Welcome to the Free Online Scholarship (FOS) Newsletter
     September 28, 2001

PLoS aftermath

I'm still surprised by the scarcity of news about the impact of the Public Library of Science deadline on September 1.  But items have started to trickle in.  If you've seen others, please let me know.

* The PLoS has put up a page describing its plan to launch its own journals.  It will pay the costs of online publication through author fees of $300 per article.  (For more on author fees, see FOSN for 9/6/01.)  It promises full financial disclosure on its web site so that the new journals can themselves be regarded as scientific experiments which others may monitor.

* The PLoS is also seeking donations to help it launch and support the new journals.

* In the new PLoS journals, authors will retain the copyrights to their articles but will "irrevocably license" them to the public domain on the condition that they be properly cited when distributed or reproduced.

* Pat Hagan, writing in BioMed Central for September 7 summarizes the PLoS plan to launch new journals and interviews some scientists about their own intentions.  William Gullick, for example, Professor of Cancer Biology at the University of Kent, signed the PLoS open letter but confesses that he'd send important work to non-compliant prestigious journals before new and unestablished PLoS journals.

* In an email, Gordon Fletcher of BioMed Central writes that PLoS is steering some researchers toward BMC.  One author recently wrote in a cover letter, "This is my first submission to BioMed Central and I am quite excited about it. As a signer of the PLOS open letter, I am taking seriously the commitment I made to support the goals of the PLOS movement."


Scholarship and the Anti-Terrorism Act

The Bush Administration has asked Congress to adopt the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2001.  Section 309 of the ATA defines "terrorism" through a long list of offenses, most already criminal, and then authorizes more severe penalties for them than were authorized by the statutes that first criminalized them.  Among the crimes the ATA now classifies as terrorist acts are violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).

The media seem to read the CFAA as if it prohibited only harmful computer agents like viruses and worms.  But in fact the CFAA doesn't even mention viruses or worms.  It prohibits "any communication containing any threat to cause damage to a protected computer" at least when transmitted "with intent to extort...any...thing of value."  The CFAA punishes these acts with fines and short prison sentences.  The ATA allows judges to impose life in prison without parole.

If you followed in the footsteps of Dmitri Sklyarov or Edward Felten, wrote code to bypass copy protection on digital books or music, and sent copies to the publishers and perhaps also the press to prove that the publishers' security was inadequate, when these communications had the foreseeable side-effect of enhancing your career as a programmer or researcher, would you be guilty of acts of terrorism under the ATA?

Section 306 of the ATA defines as terrorism any support for terrorism "through expert advice or assistance".  Does this cover people who point out the existence of computer security holes?  (I thank Francesca Fornari for suggesting this possibility.)  Does it cover people who write encryption software or even browsers?  Does it cover publishers of detailed maps?  Does it cover flying instructors who forget to employ racial profiling on the students enrolling in their classes?  Does it cover scholars who publish scholarship, when they happen to specialize in poisons or infectious diseases?

In deciding whether this is far-fetched, we should remember that it was only a short time ago in the U.S. that research articles on encryption were considered munitions, and publishing them was considered exporting munitions.  And that was not even during wartime.

If legislation eventually classifies some kinds of academic publications as munitions or assistance to terrorism (even if the ATA does not), then push will have come to shove, and we will have to ask whether fighting terrorism is more important than academic freedom.  If the conflict between the two is not avoidable, then this will be an important question.  It would be easier to have a clear public discussion of it, however, if the war on terrorism were not called Operation Enduring Freedom.

Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 9/19/01 draft

Department of Justice analysis of the ATA

Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA)

Gina Kolata, When Science Inadvertently Aids an Enemy

Jason Peckenpaugh, Mapping Agency Blocks Access

* Postscript.  In looking for the FOS implications of counter-terrorism, I recalled that _Surfaces_, a free online journal of the humanities, once used encryption to authenticate articles.  Unfortunately, _Surfaces_ ceased publication two years ago and my email to the former editor has gone unanswered.  So let me ask you.  Do you know of other scholarly journals that use encryption for authentication?  Can you imagine authentication problems that would be best solved through encryption?


