Welcome to the Free Online Scholarship Newsletter
     July 3, 2001

If this issue is longer than most, the reason is that I'm catching up on the news that accumulated while I had computer troubles --and because I'm still having enough trouble to keep me from working on other projects.  One news item you won't find here is the Supreme Court decision in New York Times v. Tasini handed down on June 25.  I haven't skipped it because it's irrelevant to FOS.  I've skipped it because I'm still digesting its implications for FOS.  Some of this digestion is happening in our discussion forum.  Please join the conversation.

New York Times v. Tasini

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


Adopting the lowest standard of protection for freedom of speech

Suppose you write an online article supporting evolution against creationism, and find yourself prosecuted for blasphemy in Iran.  Or suppose you wrote on sexuality and found yourself prosecuted for indecency by the Taliban.  Or suppose you criticized the Chinese government and were prosecuted for sedition in China.  If you feel safe because you don't write on these topics, then pick a topic on which you do write.  What if you published an article supporting A's theories and criticizing B's, and found yourself sued for libel by B in B's country?  Now suppose that the United States had signed a treaty agreeing to enforce these verdicts. 

Freedom of speech is our first freedom in the United States.  Is it really possible that the United States would negotiate an international agreement that would subject online speech by Americans to legal judgments by nations with no respect for the free circulation of ideas?  The answer is yes.  This  is exactly what is happening with the Hague Convention on Jurisdiction and Foreign Judgments. 

We do need a treaty to sort out the knotty jurisdictional questions raised by the border-crossing internet.  But the idea behind the Hague Convention is not to write new law on any substantive topics, such as defamation, hate speech, or copyright, but instead to ask signatory nations to enforce the legal judgments made in other signatory nations.  The effect could be that the protection of online speech will sink to the level of the countries with the most odious and intolerant regulations of online content.  If oppressive nations can get their oppressive verdicts enforced in other countries, then suddenly the struggle for liberty everywhere else in the world counts for nothing.

The advantage of the new rules for the private-sector American delegates to the convention is that U.S. publishers can get copyright decisions by American courts enforced in other countries.  Unfortunately, this feature is inseparable from the devastation to free speech.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the American Library Association sent non-delegate representatives to the Hague to argue for freedom of speech.  So did corporations like AT&T, Verizon, and Yahoo, which wanted to prevent the Convention from holding ISPs liable for the content they carry.  All these representatives agree, however, that the drafting conference that just ended on June 20 ignored their arguments. 

The current draft does contain a section allowing judges to refuse to enforce judgments that would violate their own national laws or policies.  But critics argue that giving judges this discretion will not stop plaintiffs and prosecutors from shopping around for a court or nation willing to take up their cause.  Moreover, speech doesn't have to be punished to be chilled.  The prospect that one could be prosecuted for online speech reaching Libya or North Korea under the laws of Libya or North Korea will be enough to lead many writers to censor themselves.  Writers shouldn't have to choose between freedom of speech and freedom of travel. 

The Convention only drafts the language, of course.  It will not become law for Americans until or unless it is ratified by the U.S. Senate.  Look for the Convention to submit final language to participating nations for ratification sometime in 2002.

Lisa Bowman, Global treaty--threat to the Net?
From ZD Net News

Boris Grondahl, Your Court Or Mine?
From The Industry Standard

CPT page on the Hague Convention (many links to documents and critics)
From the Consumer Project on Technology (CPT)

Members of the U.S. delegation to the Hague Convention
From CPT

Hague Convention home page (not up to date)


PubScience targeted by lobbyists and Congress

PubScience is a portal and search engine for free online scholarship in the physical sciences.  Its funding comes from the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Scientific and Technical Information.  Last week a House appropriations subcommittee voted to withdraw funding from PubScience on the ground that its functions are best carried out by the private sector.  If this reasoning survives the budgeting process, and becomes government policy, then it could mean the end of all government-subsidized free online scholarship, including PubMed, MedLine, and LANL (arXiv.org).

