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We’ve been tracking H.R. 801 – The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act introduced by Rep. John Conyers for the last few months. You may remember that the bill would reverse the National Institutes of Health (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. Lawrence Lessig has been public about his criticism of the bill and ALA has created a call to action to oppose H.R. 801.
Now Harvard University has released the March 2 letter it sent to its Congressional delegation, in support of the NIH policy and opposing the Conyers bill. Open Access News has reproduced the letter in its entirety:
We write to express our support for the widest possible access by the public and government to research results that have been government funded. Broadening access to government-funded research is in the best interest of the government, the researchers, and the general public. At Harvard, we have ourselves recently undertaken a range of activities to provide free and unfettered access to the scholarly research results of our faculty and students and to the unique collections in our library as part of our mission to disseminate knowledge for the benefit of the public, and continue to work toward openness in our activities.
Recently, Representative Conyers introduced H.R. 801, the “Fair Copyright in Research Works Act”. This legislation would limit access by the public to research that they have funded through government grants. It would overturn the NIH public access policy that guarantees access to NIH-funded research through PubMed Central, and would disallow extension of this policy to other government agencies.
The NIH public access policy has meant that all Americans have access to the important biomedical research results that they have funded through NIH grants. Some 3,000 articles in the life sciences are added to this invaluable public resource each month because of the NIH policy, and one million visitors a month use the site to take advantage of these research papers. The policy respects copyright law and the valuable work of scholarly publishers.
We strongly urge that you oppose H.R. 801. Rather than overturning the NIH policy that Congress mandated in 2007, Congress should broaden the mandate to other agencies, by passing the Federal Research Public Access Act first introduced in 2006. Doing so would increase transparency of government and of the research that it funds, and provide the widest availability of research results to the citizens who funded it.
The letter is signed by Steven E. Hyman, Provost; Robert Darnton, Director of the Harvard University Library; and Stuart M. Shieber, Faculty Director of the Office for Scholarly Communication.
The “Fair Copyright in Research Works Act” (H.R. 801) back and forth between bill sponsor Representative John Conyers and bill opponent Lawrence Lessig continues … LESSIG – A Reply to Representative Conyers, 03.09.2009:
“This bill is nothing more than a “publishers’ protection act.” It is an awful step backwards for science — as 33 Nobel Prize winners, the current and former head of the NIH, the American Library Association, and the Alliance for Taxpayer Access have all said. And Mr. Conyers knows this. Practically the identical bill was introduced in the last Congress. Mr. Conyers’ committee held hearings on that bill. The “open access” community rallied to demonstrate that this publishers’ bill was bad for science. Even some of the cosponsors of the bill admitted the bill was flawed. Yet after that full and fair hearing on this flawed bill, like Jason in Friday the 13th, the bill returned — unchanged, as if nothing in the hundreds of reasons for why this bill was flawed mattered to the sponsors…”
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
[Note: I’m pasting here the action alert from Jennifer McLennan, Director of Communications, Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC). FGI has no affiliation with SPARC, but this is an extremely important issue]
Last week, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee (Rep. John Conyers, D-MI) re-introduced a bill that would reverse the NIH Public Access Policy and make it impossible for other federal agencies to put similar policies into place. The legislation is H.R. 801: the “Fair Copyright in Research Works Act”.
Please contact your Representative no later than February 28, 2009 to express your support for public access to taxpayer-funded research and ask that he or she oppose H.R.801. Contact your Representative directly using the contact information and draft letter below, or via the ALA legislative action center. As always, kindly let us know what action you’re able to take, via email to stacie [at] arl [dot] org.
H.R. 801 is designed to amend current copyright law and create a new category of copyrighted works (Section 201, Title 17). In effect, it would:
- Prohibit all U.S. federal agencies from conditioning funding agreements to require that works resulting from federal support be made publicly available if those works are either: a) funded in part by sources other than a U.S. agency, or b) the result of “meaningful added value” to the work from an entity that is not party to the agreement.
- Prohibit U.S. agencies from obtaining a license to publicly distribute, perform, or display such work by, for example, placing it on the Internet.
