Welcome to the Free Online Scholarship NewsletterAugust 7, 2001
This was a relatively slow news week for FOS issues, which gave me time to work on my (still forthcoming) Guide to the FOS Movement. This will be a web-based guide to the terminology, acronyms, initiatives, standards, technologies, and organizations in the movement to publish scholarly literature online and make it accessible to readers free of charge. The movement is extensive, but I'm only waiting until I have a critical mass of major entries before I put the first edition online. I estimate that I'm now 1-3 weeks from launch.
I'll be out of town August 9-12, attending the Computers and Philosophy conference at Carnegie Mellon and moderating a panel on publishing. The trip will delay the next issue and explain my temporary email silence.
Commercial exploitation of free online scholarship
When you make scholarly articles available to readers free of charge, then you also make them available to commercial services free of charge. What happens when a commercial publisher copies your content and directly or indirectly profits from it? Should you rejoice that your service has been useful, or should you feel ripped off? Here's a case study in the commercial exploitation of FOS. (For another case study, see the story on eScience and Chemical Abstracts in our July 17 issue.)
Research Papers in Economics (RePEc) is the largest decentralized digital library in the world. It's a network of 200+ archives of research papers, journal articles, and software in economics. All of it is available to readers free of charge. It was conceived and launched by Thomas Krichel in 1993, and is now maintained by over 100 volunteers around the world. On Saturday, I interviewed Krichel by telephone.
In June of this year Krichel noticed that Ecommunics, a web-based community and archive of economics research, had copied RePEc's papers, and was making them available to its own users without any credit or acknowledgement to RePEc. Fortunately, the RePEc papers were accompanied by metadata, like an email header, in a format Krichel invented. This had the welcome side-effect of making the RePEc papers unmistakably identifiable.
Ecommunics was not selling the papers. But it was selling other services, and apparently it intended to use the free papers, and its packaging of them, as a demonstration or advertisement of its technical skills, which would in turn bring in paying customers.
Krichel confronted the Ecommunics creators and asked for an acknowledgement that the papers came from RePEc. After some delay, Ecommunics agreed. The Ecommunics acknowledgement now accompanies each paper, and is not simply displayed once on the front page.
This wasn't Krichel's first experience with commercial exploitation. In 1995, the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) copied some RePEc papers for its service, which offered free abstracts to all and full-text articles to paying subscribers. Soon after Krichel confronted them, SSRN stopped the practice.
After these experiences, RePEc changed its statement of restrictions on the use of its data. The statement now says (inter alia) that users may not charge for the content "or include it in a service or product that is not free of charge."
I asked Krichel whether he was satisfied with Ecommunics' current position: acknowledging RePEc, but continuing to copy and use the data, without compensation, to promote a for-profit business. He said yes. As long as Ecommunics doesn't charge for the papers, it should be able to use them to enhance its bottom-line. If it succeeds, this proves the value of RePEc's service.
Questions. What restrictions should FOS providers put on the use of the scholarship in their collections? If copyrights are necessary to enforce these restrictions, should FOS providers welcome copyrighted papers? Which is better, prohibiting commercial publishers from copying free online papers into priced products or making them pay for the privilege? If a publisher can actually sell scholarly articles which are available elsewhere online free of charge, why shouldn't it be allowed to do so? Are there conceivable add-ons (navigation aids, search engines, citation data, link lists, etc.) which would justify commercial publishers in selling papers available elsewhere to anyone for free? Please post your answers or thoughts to our discussion forum.
Thomas Krichel's home page
RePEc's restrictions on the use of its data
List of archives participating in RePEc
FOS discussion forum(Anyone may read; only subscribers may post; subscription is free.)
* On August 5, netLibrary gives access to its Public Collection only to members with borrowing privileges at one of its partner libraries. There is no longer a Public Collection for free members.
* Mibrary has shut down from lack of funding. It produced KeyChain, software to ensure that buyers of digital texts received the appropriate versions and formats.
* Eprints 2 Alpha-1 has been released. This will be the successor to eprints 1. While it isn't ready to run yet, you can still download and study the code. (Eprints is the first and still leading software for constructing OAI-compliant archives.)
* The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) has created the Electronic Conference Proceedings Archive (eConf). eConf streamlines the process of providing free online access to conference proceedings. Unfortunately the archive is limited to conferences in physics.
* The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) has created the Portal to Computing Literature. This online archive is free until September 30 of this year. After that access will require payment, which is discounted for ACM members. Payment will not only give full-text access, but personalization services and hardcopy document delivery.
* ContentGuard has been given a patent on a method give content buyers an encrypted electronic "ticket" which is "punched" when the buyer reads or uses the content. The punch travels with the content when it is copied. The digital ticket can work with both online and offline content. ContentGuard is owned by Microsoft and Xerox.
* The HeadLine Project (Hybrid Electronic Access and Delivery in the Library Networked Environment) ended on July 31, and all its reports, newsletters, presentations, articles, and software are available at its web site.
