Welcome to the Free Online Scholarship (FOS) Newsletter
     March 11, 2002

More press coverage for the Budapest Open Access Initiative

Anon., Cash boost for research access (for _The Scientist_)

Anon., La revolte des savants pour la libre publication (for _Figaro_)

Charles W. Bailey, Jr., BOAI (for _Current Cites_)

Roberto Casati, Soros Project: Articoli scientifici in rete per tutti (for _Il Sole_)

Caroline Davis, Soros gift for open access to journals (for the _Times Higher Education Supplement_)

* The Budapest Open Access Initiative
(Sign it, persuade your institution to sign it, take steps to implement it, and spread the word.)


Analogies and precedents for the FOS revolution

If asked for a precedent for the kind of revolution represented by FOS, we might first mention the Gutenberg Press.  But it isn't a very good fit.  It's a technological advance, and all the technology required for FOS already exists.  We're trying to bring about an economic change that will take advantage of existing technology.

If we want an example of an economically sustainable industry which gives away its product to end-users because the costs of production and distribution are paid by others, then we need look no further than television and radio.  I've used these examples more than once recently to argue that the long-term sustainability of FOS is not problematic.

But television and radio were "born free" (for end-users).  From the start, those wanting to make a profit in these businesses needed a funding model compatible with open access for users.  But most scholarly journals were born priced.  If future journals are to be free for end-users, then we must transform their business model.

Are there precedents for this?  Can you think of a product that was unfree for end-users at one time, and became free at a later time, because an intervening economic revolution shifted the costs from end-users to others?

Leave aside products now paid for by the governments (like roads), because that isn't the only model we seek for FOS.  Let's also put self-archiving to one side, since it didn't exist in some pre-FOS form needing transformation.

I've thought of one precedent:  mail.  The postage stamp allowed us to change the funding model for letters, newspapers, and other mail, from "recipient pays" to "sender pays".

When this example first occurred to me, I thought it minor and stretched.  But as I've learned more about the postal revolution, I've changed my mind.  It was an important social and economic transformation, and its similarities to the FOS transformation are real, even if there are important dissimilarities as well.  Bear with me now.

Before stamps, writers sent letters free of charge.  Recipients had to pay to take their mail home from the post office.  If they couldn't afford to pay, they couldn't read their mail.  Stamps were introduced precisely to allow senders to pay in advance and lift the burden from recipients.

The revolution was launched by Rowland Hill (1795-1879), in his 1837 pamphlet, _Post Office Reform:  Its Importance and Practability_.  The idea of shifting costs to senders was instantly popular.  A group of businessmen interested in implementing the idea collected four million signatures --more than 15% of the British population at the time.  Parliament gave Hill a temporary position in the Treasury so that he could put his theory into practice.  In 1840, England adopted the postage stamp and the "sender pays" rule.  Switzerland and Brazil made the change in 1843, and the U.S. followed suit in 1847.

The primary similarity holding up the analogy is the switch from "access fees" (paid by recipients) to "dissemination fees" (paid by senders).  That's precisely the change we need to make scholarly journals free for readers and their institutions, and the internet makes it easier by radically reducing the cost of dissemination.  This suggests a secondary similarity as well.  Before stamps, postage rates depended on weight and distance, which required separate calculations and record-keeping for every letter.  Hill realized that his reform would not only make access to mail free for recipients, but would significantly lower the overall cost of delivery.  Likewise, providing open access to journals costs much less than disseminating journals on paper or even disseminating them online through DRM software that blocks access to non-subscribers.

There are limits to the analogy, of course, and exploring what they are helps to illuminate the problems facing FOS.  If universities agree to support open-access journals by paying a dissemination fee for every outgoing article, then during some indefinite transition period they will still have to pay access fees for desirable journals using the older business model.  This forces them either to increase their overall serials budgets or cancel subscriptions to cover their new costs at the other end.  (I sketched this dilemma in FOSN for 1/1/02, and pointed out several possible solutions that make the situation more complex but also more hopeful.)  But when nations adopted Hill's funding model for mail, there was no transition period in which users faced the dilemma of greater net outlays or lost content.  The only people who didn't save money from the start were those who sent much more mail than they received.

