Welcome to the Free Online Scholarship (FOS) Newsletter
     August 31, 2001

Public Library of Science (PLoS) deadline tomorrow

Remember that the PLoS deadline is tomorrow, September 1.  That means that starting tomorrow, the 26,000+ worldwide signers of its public letter are committed to avoiding journals which do not put their contents online free of charge within six months of print publication.

In a letter sent out today (which I've forwarded to our discussion forum), the original eight signers point out that there are more signers producing research articles than compliant journals to publish them.  The number of PLoS-compliant journals is about six.  The exact number depends on how strictly one interprets compliance, but now matter how one interprets it, the number is small.  Hence it appears that one PLoS strategy for moving forward will be to encourage the development of new (free online) journals.

This will be the real breakthrough.  We never had to wait for the existing journals to see the light, consent to FOS, or change their policies.  We always had the option to create new journals.  For journals publishing online, and dispensing with a print edition, the chief obstacle is to find respected and motivated scholars willing to serve on the editorial boards.  The PLoS initiative has convened a very large number of them.  A related problem is giving scholars an incentive to publish in online journals when print journals have more prestige, and when career pressures mean that increased readership and impact do not offset the loss of prestige.  Again, the PLoS has gathered a large number of researchers who not only have the incentive, but who have taken a pledge.

The technical problems have long since been solved.  For PLoS signers, the significant political problems have also been solved.  Let's see what happens.  As new FOS journals come online, publishing good articles in good numbers, and charging no subscription fees, I wonder how long it will take for the number of PLoS compliant journals to rise from six to six hundred.

Public Library of Science


U.S. Copyright Office releases long-awaited study of DMCA

On August 29 the U.S. Copyright Office released its long-awaited study of the Digitial Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), which was required by Section 104 of the DMCA itself.  The study recommends that purchasers of digital content be allowed to make personal back-ups, provided these are not shared or sold.  This requires that purchasers have the technical means to make back-ups, which requires publishers to drop the absolute copy protection that many are using today.

The study does not recommend a "digital first sale" doctrine, which many DMCA critics wanted.  This would have given purchasers of digital content the right to distribute the content, just as a purchaser of a physical book has the right to  loan or give away the book to others.  Because digital works can easily be loaned or given away while the original owner retains a copy, the Copyright Office found the analogy between digital works and physical, printed texts limited.

The study sees no violation of user-rights when publishers "tether" a digital work to a particular piece of hardware.  Tethering prevents purchasers from taking their purchased works with them when they upgrade machines or switch platforms.  Tethering seems to bother the Copyright Office, but it is taking no steps because it believes that tethering is rare "outside the context of electronic books".  (So what about inside that context?)

Librarians and user-rights groups have already criticized the study.  Quoting Rick Weingarten of the American Library Association:  "In our view, [the copyright office] still doesn't grasp what technology is doing to the issue of user rights."  Quoting Fred Von Lohmann of the Electronic Frontier Foundation:  "Our worst fears about the [DMCA] are coming true."

The study is based on public comments and a public hearing, which are faithfully recorded in Volumes Two and Three of the study.

Ariana Eunjung Cha, Keep Digital Copyright Law Intact, Agency Says

Andrea Foster, Libraries Criticize Federal Report on Digital-Copyright Law

DMCA Report by the U.S. Copyright Office


Another way to pay for FOS

In the U.S. consumers once paid a surcharge on blank audio and video cassettes.  The money went into a fund which was eventually disbursed among copyright holders of music and video.  The theory was that some consumers would make illegal copies, and the surcharge would compensate the rights holders.  I cannot tell how successful this system was --my search results are always oddly thin.  (If you know what happened to this system in the U.S., please send me an email or post your information to our discussion forum.)  But as a consumer, I liked the idea.  Even though it made all consumers pay for the copying of some, it legitimated copying.  I taped some copies of LPs and slept without guilt.

This system is used widely in Europe.  The agencies levying the surcharges, however, are stirring controversy by extending their reach to scanners, recordable DVDs, burnable CDs, hard drives, and other computer hardware.  Their reasoning is impeccable.  Computers and their peripherals are now the ultimate copying machines.

I don't know the algorithm for determining the surcharge applied to each hard drive, or the algorithm for distributing money to each copyright holder.  But if done fairly, this system has revolutionary potential.  Legalize copying of all kinds, but charge for it when consumers buy copying systems and media.

Question.  Would you prefer that system to what we have now?  For most consumers the question will be about music and video.  But here let's limit the question to scientific and scholarly literature, both in book and journal forms.  Would you pay a little extra for a computer (say, $35) if all the literature you wanted to read was freely accessible and permission to copy was universal?