The private sector, of course, can publish online scientific literature, but usually at high (and rising) subscription prices.  Indeed, the House subcommittee had been lobbied by the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), a trade association for commercial electronic publishers.  A spokesman for SIIA has said that PubScience is unfair competition for the for-profit publishers and that the only free information provided by government should be government documents.

Declan Butler, Budget proposal casts doubt over physics portal's future


Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA)

Members of SIIA


Open CourseWare

MIT has received an $11 million grant from the Mellon and Hewlett Foundations to put all 2,000 of its courses online over the next eight years.  Because the courses will be available to internet users free of charge, faculty are hailing the project as an important assertion that course materials are more like scholarly publications to be shared openly than property of the university from which it might profit.  This reading is supported by Ira Fuchs, speaking for the Mellon Foundation.  "We're hoping that this is going to reinforce the concept that ideas are the common property of all of us, and they're not just proprietary products."

Jeffrey Young, MIT Wins Grants to Make All Its Course Materials Free Online
From the Chronicle of Higher Education

MIT Open CourseWare home page
(Thanks to Ray Ontko for bringing this to my attention.)


Open LibraryWare

The University of Michigan Digital Extension Service (DLXS) has opened the source code to the suite of software tools it has developed to manage the UM digital library.  The tools are designed to work with a proprietary (non-open source) search engine which institutions may license from UM.

DLXS home page


Open Archives news

* Today (July 3) the Open Archives Initiative (OAI) released version 1.1 of its metadata harvesting protocol and has started phasing out version 1.0.  Instructions for migrating to the new version are included at the protocol site below.

OAI metadata harvesting Protocol

* Torii is a new portal and search engine for OAI-compliant archives.  Unlike ARC and Cite-Base, the two existing OAI search engines, Torii supports searches by WAP devices.  Torii is currently limited to the LANL pre-print archive and the Multimedia Database. 

Torii home page

Sara Bertocco, Torii, an Open Portal over Open Archives
From the High Energy Physics Libraries Webzine

* CalTech has just registered two OAI-compliant archives.  One is the proceedings of a June conference cavitation (cav2001).  The other is the Caltech Computer Science Technical Reports (caltechCSTR).  Both repositories were built with the eprints software.

Caltech Digital Collections


In other publications

* In the June issue of _Ariadne_, Philip Hunter investigates why universities have resisted using the content management software which is revolutionizing electronic publishing.  In the process he argues that publishing is an essential function of the contemporary university.

* In the same issue of _Ariadne_ Michael Day assesses the prediction that OAI-compatible archives will assure the long-term preservation and accessibility of scholarship.  He finds more promises than promising plans, and argues that scholarly archives must distinguish preservation from authentication (assuring the reader that the preserved article is what it purports to be). 

* In the same issue of _Ariadne_ Stevan Harnad looks at five strategies for reaching the promised land of free online scholarship, and argues that none is as quick, easy, or inexpensive as a sixth, self-archiving. 

Harnad also has an article on self-archiving (with co-authors Les Carr and Tim Brody) in the June issue of the _High Energy Physics Libraries Webzine_.  This version of the argument contains a striking table correlating the citation frequency or impact of a paper with its download frequency.  It also contains a useful timeline of major articles and developments in the movement, with URLs.

* In the June issue of the _High Energy Physics Libraries Webzine_, Simeon Warner has written a clear, technical introduction to OAI metadata harvesting and an implementation tutorial for data providers and service providers.  Examples are written in Perl.

* In an editorial in the June 13 _BioMed Central_, Jan Velterop argues that authors should pay journals to give readers free online access to their scholarship.  He estimates that $500 per article should cover the costs of electronic publication and long-term archiving.  His argument is implicitly limited to the sciences where most published literature is funded.

