Welcome to the SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #95
March 2, 2006
Read this issue online
Update on the NIH policy
Strengthening the NIH policy is an ongoing story. Several important developments took place last month.
* On November 15, 2005, the Public Access Working Group (PAWG), appointed by the agency to advise it on implementing and improving the policy, recommended that the request for public access be upgraded to a requirement and that the permissible delay be shortened from 12 months to 6 months. PAWG was responding to NIH data showing that fewer than 5% of NIH grantees were complying with the request for public access.
While this is old news, the PAWG minutes were only put online in mid-February.
I first covered the PAWG recommendations in SOAN for December 2, 2005.
* In early February 2006, the NIH sent a progress report to Congress (dated January 2006). Among other things it reported that the rate of compliance with its request for public-access was below 4%, that handling existing submissions under the policy cost the agency $1 million/year, and that handling submissions under a 100% compliance rate would cost the agency $3.5 million/year.
The NIH progress report to Congress, January 2006
Dorothea Salo, Spaghetti that didn't stick, Caveat Lector, February 16, 2006. A blog posting on the NIH progress report to Congress, focusing on the low compliance rate.
* On February 8, 2006, the NLM Board of Regents endorsed the November 2005 PAWG recommendations in a letter to NIH Director Elias Zerhouni.
The letter is not yet online but I blogged an excerpt on February 16, 2006.
NLM Board of Regents
What's important here is the momentum. Congress asked for a strong policy and NIH delivered a weak one. As evidence mounted that the NIH policy was not meeting its goals, one authoritative body after another asked NIH to strengthen the policy and live up to the original request from Congress. First the Public Access Working Group recommended a stronger policy. Then the NIH acknowledged the miserable compliance rate in a report to Congress. Then the NLM Board of Regents recommended a stronger policy. If the NIH is waiting for Congress to weigh in, then it's forgetting that Congress has already weighed in. Moreover, Congress is now considering Joe Lieberman's CURES bill, which would give the NIH an OA mandate, shorten the access embargo to six months, and extend this strong policy to other funding agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services.
Three gathering storms that could cause collateral damage for open access
After the 9/11 attacks, some network security experts said that skillful malefactors could bring down the internet. That was a breathtaking and unexpected threat to OA that most of us had never considered.
Insofar as digital apocalypse is really a threat, then in the years since 2001 it has become almost equally threatening to non-OA journals, which have either dropped their print editions or begun to depend heavily on their online editions.
But threats to OA from left-field have not disappeared. Here are three more, all making news in February: (1) the webcasting treaty, (2) the opposition to network neutrality, and (3) the end of free email.
By saying they're from left-field, I don't mean to suggest that they're unlikely to materialize, only that the organizations pursuing them are not deliberately targeting OA and have never weighed the interests of OA in their calculations. Like retrograde copyright reforms, they are policy proposals to benefit corporate behemoths regardless of the collateral damage they wreak across the landscape.
(1) The webcasting treaty
A draft treaty now before WIPO would create a new level of protection, above and beyond copyright, for "webcasters" --anyone who sends images and sounds "at substantially the same time" over the internet. The proposal would let webcasters block the copying and redistribution of the webcasts even if the copyright holder had consented to OA, even if the webcast content had a valid Creative Commons license or equivalent, even if the content was in the public domain, and even if the content was legally uncopyrightable.
Most digital journal articles would be spared because they're just text, or just text and images. But the treaty would apply to multimedia scholarship and could inhibit its further development, for example in conference video presentations, open courseware projects, podcasts of Stanford lectures, and LibraVox audio files of print books scanned by the Open Content Alliance. And of course once the ISPs get their foot in the door, the treaty could be amended to apply to other kinds of content down the road.
Wherever the treaty applies, authors and copyright-holders could not authorize OA on their own. They would need the permission of the webcasting ISP, for which it might charge a fee. The internet would no longer be a medium in which the intent to give away content could easily and unilaterally be matched with the deed. Middlemen who want to make money could trump the decisions of authors who want to offer free access to their work. Of course these middlemen are already being paid twice over for their webcasts by uploaders and downloaders. The webcast right would last for 50 years, and the clock would start over whenever the content was re-posted online. Fair use would not apply.
