A couple of weeks ago, we posted a call to action against H.R. 801: The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act. The bill, re-introduced by Rep. John Conyers, D-MI), would reverse the NIH Public Access Policy regarding public access to taxpayer-funded research and make it impossible for other federal agencies to put similar policies into place.
Now, both the Huffington Post and Laurence Lessig have posted calls to action against H.R. 801 as well. Lessig is especially eloquent about this issue and nails the argument for open access journals. Plus, this Maplight (Money And Politics) report shows contributions received from book, newspaper and periodical publishing interests to H.R.801 sponsors — a small price to pay for the profits those commercial publishers stand to gain right?!
The first important word to emphasize in the last sentence is “publishers.” For unlike the ordinary market for creative work, here, the author isn’t paid for his work through the copyright system. It is the government (indirectly) paying for the research that the author (a scientist) creates. Scientists write articles as part of their job; other scientists peer-review those articles (usually for free); and journals then publish those articles without paying the author anything. Those journals, however, then charge libraries across the world an increasingly high rate to get access to the research in those journals. As the industry has become more concentrated, those rates have skyrocketed — rising much faster than inflation.
The “open access movement” was born to create an alternative to this. Even if restrictive copyright was a necessary evil in the days of dead-tree based publishing, it was still an evil. High costs restrict access. The business model of the scientist is to spread his or her knowledge as widely as possible. Open access journals, such as, for example, those created by the Public Library of Science, have adopted a different publishing model, to guarantee that all all research is freely accessible online (under the freest Creative Commons license) immediately, to anyone around the world. This guarantee of access, however, is not purchased by any compromise in academic standards. There is still a peer-review process. There is still even a paper-based publication.
I hope you’ll agree the H.R. 801 is a disturbing piece of legislation and I reiterate the call to action against H.R.801