* The ACLU's lawsuit to overturn the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which requires public libraries to filter web content for all patrons, has been set for trial. The government had argued that the case should be dismissed.
* In its new draft budget, the Senate more than doubles the amount of money to be spent on agents and attorneys to enforce federal copyright law. Currently we spend $4 million for 75 copyright cops. The Senate's new budget would spend $10 million for 155.
* The latest way for commercial providers to give away free content and still generate revenue is to bundle the content with spy software which copies information about the user (surfing habits, connection speed, system configuration, downloads), and then sends it back to the company. Some companies this information to pop up ads that match the user's apparent interests, and some simply sell the information to advertisers and marketers.
* If you want to sound off on the Sklyarov affair, join the eBookWeb online debate, "Digital Rights, DMCA and the Hackers." Among the participants is John Rutledge, a lawyer for ElcomSoft.
* How well are different governments doing at using the net to improve democracy and basic services? Here are two new ways to find out.
Comparing UK e-govt initiatives with those in other countries
Search for U.S. e-govt initiatives by type
In other publications
* In the August 6 issue of _First Monday_ Shanthi Kalathil and Taylor C. Boas have an article based on the research they did for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (reported in our last issue). They document the ways that oppressive regimes protect themselves from the liberalizing tendencies of the internet and actually turn its reach and power toward oppressive ends. Kalathil and Boas use China and Cuba as case studies.
* On August 1, the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) posted the latest draft of version 4 of its Text Encoding and Interchange guidelines. Version 3 has been in use since 1994.
* In the August issue of the _Journal of Electronic Publishing_, Alison Buckholtz describes the rationale of SPARC's "Declaring Independence" (DI) initiative and the reaction from researchers and publishers. The DI initiative encourages journals to cut loose from publishers whose exorbitant subscription prices limit readership and defeat the research purpose of the journal. It also helps journals analyze their publishing options, including free online publication. (More on the DI initiative in our May 18 issue.)
* Also in the August issue of the _Journal of Electronic Publishing_, Michael K. Bergman describes the problems and possible methods of searching the "deep internet" --the databases uncrawlable by standard search engines where most academic content resides.
* In the July/August issue of _CLIR Issues_, Abby Smith describes the problems of building digital library collections. Her overview summarizes research commissioned by the Digital Library Federation and soon to be published in separate articles.
* In the July/August issue of _D-Lib_, Steven Bell identifies a trend for database aggregators to obtain the exclusive rights to distribute certain academic journals. The result, he warns, could be a new digital divide.
* Also in the July/August issue of _D-Lib_, Herbert Van de Sompel and Oren Beit-Arie introduce the Bison-Futé model for generalizing the OpenURL linking framework beyond scholarly resources to the web in general.
* Also in the July/August issue of _D-Lib_, Lucia Snowhill summarizes the recommendations of the California Digital Library's Ebook Task Force on the infrastructure and policies for using eBooks in academic libraries.
* In the spring 2001 issue of _Future of Print Media_, Stephen Wood describes the advantages of e-books and the difficulties faced by libraries in lending them. He imagines some technical advances that would benefit both readers and librarians.
* The Global Development Network (GDNet) and the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) met in June to work out a plan for delivering free scholarly journals in electronic form to underdeveloped nations. The meeting's report is now available online.
* Phase 3 of JISC's eLib Programme began in 1997 and has just been evaluated by an independent consultant from outside higher education. The positive evaluation report, now online, is useful in part to appreciate the very large number of FOS-related initiatives that we owe to eLib and JISC.
* The three power-point presentations delivered at the "EJournals and the Web" program of the June ALA conference are now online at the NISO web site.
* England's Distributed National Electronic Resource (DNER) has just posted its first FAQ.
* Version 38 of Charles W. Bailey, Jr.'s Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography is now online. The latest edition includes over 1,400 books, articles, books, other sources on publishing online scholarship.
If you plan to attend one of the following conferences, please share your observations with us through our discussion forum.
* INSPIRAL workshop on integrating digital learning environments with digital library servicesLeicester, August 21
* The International Cultural Heritage Informatics Meeting http://www.archimuse.com/ichim2001/index.htmlMilan, September 3-7
* 5th European Conference on Research and Advanced Technology for Digital LibrariesDarmstadt, September 4-8
* DELOS Workshop on Interoperability in Digital LibrariesDarmstadt, September 8-9
* Experimental OAI Based Digital Library SystemsDarmstadt, September 8
* Preserving Online Content for Future GenerationsDarmstadt, September 8
* International Autumn School on the Digital Library and E-publishing for Physics, Astronomy and MathematicsGeneva, September 9-14
* Digital Libraries: Advanced Methods and Technologies, Digital CollectionsPetrozavodsk, September 11-13
* Digital Resources for Research in the HumanitiesSydney, September 26-28
* EBLIDA Workshop on the Acquisition and Usage of Electronic ResourcesThe Hague, September 28
This is the Free Online Scholarship Newsletter (ISSN 1535-7848).
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Copyright (c) 2001, Peter Suber