This highlights another difference.  With mail, essentially all senders are receivers.  Mail senders consented to the change, and even clamored for it, not because they would be relieved of costs as receivers but because they would pay less as senders than they were currently paying as receivers.  Libraries are similarly situated, and this explains why librarians tend to support FOS.  But libraries are not the the most likely sources of dissemination fees for FOS journals, and the more likely sources tend to be senders who are not receivers, breaking the symmetry that creates one incentive for the change.  These are foundations and government agencies, the funders of research who are not always readers or consumers of research literature.  These potential payors have been slower to show up at the revolution and many still need persuading.

Moreover, journal subscribers are always volunteers, while mail recipients are not.  While both revolutions want to put costs only on volunteers, postal costs were previously borne by non-volunteers.  So the postal revolution had at least this one incentive missing from the FOS revolution.

Other differences are not essential to analogy.  Open-access journal articles won't need "stamps" to wend their way from authors to readers.  There won't be a series of offices in which each needs to see proof of payment before it passes articles along to the next.  Delivery won't be made, and rates won't be set, by a government agency.  But these three dissimilarities hang together.  Because paper mail must be physically delivered, sometimes across long distances, each station along the way needed an assurance of payment.  The easy to make sure that paying one station paid them all was to have all be branches of a central agency.

Only time will tell whether other aspects of the postal revolution will resemble the FOS revolution.  For example, the switch to the "sender pays" rule greatly increased the amount of letter writing.  Will it great increase the number of journals?

For another, England loved Hill for his reform.  This son of a schoolteacher who painted landscapes and built scientific instruments was knighted in 1860, commemorated with a statue outside the General Post Office in London, buried in Westminster Abbey --and of course he had his face on a postage stamp.

Dwight Rhodes, History of Postal Systems

Biographies of Rowland Hill

* Postscript.  I don't claim that the postal revolution is the best analogy or precedent for the FOS revolution, only that it is good enough (in Robert Nozick's words) to be worth surpassing.  I hope you'll post your thoughts to our discussion forum, especially proposals for better analogies and precedents.

Here are some questions.  Are there better analogies or precedents than Hill's postal revolution for the transformation of scholarly journals sought by the FOS movement?   One reason to have a precedent is to show that the transformation we seek for scholarly journals is economically possible, even feasible and realistic.  Does the postal transformation show this for journals?  If not, again, are there other precedents that might show it better?

Another reason to have a good precedent is to study it and learn to learn how the transition was managed.  What were the obstacles and how were they overcome?  What were the opportunities and how were they seized?  Are there lessons in the postal revolution that the FOS movement should take to heart?

FOS discussion forum
(Anyone may read; only subscribers may post; subscription is free.)


If it's taxpayer-funded, it should be free

For half a year now, OpenlyInformatics has had an online petition arguing that government-funded software should be open source and free for all users.  The petition is designed to educate researchers to the issues, stimulate discussion, and bring about a change of policy.

Open-source software is not open-access scientific and scholarly literature.  But on this point, the two have a common interest.  Federal funding agencies should require grant recipients to make the results of their research freely available online.  There are many reasons.  One is that taxpayers have already paid for this research, and should not have to pay again to see its results.  Another is that the mission of federal funding agencies is to promote science, not to enrich private companies especially in a way that hinders science.

These are excellent policy reasons.  But if you're a stickler, there's also a good legal reason (not mentioned at the petition site).  Federal law requires that works produced by the government be put into the public domain.

Section 105 of the federal copyright law (U.S. Code, Title 17) states that "Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government...."

The legislative history interpreting this section is laid out in House Report No. 94-1476:  "The basic premise of section 105 of the bill is...that works produced for the U.S. Government by its officers and employees should not be subject to copyright."  The House report notes that works by grantees may be treated differently from works by employees.  But the law "deliberately avoids making any sort of outright, unqualified prohibition against copyright in works prepared under Government contract or grant" and the open texture of the law for grant recipients has yet to be resolved by courts.

