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News from the open access movement

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Keep the pressure on Congress to support the NIH policy

It's not over yet.  The Alliance for Taxpayer Action is calling on US citizens to keep the pressure on Congress to support the NIH policy and defeat the Conyers bill.  From today's call to action:

...Please contact your Representative and Senators no later than September 24, 2008 to express your support for public access to taxpayer-funded research and ask that he or she OPPOSE HR6845. Especially important are members of the House Judiciary Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee. (Draft text and contact details are included below).

HR6845 is designed to do the following:

1.    Amend current copyright law (Title 17).

2.    Prohibit all U.S. federal agencies from conditioning funding agreements to require that works resulting from federal support be made publicly available if those works meet either of two conditions:

a.    They are funded in part by sources other than a U.S. agency, or

b.    The results from "meaningful added value" to the work from an entity that is not party to the agreement.

3.    Prohibit U.S. federal agencies being able to obtain a license to publicly distribute, perform, or display such work by -- for example -- putting it on the Internet.

4.    Makes broad policy by stifling public access to a wide range of federally funded works, and effectively overturns the crucially important current NIH Public Access Policy.

5.    Because it is so broadly framed, the proposed bill would require an overhaul of well-established procurement rules in effect for all federal agencies, and could disrupt day-to-day procurement practices across the federal government, including in critical areas such as research to support national defense and homeland security.

6.    In particular, the bill would repeal the longstanding "federal purpose" doctrine, under which all federal agencies that fund the creation of a copyrighted work must reserve a "royalty-free, nonexclusive right to reproduce, publish, or otherwise use the work" for any federal purpose. This will severely limit the ability of U.S. federal agencies to use works that they have funded to support and fulfill agency missions and to communicate with and educate the public.

7.    The bill is a blunt instrument that uses extremely broad language to override existing procurement law, and as such has serious implications for the entire U.S. federal government far beyond articles resulting from research funding.

8.    Because of the NIH Public Access Policy, millions of Americans now have access to vital health care information from the NIH’s PubMed Central database. Under the current policy, nearly 4,000 new crucial biomedical articles were deposited in the last month alone. This proposed bill would prohibit the deposit of these articles, and as a result, researchers, physicians, health care professionals, families and individuals will find it much harder to get access to this critical health-related information.

Constituents across the country are asked to contact Congress and let them know you support public access to federally funded research and OPPOSE HR6845. Again, the proposed resolution would effectively reverse the NIH Public Access Policy, as well as make it impossible for other federal agencies to put similar policies into place.

Thank you for your support and continued persistence in supporting this policy. You know the difference constituent voices can make on Capitol Hill.

As always, please let me know what actions you’re able to take, by email to jennifer [at] arl [dot] org.

[PS:  Here omitting the sample text to mail to your Senator or Representative, and a list of the relevant committee members and their phone numbers.]

Comment.  Although we have heard reports that the bill has been shelved for this year, the language could move forward without the bill.  For example, even if the sponsors plan no further action on the bill in this session, they could insert the language into another piece of legislation moving toward a vote.  We must keep the pressure on between and now and the scheduled adjournment, on September 26, to discourage any last-minute movement.