I get the $35 figure from the estimated surcharge on computers to be levied in Germany. (See Juliana Gruenwald's article, cited below.)  But this estimate may be based on music and video copying.  If so, it would have to rise if the system also covered research literature.  But compared to the volume of copied music, the volume of copied research literature must be tiny and would raise the surcharge only slightly.

To make the system fair, we would need reasonably accurate measurements of the amount of copying.  Otherwise we wouldn't know whether to bump up the price of a computer $35 or $350 or whether to give Elsevier 1% or 10%.  Download counters wouldn't catch the peer-to-peer traffic.  So would you put up with packet sniffers or other eavesdropping technologies to take random samples of the copy traffic, as long as your identity was not recorded?

Is there any reason why this system couldn't be extended from music and video to scientific and scholarly literature?  What have we learned from the experience with music and video, or from the wider experience in Europe, that might help here?

If you are a publisher, would you be willing to make your literature freely accessible and copyable if you were sufficiently compensated by the surcharge fund?  If you feel short-changed by freely shared digital copies, would you rather sue readers for violating your copyright, lobby your national legislature to prohibit the technologies of free copying and sharing, or take your complaint to the surcharge fund distribution board?

Juliana Gruenwald, Digital Copyright Tug O' War

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



* On August 29, Texterity launched the TextCafe eBook Logistics Service for translating ebooks from the Open eBook format to all the other major ebook formats.

* An anonymous U.S. programmer has broken the fifth or highest level of encryption on Microsoft ebooks.  The programmer has announced that he or she has no plans to make the program public.  The purpose was to make his or her own purchased ebooks readable on more than one platform.  Dmitry Sklyarov faces harsh penalties for taking the same steps with Adobe ebooks and making his program public (see next item, below).$493
(Thanks to Denise Troll for bringing this to my attention.)

* On August 28, Dmitry Sklyarov and his company, ElcomSoft, were indicted on five counts of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).  This ends speculation that a plea bargain was in the works.  Sklyarov faces up to 25 years in prison and a fine of half a million dollars.

* While Sklyarov faces punishment for presenting his method for bypassing the copy protection on Adobe ebooks, his boss at ElcomSoft, Alexander Katalov, has announced that he will give an updated version of Sklyarov's presentation at a November conference in Amsterdam.

* Harvard's Berkman Center is throwing its weight behind Edward Felten's lawsuit to declare that he has a First Amendment right to present his encryption research and that any part of the DMCA which would prohibit him from doing so must be found unconstitutional. (See FOSN for August 16.)

* The Computing Research Association (CRA) is working with the Berkman Center to support Felten.  The CRA is a consortium of North American CS departments.

* The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) is also supporting Felten.  It has written an amicus brief to support his First Amendment and anti-DMCA claims.

* Most of the journals published by Nature (except the weekly _Nature_ itself) will adopt Advance Online Publication (AOP), the policy of posting accepted articles to the internet as soon as they are ready.  These are the refereed and edited versions of the articles, final in every way except for their pagination.  _Nature Genetics_ turned to AOP last month, and the other Nature journals will turn to it in coming months.  Nature makes abstracts available on its web site free of charge, but limits full-text to paying subscribers.

* Questia, which calls itself the World's Largest Online Library, has launched version 2.0 of its service.  This is not FOS.  Questia charges students $19.95 a month for access to online texts and study aids like text highlighters and footnote and bibliography citation generators.  Version 2.0 enlarges the online collection from 35,000 to 60,000 full-text sources.  (We last covered Questia in the July 31 issue, when it struck a deal with AOL.)

Press release

Questia home page


New on the web

* BrightPlanet has released version 2 of LexiBot, its software for searching the deep internet, the databases not crawled by standard search engines and by some estimates 500 times larger than the surface internet.  Since much online scholarship exists in these databases, a deep internet search engine will be a valuable FOS tool.  However, while LexiBot claims it will search 2,200 databases, it doesn't enumerate them anywhere that I could find, so it's hard to know which scholarly databases are within its scope.  The software is free for a 30-day trial.

* Planet eBook has posted to the web summaries of all the presentations from the Open Publish 2001 conference in Sydney, July 30 - August 2.  For most presentations, it also offers downloadable full-text.

* The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) has updated its "Pizza Chef" software for helping users build a document type definition (DTD) for their work.

* In the last issue I printed a dead link for the preliminary results of the survey conducted by the developers of eprint software (for creating OAI-compliant archives).  The link has since been fixed.  You can find the survey results here:

* Does progress toward FOS seem to be moving slowly?  It may seem that way, day to day, but it helps to remember that the World Wide Web is only 10 years old this month.  While FOS was possible on pre-internet computers, and on the pre-web internet (e.g. arXiv), it didn't really ignite widespread passion or imagination until the arrival of the web.  If you look at what's been done, and what's on the drawing board, then it's clear that we've come a very long way in only 10 years.  The article at the link below is not about this at all, but simply reminds us that this is the web's 10th birthday.