The treaty's main proponents are all based in the U.S.: Yahoo, Fox, the National Academy of Broadcasters, and the U.S. Government. But if WIPO adopts it, it will apply worldwide.
If you're wondering why this is supposed to be a good idea, you're not alone.
Text of the proposed webcasting treaty.
The CPTech page on the webasting treaty.
The EFF page on the webcasting treaty.
Art Brodsky, WIPO Broadcasting Treaty Debated, In The Know, Public Knowledge, February 28, 2006.
The U.S. National Academies hosted a Public Symposium on the Proposed WIPO Webcasting Treaty, Washington D.C., February 27, 2006.
The presentations and discussion are available in a large MP3 file.
James Boyle, More rights are wrong for webcasters, Financial Times, February 17, 2006.
James Love, A UN/WIPO Plan to Regulate Distribution of Information on the Internet, Huffington Post, November 30, 2005.
* Here are three related measures, two potential and one actual, to trump the OA decision and impose an unwanted fee.
In the middle of last year, the Canadian Parliament began debating a copyright reform bill called C-60 that would force users to pay copyright royalties on OA content when used in school or for homework, but not when the same content was used from home. Worse than the webcasting treaty, it would apply to plain text files and images.
Australia is now considering a similar policy that would charge a fee for browsing internet pages in school, even OA pages, and give the money to copyright-holders who don't provide OA.
In the UK, a 17.5% value-added tax (VAT) applies to online journals (OA and non-OA), and not to print journals. Traditional publishers and OA proponents have both called on the government to lift this burden from ejournals, but so far without success.
(2) Opposition to net neutrality
From its birth, the internet embodied the principle of net neutrality: the pipes were equally open for all kinds of lawful transmission. ISPs couldn't discriminate and favor one kind over another. The internet owes its phenomenal growth to the network neutrality principle, which allowed all comers big and small (most small when they first launched) to have the same access to users as anyone else.
But now cable and telecom companies want to discriminate, charge premium prices for premium service, and give second-rate service to everyone else. If we relax the principle of net neutrality, then ISPs could, if they wanted, limit the software and hardware you could connect to the net. They could charge you more if you send or receive more than a set number of emails. They could block emails containing certain keywords or emails from people or organizations they disliked, and block traffic to or from competitor web sites. They could make filtered service the default and force users to pay extra for the wide open internet. If you tried to shop at a store that hasn't paid them a kickback, they could steer you to a store that has.
The telecom companies say that none of these scenarios has occurred or is likely to occur. But in a white paper for Public Knowledge, John Windhausen documents eight cases of ISPs deliberately blocking certain kinds of lawful traffic or services.
The telecom companies complain that usage giants like Google and eBay are getting a "free ride" on the telecom infrastructure. But Google and eBay pay well for network access and so do all of their users.
U.S. law requires "communication services" like telephone companies to operate on the principle of net neutrality but does not require "information services" to do so. Currently, broadband internet services fall into the second category, and now they want to exercise their right to discriminate. Because re-classifying the companies, or imposing the principle of net neutrality, would "regulate the internet", the broadband companies use the rhetoric of internet freedom fighters. But this is dishonest. Network neutrality is the result of regulation; the absence of regulation lets ISP's play favorites. If they win, it will be a victory for the freedom to block traffic and undercut the freedom to send and receive any lawful content.
If companies like AT&T and Verizon have their way, there will be two tiers of internet service: fast and expensive and slow and cheap (or cheaper). We unwealthy users --students, scholars, universities, and small publishers-- wouldn't be forced offline, just forced into the slow lane. Because the fast lane would reserve a chunk of bandwidth for the wealthy, the peons would crowd together in what remained, reducing service below current levels. New services starting in the slow lane wouldn't have a fighting chance against entrenched players in the fast lane. Think about eBay in 1995, Google in 1999, or Skype in 2002 without the level playing field provided by network neutrality. Or think about any OA journal or repository today.
If Congress changes the rules for U.S. broadband providers, users outside the U.S. will not be affected --unless they want to use content or services from U.S. providers or unless their governments decide, with or without arm-twisting, to "harmonize" with U.S. law.
Ken Belson, Senate Bill to Address Fears of Blocked Access to Net, New York Times, March 2, 2006. On Senator Ron Wyden's bill to codify the principle of network neutrality.
