Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

More comments on the Conyers bill

Here are some more comments on the Conyers bill from around the blogosphere.  (Also see our first collection of comments, three days ago.)

From The Aust Gate:

...The only people who “benefit” from [the Conyers bill] in the short term are the publishing companies who appear to be heading down the MPAA/RIAA route of trying to make increasingly short term profits....[The bill] is clearly a knee jerk reaction to the way that knowledge and its ease of transfer takes place. Publishers should be looking at changing their business models to adapt rather than trying to hold on to something that is slowly dying. Especially if the research and publication costs are being borne by the public....

From Paul Courant at Au Courant:

...Think of [the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act] as the Clear Skies Act for copyright; an odious piece of corporate welfare wrapped in a friendly layer of doublespeak....It would make it illegal for U.S. government agencies to seek any rights at all in the research that they fund. This is anything but fair. Indeed, it is manifestly unfair to the taxpayers who ultimately pay for the research, and on whose behalf the research is conducted.

Publishers have pushed for this bill because they fear that open access mandates will reduce their profits....

Instead of baldly admitting that what they seek is protection for their dying business model, publishers argue that the NIH Public Access policy violates their copyrights. The assertion is hogwash....[T]he fact that they have traditionally signed over all of their rights to publishers without compensation does not mean they should continue doing so....

Allan Adler, VP of the Association of American Publishers, had the gall to say during his testimony that “Government does not fund peer-reviewed journal articles —publishers do.”  That’s just not true....The referees’ salaries are paid by universities and research institutes, not by publishers....

The people of the United States pay good money to learn about the world. It would be a travesty if Congress decided that the interests of a few publishers were more important than the research investments of the American public, and that’s exactly what this bill would do.

From Bonnie Klein on SOAF and LibLicense:

...In the 70s, publishers made similar dooms-day arguments about the effects of NIH photocopying and interlibrary loan on the publishing industry.  None of their dire predictions have come to pass.  The industry is stronger than ever, but in need of a new business model as author's and funding organizations assert their rights to control their works.

Note that it is not the authors, academic or research institutions or the Government seeking a change to the copyright law, but an industry that is slow to adapt.

From John Timmer at Ars Technica:

...Last week, the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property held a hearing on the proposed legislation. If anyone was thinking that policies related to publicly funded scientific research were free of politicking and rampant self-interest so frequently involved in the copyright and intellectual property battles, the hearings would have erased them....

[M]any of the representatives were clearly in need of a primer in academic publishing. Different members of the Subcommittee expressed surprise at various aspects of the current system, such as the fact that peer reviewers perform the function free (although, as noted, the process of arranging for peer review can be expensive). Also eliciting surprise was the revelation that authors are not paid by publishers for the transfer of copyright.

In fact, many publishers charge money for the publication of scientific research, even those that obtain copyright to the work in the process. Dr. Elias Zerhouni, director of the NIH, shocked Berman when he mentioned that the NIH hands out $100 million a year to grant recipients specifically to cover the cost of publishing their results. It would certainly have been possible for those testifying in favor of the open access policy to argue that the public pays part of the cost of nearly every stage of the publishing process, and might expect to have some access to the end product.

Also see the Slashdot thread on the Conyers bill.