Nevertheless, the law lays down an important federal policy that should guide any court looking at the question.  "The effect of section 105 is intended to place all works of the United States Government, published or unpublished, in the public domain.  This means that the individual Government official or employee who wrote the work could not secure copyright in it or restrain its dissemination by the Government or anyone else, but it also means that, as far as the copyright law is concerned, the Government could not restrain the employee or official from disseminating the work if he or she chooses to do so."

OpenlyInformatics' online petition
(Thanks to C-FIT.)

Petition FAQ

Jason Stewart and Harry Mangalam, The Openly Informatics Petition
(Stewart and Mangalam are two of the petitions's authors.)

Andrew Dalke, Why I'm Not Supporting the Open Informatics Petition
(Dalke is an advocate and author of open-source scientific software.)

Justin Hibbard, The Open-Source Debate Enters the Genomics Arena

U.S. Code, Title 17, Section 105

Legislative history of 17 USC 105
(Thanks to Mike Eisen.)



My Timeline of the FOS Movement has improved again this week, thanks to suggestions and details from Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Matt Cockerill, and Rune Dalgaard.  I'm still looking for answers to these questions.  Let me know if you can help.

--When did Perseus move from CD's to the web?
--When was NCSTRL laid down before it was relaunched in 2001?
--Are there important FOS "firsts" not already on the timeline?  Are there other landmarks in the evolution of FOS not already on the timeline?

Timeline of the FOS Movement



* The Digital Library Federation (DLF) has endorsed a set of principles for digital collections and a set of technical specs for digitization fidelity and interoperability.  The principles were enunciated by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (FOSN for 2/6/02), and the technical specs are homegrown by the DLF.

* MedLine will now include TheScientificWorldJournal.

* JISC's HERON (Higher Education Resources On Demand) has been acquired by ingenta.  HERON was not an FOS provider, but a service for copyright clearance, digitization, and document delivery.  ingenta will continue to operate HERON much as it has operated in the past.

* The Center for the Public Domain is closing its doors.

* Carnegie Mellon researchers have released two search engines covering full-text research papers.  Cora covers computer science, and Sara covers statistics.


(Thanks to the LANL Research Library Newsletter.)

* Privacy International has given its annual Big Brother Award to the UK Government for its plan to archive all UK email and internet traffic.


New on the net

* The University of Georgia Libraries have launched the Digital Library of Georgia, a free online collection of books, manuscripts, photographs, and multi-media materials on Georgia history and culture.
(Thanks to the Scout Report.)

* In February, the Text Encoding Initiative launched its newsletter, TEI News.

* You might remember President Bush's Executive Order 13233, limiting access to the papers of former presidents (FOSN for 1/1/02, 1/8/02).  The American Library Association has created a list of books that could not have been researched or published if the order had been in effect at the time.

* Dennis Karjala, professor of law at Arizona State University, maintains a list of important works of literature and music kept out of the public domain by the Bono Copyright Extension Act.

Karjala also has a useful page of instructions on how to determine whether a work is in the public domain.


Share your thoughts

* The DELOS Network of Excellence for Digital Libraries is looking for applications to retrieve XML documents and evaluate their relevance to search queries.  It will test the submitted applications against one another, looking for successful approaches and giving developers useful feedback.  The deadline for submitting an application is April 15.


In other publications

* The April issue of Walt Crawford's _Cites & Insights_ is now online.  Most of this issue is devoted to a recent reconsideration of the evidence that adult illiteracy in the U.S. has reached crisis proportions.  On the one hand, the situation is not as critical as once believed.  On the other, the data are dauntingly complex.  Crawford also has a another of his Copyright Currents, in which he brings readers up to date on the Eldred case, the SSSCA, and a slew of lesser copyright developments and controversies.

* The March/April issue of _Science Editor_ has an interview with Paul Ginsparg talking about arXiv.  The interview is not online.

* On March 10, the State University of New York at Albany put online the transcript of a panel discussion on e-government held in January at its Center for Technology in Government, "Information Access in an Electronic World".
(Thanks to QuickLinks.)