How Surfaces used PGP



* The attack on New York's World Trade Center also destroyed one of the world's largest archives of historic theatrical photographs.  The photographs were stored one block away in the offices of Broadway Digital Entertainment, which was preparing them for digitization.

* An archive of films and photographs of Afghanistan has moved from the high heat and unstable power grid of Peshawar, Pakistan, to Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.  The move was approved last year but not completed until September 14.  Afghan scholars with assistance from Williams College will digitize the archive at its new location.

* As a response to the recent attacks, McGraw-Hill is offering one of its ebooks (on post-traumatic stress disorder) to the public free of charge.  This is generous.  But the National Academy Press offers free online versions of *all* its books, and has collected the titles most relevant to terrorism and security on a special web page.

* Earlier this month, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) changed its licensing terms for institutional subscribers and angered librarians around the world (see FOSN for 9/6/01).  Under the old policy, one subscription bought two usernames that were valid from any machine, on or off-campus.  Under the new policy, one subscription bought access for five specific machines (five IP addresses), all of which had to be on-campus.  The changes were to take effect on October 1.  NEJM has now softened its position.  Institutions may choose between the five-IP subscription or a username subscription under the proviso that the subscription password not be posted on a web site or "systematically or broadly" distributed to employees.  Subscribers have until October 15 to decide which option they prefer.  The early rumblings are that librarians are not mollified.

* sciBASE has added nearly four million records to its online database.  The new items include papers and abstracts from 100,000 scientific conferences since 1993, as well as articles from 30 journals since 1998.  The abstracts are available free of charge but users must pay for full-text articles.  sciBASE has roughly doubled in size during the past year.

* The Internet Society has condemned the DMCA.  It has concluded that the DMCA unjustifiably hinders research into encryption, and points to the Sklyarov and Felten cases as evidence.  The Internet Society is a non-profit, non-governmental organization working to insure the free and open evolution of the internet.

Internet Society

Internet Society Press Release, DMCA Cases Threaten Encryption Research

Internet body joins fight against DMCA

* The ingenta Institute is holding two meetings to reveal the results of its year-long research in the scholarly communication process.  The first meeting was three days ago (September 25), and the next will be October 4.  The results revealed so far show that print journals are still much in demand and simultaneously that use of online documents is growing fast.

* OverDrive Inc., has launched a suite of tools to convert any web content on the fly into Microsoft Reader [ebook] format.  This hugely enlarges the universe of texts compatible with Microsoft's format.  A related service allows online publishers whose content is not free of charge to insure that Microsoft Reader downloads comply with the publisher's rights management and access rules.  OverDrive offers similar conversion software for other ebook formats.

* Book Forager lets you find novels that match your criteria.  It offers you a list of 12 criteria and lets you use up to four.  Each is a scale on which you can set a sliding pointer.  Set the pointer (say) on the happy/sad scale, the optimistic/bleak scale, and the short/long scale, and then click FIND.  (PS:  This is interesting.  It's hard to imagine adapting it to research articles or general non-fiction in a way that would usefully supplement string searching.  But with sophisticated AI tied to a dynamic database, one can imagine a forager with scales for jargon thickness, current citation history, use of relevant sources, Erdös number, usefulness for terrorists, and political correctness.)


In other publications

* In the October issue of _Scientific American_, Paul Wallich argues that a Russian prosecutor could turn the tables on Adobe.  Dmitri Sklyarov is being prosecuted in the U.S. for writing software to bypass the copy protection scheme on Adobe ebooks.  This is prohibited by the anti-circumvention clause of the DMCA.  But Russian law not only allows users to make back-up copies of purchased, coprighted works, it might be construed to have an anti-anti-circumvention provision of its own, prohibiting companies from circumventing user back-up and fair-use rights with copy protection.  Wallich quotes a Russian legal expert who believes that any publisher attaching copy protection to its products might be subject to a class-action lawsuit in Russia.

* In the September/October _Educause Review_, Brian Hawkins makes the case for universal and perpetual online access to scholarly literature.  He argues that we have no plan to get there, and tries to articulate some steps in that direction, e.g. for search engines and metadata standards.  While existing forms of free online content are part of the solution, they have created problems for libraries (defining their new role) and for the selection and evaluation of information (in the absence of print publishers as quantity and quality filters).