* In the June 15 issue of _RLG DigiNews_, Raymond A. Lorie of IBM describes a new method to preserve digital data.  Saving data, especially data intended to be interactive, isn't enough if we don't save the software to read or manipulate them.  But saving software written for obsolete operating systems isn't much help either.  Lorie's proposal is to write emulators for this software, and to design the emulators to  run on a simple virtual computer.  As long as we write implementations for this virtual computer for evolving new programming languages and operating systems, then we'll be able to run old software and their data files.  The same system allows us to preserve ancient operating systems.

* In the June 21 issue of _ContentBiz_, Anne Holland advises publishers of electronic periodicals to charge more for them.  It's fascinating to overhear this stream of advice from a commercial consultant to commercial publishers.


New on the web

* Marian Dworaczek has posted the latest revision of her monumental Subject Index to Literature on Electronic Sources of Information.  You know that there is a huge literature on electronic publication.  If you're interested in the subset on Agriculture, Greek language, plagiarism, or XML, then Dworaczek is the only place to go.

* The Policy Library is a new web index of full-text research papers on public policy especially in the UK.  It claims to contain all the online papers from all UK think tanks.  Papers are both browsable and searchable.

* In April, the UK Consortium of University Research Libraries held a conference on digital preservation.  Now Ellis Weinberger has written an outline summary of the lessons from the workshop and put it on the web.  This is a remarkably useful distillation.  All task-oriented conferences should post such clear summaries.

* For another clear and useful report on an FOS-related conference, see Jean-Philippe Schmitt's summary of the CERN Workshop on the Open Archives Initiative and Peer Review Journals, held in Geneva in March.

* Online publications which depend on advertising revenue to subsidize their free content are worried by the growing popularity of ad-blocking software.  By threatening ad click-throughs, this trend threatens one form of free online content.  Hot Neuron has responded to the problem with a web site and discussion forum, SaveTheFreeWeb.com.  (Comment:  It seems to me that ad-driven publications are caught in a vicious circle.  As ad revenues dwindle, they respond with more conspicuous and intrusive ads, including ads in pop-up windows.  This naturally encourages readers interested in reading to look into ad-blocking software.)



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

* International Conference on Electronic Publishing 2001
Canterbury, July 5-7

* Digital Resources for the Humanities
London, July 8-10

* First DELOS International Summer School on Digital Library Technologies
Pisa, July 9-13

* Developing an agenda for institutional e-print archives
London, July 11

* First DELOS International Summer School on Digital Library Technologies
Pisa, July 9-13

* Biological Research with Information Extraction & Open-Access Publications
Copenhagen, July 26

* International Summer School on the Digital Library
Tilburg, Holland, August 5-10

* 5th European Conference on Research and Advanced Technology for Digital Libraries
Darmstadt, September 4-9

* DELOS Workshop on Interoperability in Digital Libraries
Darmstadt, September 8-9

* Experimental OAI Based Digital Library Systems
Darmstadt, September 8


In our discussion forum

Apart from some discussion of the Tasini case, the discussion forum this week contains some responses to my challenge in the last issue to come with some good antonyms for the word "free" (as in "free of charge").

You'll also find all the discussion postings formerly posted to the newsletter list.  I moved them to the discussion forum so that I could delete them from the newsletter list, which now contains nothing but back issues.  This completes the separation of the two lists.

If you receive the Newsletter by email and hit "reply" to send a comment, then your comment goes only to me, not to the discussion forum.  My general practice is to forward these comments to the discussion forum.  To post directly to the forum, you can use the web site or send email to "fos-forum @ topica.com" (first removing the spaces I've put before and after the @ symbol).  You may read discussion postings without subscribing, but may post your own only if you subscribe. 

BTW, when I created the discussion forum I didn't notice that by default Topica included it in its advertising network.  Hence, the email version of each posting was cluttered with advertising.  I just turned this off.  Sorry for not catching it sooner.

FOS discussion forum


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

Please feel free to forward this newsletter to interested colleagues.  If you are reading a forwarded copy of this issue, you may subscribe yourself by signing up at the FOS home page or the FOS Newsletter page.

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Peter Suber

Copyright (c) 2001, Peter Suber

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