* In the March 6 _Tech Central Station_, Glen Harlan Reynolds describes what he regards as a case of online scientific censorship.  In 2001, Bjørn Lomborg published a book called _The Skeptical Environmentalist_.  When the book was attacked in a recent _Scientific American_ article, Lomborg posted the article on his web site along with his detailed rebuttal.  _Scientific American_ demanded that he remove the article.  Quoting Reynolds:  "Did Scientific American fear that it would lose newsstand sales because of Lomborg's use (which I would call 'fair use') of its criticisms? Or was it afraid that Lomborg's response would seem more persuasive if it were presented in tandem with the criticisms to which he was responding?  Since the first fear seems ludicrous, the second fear seems likely to be the true motivation --however badly that reflects on Scientific American's commitment to free and open interchange of ideas."  Reynolds sees the Lomborg case an part of a larger "tendency to use copyright to stifle free speech".
(Thanks to Politech.)

_Scientific American_ has written a reply that in my mind completely clears it of the censorship charge, but which doesn't adequately address the claim that posting the article was within Lomborg's fair-use rights.

* In the March 1 _U-Wire_, Nicole Usher describes the disenchantment of three Harvard professors with BioMed Central and the Public Library of Science, two FOS initiatives in which they actively participated.  They are frustrated that the PLoS petition didn't change journal access policies, and they are frustrated that the BMC journals aren't (yet) prestigious enough to give contemporary researchers an incentive to submit their papers to them.  It's as if the prestigious journals aren't free and the free journals aren't prestigious --and as if prestige trumps all other considerations.  (PS:  Prestige and pricelessness are entirely compatible but sufficiently far apart today that some frustration is understandable, provided we don't oversimplify.  Some journals are both free and prestigious, such as BMJ; the situation is fluid and expectations are currently undergoing deep change; BMC is still young; major new initiatives emerge with increasing frequency, such as the ISCA and BOAI; and for many authors, enlarging audience and impact override initial prestige.)
(Thanks to Paul Pival.)

* The latest (undated) issue of _The New Review of Information Networking_ is devoted to interoperability.  Only the table of contents is free online.

* The February issue of _Applied Signal Processing_ is devoted to digital watermarks.  (PS:  Yes, these are usually used for DRM.  But they could also be used to authenticate journal articles.)
(Thanks to El.pub Weekly.)

* The January/February _Information Highways_ contains an interview with Tim Bray, who wrote the web's first search engine and co-wrote the specs for XML.  He's now the CEO of Antarcti.ca Systems, which produces tools for visualizing the structure and contents of a database or search engine hit list (FOSN for 7/10/01).


Following up

* More on the Elcomsoft/Sklyarov case.

Elcomsoft's lawyer, Joseph Burton, is trying the hopeful, radical, but doomed strategy of arguing that Elcomsoft's actions didn't take place in the U.S. but "on the internet" over which U.S. courts lack jurisdiction.

* More on the Eldred case.

Chris Sprigman, The Mouse That Ate the Public Domain. (PS:  This is the best account I've seen of the legal history and legal issues in the Eldred case.  Among other things it confirms that the Bono Act really was passed to save Mickey Mouse from the public domain; this is not an urban legend or an exaggeration by opponents.)

* More on the SSSCA

(Why Democrats side with Disney and how Republicans can seize traditional Democrat voters by siding with consumers.)

(General review of the controversy for newcomers.)


Catching up (old news I should have discovered earlier)

* The Open Database Project is a portal organizing and searching free online databases.  If you manage a database of useful content, you can participate in the ODP without charge.  It welcomes databases on any topic, including scientific and scholarly topics.
(Thanks to the Internet Resources Newsletter.)

* Six years ago, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill launched Documenting the American South, a free online archive of primary sources on southern history, literature, and culture.  The site now contains more than 1,000 full-text books and manuscripts, and continues to grow.

Documenting the American South

Brock Read's recent story on it for the _Chronicle of Higher Education_



If you plan to attend one of the following conferences, please share your observations with us through our discussion forum.

