by the Berman/Coble copyright objections and request for delay.  We still need votes by the full House and Senate, and a presidential signature, but the momentum is building.