Art Brodsky, Net Neutrality Enters Murky Legislative State, In The Know, Public Knowledge, February 28, 2006.
Steven Levy, When the Net Goes From Free to Fee, Newsweek, February 27, 2006.
Peter Svensson., Future of the Internet Highway Debated, Associated Press, February 26, 2006.
Mark Lloyd, Net Neutrality (or Back to the Future), Center for American Progress, February 21. 2006.
Tollbooths on the Internet Highway, an unsigned editorial in the New York Times, February 20, 2006.
Michael Arnone, Experts: Don't shoot messenger to protect Internet, Federal Computer Week, February 17, 2006. Quoting Paul Twomey, President and CEO of ICANN.
David Bollier, Save the Internet! February 13, 2006.
Bill Thompson, Why the net should stay neutral, BBC News, February 12, 2006.
John Oates, Vint Cerf condemns two-tier internet, The Register, February 8, 2006.
Lawrence Lessig's Senate testimony on net neutrality, February 7, 2006.
Daniel Berninger, Net Neutrality Not An Optional Feature of Internet, a guest column in Om Malik's blog, February 6, 2006.
Gigi Sohn, Don't blow it, Congress, C|Net, February 6, 2006.
John Windhausen, Good Fences Make Bad Broadband, a white paper from Public Knowledge, February 6, 2006.
There's been a Slashdot thread on the two-tier internet since January 19, 2006.
Michael Geist, Towards a two-tier internet, BBC News, December 22, 2005.
Common Cause position (undated)
Common Cause action alert (US citizens only)
(3) The end of free email
Yahoo and AOL have announced plans to charge extra for guaranteed delivery of email. If you think that delivery is good enough now, then Yahoo and AOL ominously explain that those who don't pay extra may find that their messages end up in spam filters. The new surcharge on mail wouldn't buy a glitch-free network; Yahoo and AOL can't provide that. The surcharge would pay for an escort past filters with varying and unknown criteria.
If you don't pay, will you at least have the same service you have today --unimproved but also undiminished? The answer is no. AOL has already said that customers who don't pay will receive email without images or active links. If AOL users couldn't leave, this would be extortion. But they can leave and should start thinking about doing it.
Yahoo and AOL are not saying that the purpose is to gouge users. They're saying that the purpose is to defeat spammers, who would presumably not want to pay the surcharge on each of their millions of messages. But of course if you trust email that your ISP has carefully escorted past the spam filters, then some spammers will find that higher costs on a smaller mailing list will pay for themselves in gullible user strikes. Nor will it stop spam sent to the people who don't pay the new fee. Moreover, most filters are not under the control of Yahoo and AOL and will continue to block whatever they block now. And you'll be gouged too.
The program is insidious and would lead almost everyone to pay the fees if they could --account holders at Yahoo and AOL and the bulk mailers who send to Yahoo and AOL addresses. It would also lead other email providers to adopt similar policies or fear that they were leaving money on the table. This would harm everyone who sends or receives non-spam mass mailings. This newsletter is an example but only one of many. The program would harm every form of OA content delivered by email, from emailed eprints and listserv postings to journal current-awareness messages like tables of contents and the results of stored searches. It would hurt non-profit groups and informal communities that network by email, including academic and political groups. Cash-strapped operations relying on email for distribution would either be forced to shut down or face higher costs that threaten their stability.
In 2003 I wrote about some other crude measures to stop spam that would cause similar collateral damage for OA. The new Yahoo/AOL plan is just another example in a long history of overreaching spam remedies. This one has the distinction of increasing corporate revenue and using spam reduction as the pretext.
Associated Press, AOL vows to institute fee-based service despite protests, SiliconValley.com, February 28, 2006.
Saul Hansell, Plan for Fees on Some E-Mail Spurs Protest, New York Times, February 28, 2006.
Michael Geist, The Slippery Slope of Two Tier Email, Toronto Star, February 13, 2006.
Russell, Monetizing the Mailbox, ContentBlogger, February 10, 2006.
Suzanne Goldenberg, Internet giants announce plans to charge for speedier emails, The Guardian, February 6, 2006.
