Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, September 19, 2008

More comments on the Conyers bill

Here's our third collection of comments on the Conyers bill from around the blogosphere.  (Also see our first and second.)

From Jonathan Blackhall at Encephalosponge:

...As a taxpayer and citizen, I cannot believe the idiocy of some of statements against open access in Congress....

From David Bollier at On the Commons:

...You would think business people could understand the simple economic proposition that taxpayers should be entitled to own and control what they pay for. But apparently not. Commercial journal publishers are now rallying to overturn the new NIH open access policy....

It’s depressing, but not entirely surprising, that two stalwart liberals are backing this betrayal of the public interest to serve a powerful corporate lobby. One is Pat Schroeder, the former congresswoman from Colorado, has headed the AAP for the past 11 years. Her former Democratic colleague on the House Judiciary Committee is John Conyers, who has since become the venerable chairman.

Meanwhile, another liberal stalwart, Howard Berman – the California Congressman who enthusiastically advocates for the motion picture industry, record industry and other copyright bullies – chairs the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property. At a hearing last week, Berman made the uninformed complaint that the “N” in NIH shouldn’t stand for Napster, implying that the NIH’s open-access policy was ripping off copyright holders.

Excuse me, Mr. Chairman: copyrights belong to authors, not to publishers. And the funders of authors’ works — in this case, U.S. taxpayers — have a legitimate say in directing how that work should be published. Giving them away to commercial publishers exclusively and in perpetuity, does not advance public knowledge, which, after all, is the primary mission of copyright law....

While the law and moral arguments are clearly on the public’s side, that does not usually stop members of Congress from protecting wealthy friends in beleaguered businesses stuck with bad investment choices. Just ask Wall Street.

From Gerard Harbison at Greg Laden's Blog:

This is called the Conyers Bill. That's John Conyers (D, Mich.). Conyers' #3 contributor in 2007-2008 election cycle was the American Intellectual Property Law Association.

He's carrying their water because they fed him a fat $10,000 bribe, er, I mean, political contribution, and because he knows that scientists don't count much in the grand scheme of things, and will vote Democrat anyway, regardless of how badly he shafts them.

From Revere at Effect Measure:

...I am one of those NIH supported researchers whose papers get locked up for decades behind copyright permission firewalls. I want you to have access to my research. I want the journals I publish in to be required to make it available to you after a reasonable time period (the shorter the better) as the NIH policy now does. It helps me professionally by making my work more widely disseminated. It helps me as a professional by making it possible to get access to scientific research, now inaccessible because of the predatory and outrageous charges of the large scientific publishers, the same people behind the Conyers legislation.

Open Access advocates are urging constituents to contact their own representatives and senators and especially members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees before September 24 to say you oppose HR6845. Like you, I get pretty tired of having to do things like this, but campaigns like this are incredibly effective. If access to research that you paid for is important to you, this is the time to do something. This legislation will lock you out of access to important public health and medical information. It needs to be stopped now.

From Kevin Smith at Scholarly Communications @ Duke:

...[T]he winner for bad idea of the week was the poorly-named “Fair Copyright in Research Works Act,” which could be more aptly called the “Taxpayer Pays Twice Act.” ...Its intent, then, is to make sure that taxpayer funded research stays behind toll barriers so the those who paid to have the research done must pay again to read the results of their investment.  Accountability is reduced, and nobody wins except the special interests who insist on uncompensated transfers of copyright before they will publish these works, then sometimes charge tens of thousands of dollars for subscriptions....

The impact of this bill on scientific and medical research would certainly be regressive, denying research and taxpayers the chance to take advantage of the new opportunities offered by the digital environment.  But it is also bad policy because it would enact into law an unnecessary and potentially damaging limitation on how the government can spend its money.  The bill is structured to make it illegal for the government to place, as a condition of government funding, any provision that would require the transfer or licensing of a copyrighted work.  The potential unintended consequences here are considerable, as are the opportunities to force the government to spend tax money over and over again to gain the use of material paid for by taxpayers in the first place.  Conditions on the grant of money is a major way Congress enacts policy, and no one seems to have examined how many contracts and grants might be invalidated, nor what the impact could be, if this legislation were adopted....This bill is an object lesson in the harm that can be done when legislators listen only to the demands of a narrow group of special interests and to their own parochial prerogatives instead of the broader need to serve the public interest....

The positive impact of the NIH Public Access policy is beginning to be felt; choking it off at this point would be the height of foolishness....[W]e should remain ready to fight tooth and nail if this poorly-conceived bill ever develops any real legs.