* EUSDIC Spring Meeting.  E-Content:  Divide or Rule
Paris, March 11-12

* Open Publish 2001
Seattle, March 11-14

* ARL Workshop on Interactive Publishing of Data on the Web
Charlottesville, Virginia, March 11-15

* Computers in Libraries 2002
Washington D.C., March 13-15

* International Conference on the Statistical Analysis of Textual Data
St. Malo, March 13-15

* The Electronic Publishers Coalition (EPC) conference on ebooks and epublishing (obscurely titled, Electronically Published Internet Connection, or EPIC)
Seattle, March 14-16

* Licensing and Digital Content:  A Symposium
Philadelphia, March 15

* Digital Resources and International Information Exchange:  East-West
March 15 (Washington DC), 18 (Flushing NY), 20 (Stamford CT)

* Internet Librarian International 2002
London, March 18-20

* The New Information Order and the Future of the Archive
Edinburgh, March 20-23

* Institute of Mueum and Library Services.  Building Digital Communities
Baltimore, March 20-22

* Advanced Licensing Workshop
Dallas, March 20-22

* Electronic Publishing Strategy
London, March 22

* Association of Information and Dissemination Centers (ASDIC) Spring 2002 Meeting
St. Augustine, Florida, March 24-26

* OCLC Institute. Steering by Standards.  (A series of satellite videoconferences.)
Cyberspace.  OAI, March 26.  OAIS, April 19.  Metadata standards in the future, May 29.

* WebSearch University
San Francisco, March 25-26; Stamford CT, April 30 - May 1; Washington DC, September 23-24; Chicago, Octeober 22-23; Dallas, November 19-20.

* European Colloquium on Information Retrieval Research
Glasgow, March 25-27

* e-Content:  Discovering and Delivering Value
Toronto, March 25-27

* New Developments in Digital Libraries
Ciudad Real, Spain, April 2-3

* The New Information Order and the Future of the Archive
Edinburgh, March 20-23

* Copyright Management in Higher Education:  Ownership, Access and Control
Adelphi, Maryland, April 4-5

* Global Knowledge Partnership Annual Meeting
Addis Ababa, April 4-5

* What Scholars Need to Know to Publish Today:  Digital Writing and Access for Readers
Albany, New York, April 8

* International Conference on Information Technology: Coding and Computing
Las Vegas, April 8-10

* NetLab and Friends:  10 Years of Digital Library Development
Lund, April 10-12

* E-Content 2002 (on ebooks)
London, April 11

* Censorship and Free Access to Information in Libraries and on the Internet
Copenhagen, April 11

* International Learned Journals Seminar:  We Can't Go On Like This:  The Future of Journals
London, April 12

* SIAM International Conference on Data Mining
Arlington, Virginia, April 11-13

* Creating access to information:  EBLIDA workshop on getting a better deal from your information licences
The Hague, April 12

* Licensing Electronic Resources to Libraries
Philadelphia, April 15

* United Kingdom Serials Group Annual Conference and Exhibition
University of Warwick, April 15- 17

* Conference on Computers, Freedom, and Privacy
San Francisco, April 16-19

* EDUCAUSE Networking 2002
Washington, D.C., April 17-18

* Museums and the Web 2002
Boston, April 17-20

* Legal Guidelines for Use of Intellectual Property in Higher Education
Oneonta, NY, April 19

* Information, Knowledges and Society: Challenges of A New Era
Havana, April 22-26

* DAI Institute on The State of Digital Preservation:  An International Perspective
Washington, D.C., April 24-25

* CLIR Sponsors' Symposium:  New Challenges, New Solutions:  Libraries for the Future
Washington, D.C., April 26

* The European Library:  The Gate to Europe's Knowledge:  Milestone Conference
Frankfurt am Main, April 29-30


The Free Online Scholarship Newsletter is supported by a grant from the Open Society Institute.


This is the Free Online Scholarship Newsletter (ISSN 1535-7848).

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Peter Suber

Copyright (c) 2002, Peter Suber

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