MoveOn.org's position statement (undated)
MoveOn.org's action alert
Strange Bedfellows Unite to Fight AOL's "Email Tax" (press release from EFF), February 24, 2006. (The strange bedfellows are the EFF, the Free Press, Craig Newmark of Craiglist, representatives from the Gun Owners of America, MoveOn.org, the Association of Cancer Online Resources, and dozens of other non-profits.)
* Postscript. If you're worried about terrorists taking down the internet, here's *some* reassurance.
John C. Doyle and seven co-authors, The "robust yet fragile" nature of the Internet, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, October 11, 2005.
Excerpt: "Here, we have shown that there exist technological, economic, and graph theoretic reasons why the most important SF [Scale-Free] claim (i.e., that the Internet has 'hubs' that form an Achilles' heel through which most traffic flows and the loss of which would fragment the Internet and constitute its attack vulnerability) cannot be (and is not) true for the current router-level Internet."
Top stories from February 2006
This is a selection of open-access developments since the last issue of the newsletter, taken from the Open Access News blog, which I write with other contributors and update daily. I give both the item URL and blog posting URL so that you can read the original story as well as what I or another blog contributor had to say about it. For other developments, the blog archive is browseable and searchable.
Here are the top stories from February:
* Hindawi converts 13 TA journals to OA.
* Support spreads for OA to data.
* Spain moves toward OA.
* Open J-Gate launches.
* February was a month for awards.
* Hindawi converts 13 non-OA journals to OA.
On February 22, Hindawi Publishing announced that it is converting 13 of its subscription-based journals to OA, effective immediately. Hindawi now has 25 OA journals, the second-largest set after BioMed Central, and the largest set not limited to biomedicine. Hindawi publishes OA journals in mathematics, engineering, biology, medicine, and chemistry.
This is the largest bulk-conversion of non-OA journals to OA in the history of OA. It's especially welcome because journals that convert to OA bring their readership, reputation, impact factors, and prestige with them, unlike new OA launches, which have to develop these from scratch. Note to other publishers: Hindawi's direct experience with OA publishing is leading it to accelerate its expansion into OA rather than to retreat.
* Support spreads for OA to data.
Public Geo Data launched an online petition calling for OA to EU-collected geospatial data. In particular, it calls on the EU to reject the current draft of the INSPIRE Directive on European Spatial Data Infrastructure, which provides for "cost recovery" instead of OA. Citizens of the EU should sign the petition.
Also see Jo Walsh, Why Europe Needs to Provide its Own Public Geodata, Directions Magazine, February 20, 2006.
Bela Tiwari, Dawn Field, and Jason Snape, Public repositories need serious funding, Nature, February 23, 2006.
Tom Coates, Native to a Web of Data, a large slide presentation on the future of the web. The presentation can be taken as advice for those providing OA to data.
UniProt (Universal Protein Resource), the "the world's most comprehensive catalog of information on proteins", now uses a Creative Commons license.
As the UniProt story shows, CC licenses can apply to databases. Here's the new FAQ on the subject from Science Commons.
Shuichi Iwata, Message from the President, CODATA Online Handbook, February 10, 2006. Iwata, the President of CODATA, predicts that OA to data will change science.
Last September, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) released version 4.0 of its report, NSF's Cyberinfrastructure Vision For 21st Century Discovery, September 26, 2005. The report outlined the agency's vision for cyberinfrastructure and sought public comment. In January, the agency has released version 5.0 of the report (January 20, 2006). It doesn't discuss OA to literature but strongly endorses OA to data.
On January 16, 2006, the Governing Board of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) adopted a Recommendation On Open Access To Biodiversity Data, reaffirming and extending its OA statement from last year.
* Spain moves toward OA.
The Spanish National Research Council (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, CSIS) has signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Acces to Knowledge.
The universities of Coruña and Lleida, both in Spain, have also signed the Berlin Declaration.
Something is happening in Spain. The participation of the Spanish National Research Council means that we could soon see a proposal to mandate OA to publicly-funded research in Spain.
Spanish National Research Council (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, CSIS).
* Open J-Gate launches.