* Do you remember the Tasini case decided by the Supreme Court in June?  Thirteen freelance writers complained that after the _New York Times_ bought and published their work in the paper, it reprinted their work in digital archives without further permission or compensation.  The Supreme Court sided with the writers.  In the September 25 _Village Voice_, Donna Ladd reports that the 13 Tasini plaintiffs now appear on a _Times_ list of freelance writers whose work should not appear in the paper.  The _Times_ says the writers have not been blacklisted.

* A September report from the Taubman Center for Public Policy says that egovernment is improving in the U.S.  For example, this year 93% of government publications are available online free of charge, compared to 74% last year.  But while 91% of government officials responded to the Taubman survey last year, only 80% responded this year.

* In its September 25 issue, _Content Intelligence_ reports that the more frequently men access the web, the more willing they are to pay for online content.  But this trend does not hold for women.  Women who access the web 10 times a day are exactly as willing to pay for online content as women who access the web once a day.  (PS:  The full-text article costs $119 and I only read the free abstract.  So if the authors explain this disparity, I haven't read the explanation.  How would you explain it?)

* In the September issue of _College & Research Libraries News_, David Shulenberger asks whether tenure committees really count a candidate's publications without regard to quality and, if so, whether that has contributed to the scholarly communication crisis.  His answer is that there is a limited, sometimes very limited, truth to both claims.  In addition, he argues that peer review is better at weeding out the bad than weeding out the insignificant, and that making research available in affordable journals is just as important as evaluating researchers on the quality of their research.  Shulenberger is the provost of the University of Kansas and the proposer of NEAR (National Electronic Article Repository).

* In a September 3 article posted to LLRX.com, Gloria Miccioli gives an up to date overview of the state of online medical research.

* In the Fall 2001 _Professional/Scholarly Publishing Bulletin_ published by the AAP, Kate Wittenberg asks what the array of new and alternative forms of electronic academic publication mean for the traditional for-profit publishers in her audience.  She concludes that the alternative publishers do a better job of finding the container (book, journal, other) most appropriate to the content, making their staffs small and nimble, and keeping costs down.  They are also "light years ahead of our own publishing experience and talents in traditional content selection, editorial refinement, print design and presentation, marketing, and production."  She hopes the traditional publishers can learn from the alternative publishers, enter into "creative collaboration" with them, and replace the atmosphere of "competitiveness, distrust, and at times open antagonism" with one of "cooperation and opportunity".


Catching up

* In June, CLIR put online Louis Pitschmann's report for DLF on how libraries do decide, and how they should decide, which free sites deserve links from their own pages.



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

* Exploring an Interface Between Cultural Heritage, Net Art, and State of the Art Projects
Copenhagen, October 3-5

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

* Frankfurt Book Fair, How To Implement DOIs
Frankfurt, October 10

* Frankfurt Book Fair, Financing Possibilities for Digital Content
Frankfurt, October 10

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

* Collections & Access for the 21st Century Scholar:  A Forum to Explore the Roles of the Research Library
Washington, D.C., October 19-20

* Intellectual Property Rights in the Knowledge-Based Economy
Washington, D.C., October 22

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

* e-Book Lessons:  From Life-Cycle to User Experiences
Waltham, Massachusetts, October 23

* Fourth Meeting of the [NAS] Committee on Intellectual Property Rights (only parts are open to the public)
Washington, D.C., October 23-24

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

* Copyright Issues in the Electronic Age
Waltham, Massachusetts, October 29

* Paperless Publishing:  Peer Review, Production, and Publication
Washington, D.C., October 30

* The XML Revolution:  What Scholarly Publishers Need to know
Waltham, Massachusetts, November 1

* 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

* Content Summit 01
Zurich, November 7-9

* Internet Librarian 2001
Pasadena, November 6-8

* First Annual Meeting of the Text Encoding Initiative Consortium
Pisa, November 16-17

* Digital Media Revolution in the Americas
Pasadena, November 29 - December 1


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

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Peter Suber

Copyright (c) 2001, Peter Suber

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