In other publications

* In an August 28 contribution to the _Nature_ debate on FOS, Jon Bosak argues that XML can greatly improve the presentation and retrieval of digital scientific literature but, unfortunately, only by increasing the production costs.  (Bosak is one of the creators of XML.)

* In the August 28 _New York Times_ David Kirkpatrick reports that ebooks are not taking off as fast as boosters hoped.

* Archives should be interoperable.  So should information-swapping applications, publishers, and text formats.  But digital rights languages?  In an August 24 article posted to Planet eBook, Renato Iannella makes the case for the Open Digital Rights Language (ODRL), an interoperable language allowing a description of rights to accompany digital content.

* In the August 23 _Wired News_, Kendra Mayfield describes the University of Phoenix's plan to phase out print textbooks in favor of ebooks.  The University of Phoenix is a for-profit university specializing in distance education.  Even apart from Phoenix's special needs, Mayfield reports that publishers see demand from the education market for customized, interactive electronic textbooks.

* In the August 17 _NewMedia_, Bob Woods describes the success of the Library of Congress's American Memory site:  100 million hits in the 12 months from April '00 to April '01.  American Memory is a huge, free, online collection of Library of Congress materials in many media.  It's aimed at students studying American history.  If material useful to students deserves the name of scholarship, then American Memory is an FOS success story.

* In the August 9 _Chicago Tribune_, David Streitfeld argues that consumers don't see ebooks as solutions to real problems.  The article focuses on fiction and trade non-fiction, not scholarly ebooks.

* In the August 3 issue of _The Filter_, Lawrence Lessig shows how the copyright debate has changed since 1995, when it seemed that the thriving of the internet meant the death of copyright.  He re-articulates the problems with the DMCA in light of recent defenses of it, and argues that the real issue is not whether copyright is dead but "how many other values get sacrificed in the name of protecting copyright."


Share your thoughts

* On August 31, the RLG and OCLC want your comments on their draft report on the "Attributes of a Trusted Digital Repository."  The goal is to develop strategies and systems for long-term access and preservation to digital content.


Catching up

* In May, Adobe launched eBook U, an initiative to sell ebooks to universities and explore the potential for ebooks for  teaaching and learning.  Under the plan, Adobe's university partners will get free software and training for making ebooks, and Adobe will study how they used.


Following up

* In the August 7 issue, we explored the problem of the commercial exploitation of FOS.  One defense against it is to copyright free online articles, rather than put them into the public domain.  This gives the author the right to stop a publisher from making copies which it might use commercially.  An August 23 story posted to Cosmiverse reports on an intriguingly analogous problem --with no FOS connection beyond this analogy.  If you are a celebrity worried that stalking fans steal might your hair brush or restaurant fork, and have mad scientists clone you, then you may thwart them and sleep soundly at night by copyrighting your DNA.  Can you really copyright your DNA?  Either you can, or California's DNA Copyright Institute, which secures DNA copyrights at $1,500 a pop for clone-anxious celebrities, is a fraud.  (Could clone-worthy celebrities really be gullible?)

Copyright your DNA

The DNA Copyright Institute


I've been receiving a steady stream of helpful suggestions for my Guide to the FOS Movement, launched last week.  I've noted all of them an acted on most of them already.  Meantime, I have my own backlog of worthy sites to add.  If only I didn't have this newsletter to take my time--



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

* The International Cultural Heritage Informatics Meeting
Milan, September 3-7

* 5th European Conference on Research and Advanced Technology for Digital Libraries
Darmstadt, September 4-8

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

* Experimental OAI Based Digital Library Systems
Darmstadt, September 8

* Preserving Online Content for Future Generations
Darmstadt, September 8

* International Autumn School on the Digital Library and E-publishing for Physics, Astronomy and Mathematics
Geneva, September 9-14

* Digital Libraries:  Advanced Methods and Technologies, Digital Collections
Petrozavodsk, September 11-13

* Intellectual Property and Multimedia in the Digital Age:  Copyright Town Meeting
New York, September 24; Cincinnati, October 27; Eugene, Oregon, November 19

* Digital Resources for Research in the Humanities
Sydney, September 26-28

* EBLIDA Workshop on the Acquisition and Usage of Electronic Resources
The Hague, September 28

* Summer School on the Digital Library 2001:  Electronic Publishing
Florence, October 7-12

* IT in the Transformation of the Library
Milwaukee, October 11-14

* International Conference on Dublin Core and Metadata Applications 2001
Tokyo, October 22-26

* Information in a Networked World:  Harnessing the Flow
Washington D.C., November 2-8

* Electronic Book 2001:  Authors, Applications, and Accessibility
Washington D.C., November 5-7


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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Guide to the FOS Movement

Peter Suber

Copyright (c) 2001, Peter Suber

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