Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, July 17, 2008

SPARC-ARL response to AAP re: NIH policy

NIH Public Access Policy Does Not Affect U.S. Copyright Law, an analysis by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition and the Association of Research Libraries, July 11, 2008. See also the full analysis. From the summary:
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently implemented a congressionally approved Public Access Policy designed to increase the scientific and social impact of NIH funding. ...

Although it is clear that the NIH Public Access Policy is simply a routine change in the contract between the NIH and funding recipients, the American Association of Publishers (AAP) submitted an opinion letter to NIH suggesting that this change raised copyright issues including U.S. obligations under international copyright agreements. This AAP Opinion Letter is fundamentally flawed and mischaracterizes the relevant facts and law.

Contrary to the AAP assertions, the NIH Public Access Policy does not affect U.S. copyright law in any way. NIH has added a condition to pre-existing licensing terms in its grant agreements that affirms it can legally provide public access to publicly funded research. This change in the terms of NIH grant agreements is fully consistent with copyright law. Copyright is an authorís right. Researchers are the authors of the articles they write with NIH support. In exchange for substantial federal funding, these researchers voluntarily agree to grant the federal government a license to provide public access to the results of publicly funded research. NIH receives a non-exclusive license from federally funded researchers, who retain their copyrights and are free to enter into traditional publication agreements with biomedical journals or assign these anywhere they so choose, subject to the license to NIH.

This change in the terms of the Public Access Policy has no relation to United States compliance with international intellectual property treaties. The Berne Convention on Copyright and the TRIPS Agreement concern the substance of copyright law, not the terms of licenses granted to the United States in exchange for federal funding. ...

Update (7/18/08). See Richard Sietmann's coverage of the AAP-SPARC debate in Heise Online. Read it in the original German or Google's English.