On February 27, Informatics India launched Open J-Gate, a new portal for OA journals. It claims to be the largest OA portal in the world, providing access to more than 3,000 journals and millions of articles, and promising to add more than 300,000 new articles every year. It's well-implemented but has some bumps to smooth out. For example, the scope is very large, but it omits two of the first four BMC journals I tried to find. I love the way it support article-level searching, but when you find relevant articles, it links more often to publisher web sites and current journal issues than to the articles themselves. It has a very flexible advanced search function, letting users limit searches to authors, titles, author-institutions, date, and so on, as well as to topics at any of three levels of specificity (for example, "Basic Sciences" / "Chemistry" / "Nuclear Chemistry").
* February was a month for awards.
Paul Ginsparg received the Paul Evans Peters award for 2006 from CNI/ARL/Educause. He was honored for his pioneering work on arXiv, which has transformed research in physics and inspired OA archiving developments in every other field.
Michael Ashburner won the Benjamin Franklin Award for 2006 from Bioinformatics.org. Ashburner was honored for his many OA projects in bioinformatics, including FlyBase, the GASP project, the Gene Ontology project, and the Open Biological Ontologies project.
Ray English was named Academic/Research Librarian of the Year by the ACRL. He was honored for many achievements including his extensive, effective OA advocacy.
Also see Rani Molla, Librarian Ray English Wins National Award, Oberlin Review, February 24, 2006.
Ray was also elected Chair of the SPARC Steering Committee.
Although it doesn't quite fall into February, I must mention that on January 27, Ingegerd Rabow received an honorary doctorate from Lund University for her work on OA at Lund, in Sweden, and (via ScieCom and the Nordic OA conferences) throughout the world.
Coming up later this month
Here are some important OA-related events coming up in March.
* March 12, 2006. Deadline for comments on the EU report on the EU database directive.
* March 24. Deadline for proposals for Microsoft funding to accelerate search in academic research.
* Notable conferences this month
ICTs for Civil Society (OA is among the topics)
Johannesburg, March 7-9, 2006
Workshop on Open Access Journals (sponsored by the U of Toronto's Project OS|OA)
Toronto, March 9, 2006
Open Access Publishing And The Future Of Legal Scholarship (a symposium at Lewis and Clark Law School)
Portland, Oregon, March 10, 2006
Scholarship and Libraries in Transition: A Dialogue about the Impacts of Mass Digitization Projects
Ann Arbor, March 10-11, 2006
Cultural Environmentalism at 10
Palo Alto, March 11-12, 2006
Best practices in sharing data (sponsored by the ESDS)
London, March 17, 2006
E.Journal Summit 2006 (sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences and PNAS)
Washington, DC, March 20, 2006
Funding Our Digital Future: Budgeting for Libraries & Scholarly Communication (sponsored by the Binghamton University Libraries) (OA is among the topics)
Binghampton, March 20-21, 2005
Network Library (OA is among the topics)
Dresden, March 21-24, 2006
Berlin 4 Open Access - From Promise to Practice
Potsdam-Golm, Germany, March 29-31, 2006
Crystal Clear? Today’s Libraries, Tomorrow’s Library Users (15th North Carolina Serials Conference) (OA is among the topics)
Chapel Hill, March 30-31, 2006
Learned Journals Seminar: The new publishers (OA is among the topics)
London, March 31, 2006
* Other OA-related conferences
* I've added 30 new conferences to my conference page since the last issue. In the next few days I'll delete the second asterisk marking them and the new entries will blend into the rest of the collection.
This is the SPARC Open Access Newsletter (ISSN 1546-7821), written by Peter Suber and published by SPARC. The views I express in this newsletter are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of SPARC.
To unsubscribe, send any message to <SPARC-OANewsfirstname.lastname@example.org>.
Please feel free to forward any issue of the newsletter to interested colleagues. If you are reading a forwarded copy of this issue, see the instructions for subscribing at either of the first two sites below.
SPARC home page for the Open Access Newsletter and Open Access Forum
Peter Suber's page of related information, including the newsletter editorial position
Newsletter, archived back issues
Forum, archived postings
Conferences Related to the Open Access Movement
Timeline of the Open Access Movement
Open Access Overview
Open Access News blog
SOAN is an open-access publication under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. Users may freely copy, distribute, and display its contents, but must give credit to the author. To read the full license, visit
Return to the Newsletter archive