- Stifle access to a broad range of federally funded works, overturning the crucially important NIH Public Access Policy and preventing other agencies from implementing similar policies.
- Because it is so broadly framed, the proposed bill would require an overhaul of the well-established procurement rules in effect for all federal agencies, and could disrupt day-to-day procurement practices across the federal government.
- Repeal the longstanding “federal purpose” doctrine, under which all federal agencies that fund the creation of a copyrighted work reserve the “royalty-free, nonexclusive right to reproduce, publish, or otherwise use the work” for any federal purpose. This will severely limit the ability of U.S. federal agencies to use works that they have funded to support and fulfill agency missions and to communicate with and educate the public.
Because of the NIH Public Access Policy, millions of Americans now have access to vital health care information through the PubMed Central database. Under the current policy, nearly 3,000 new biomedical manuscripts are deposited for public accessibility each month. H.R.801 would prohibit the deposit of these manuscripts, seriously impeding the ability of researchers, physicians, health care professionals, and families to access and use this critical health-related information in a timely manner.
All supporters of public access — researchers, libraries, campus administrators, patient advocates, publishers, and others — are asked to contact their Representatives to let them know you support public access to federally funded research and oppose H.R. 801. Again, the proposed legislation would effectively reverse the NIH Public Access Policy, as well as make it impossible for other federal agencies to put similar policies into place.
Thank you for your support and continued persistence in supporting this policy. You know the difference constituent voices can make on Capitol Hill.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact Heather or myself anytime.
Director of Communications
(The Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition)
(202) 296-2296 ext 121
jennifer [at] arl [dot] org
Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.
Draft letter text:
On behalf of [your organization], I strongly urge you to oppose H.R. 801, “the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act,” introduced to the House Judiciary Committee on February 3, 2009. This bill would amend the U.S. Copyright Code, prohibiting federal agencies from requiring as a condition of funding agreements public access to the products of the research they fund. This will significantly inhibit our ability to advance scientific discovery and to stimulate innovation in all scientific disciplines.
Most critically, H.R. 810 would reverse the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy, prohibit American taxpayers from accessing the results of the crucial biomedical research funded by their taxpayer dollars, and stifle critical advancements in life-saving research and scientific discovery.
Because of the NIH Public Access Policy, millions of Americans now have access to vital health care information from the NIH’s PubMed Central database. Under the current policy, nearly 3,000 new biomedical manuscripts are deposited for public accessibility each month. H.R.801 would prohibit the deposit of these manuscripts, seriously impeding the ability of researchers, physicians, health care professionals, and families to access and use this critical health-related information in a timely manner.
H.R. 801 affects not only the results of biomedical research produced by the NIH, but also scientific research coming from all other federal agencies. Access to critical information on energy, the environment, climate change, and hundreds of other areas that directly impact the lives and well being of the public would be unfairly limited by this proposed legislation.
[Why you support taxpayer access and the NIH policy].
The NIH and other agencies must be allowed to ensure timely, public access to the results of research funded with taxpayer dollars. Please oppose H.R.801.
[END LETTER TEXT]
Members of the House Committee on the Judiciary
(For other Members of Congress, please see www.house.gov or use the ALA legislative action center.
Name Fax number State:
Rep. Trent Franks 202-225-6328 AZ
Rep. Howard Berman 202-225-3196 CA
Rep. Zoe Lofgren 202-225-3336 CA
Rep. Maxine Waters 202-225-7854 CA
Rep. Brad Sherman 202-225-5879 CA
Rep. Adam Schiff 202-225-5828 CA
Rep. Linda Sánchez 202-226-1012 CA
Rep. Elton Gallegly 202-225-1100 CA
Rep. Dan Lungren 202-226-1298 CA
Rep. Darrell Issa 202-225-3303 CA
Rep. Robert Wexler 202-225-5974 FL
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz 202-226-2052 FL
Rep. Tom Rooney 202-225-3132 FL
Rep. Hank Johnson 202-226-0691 GA
Rep. Steve King 202-225-3193 IA
Rep. Luis Gutierrez 202-225-7810 IL
Rep. William D. Delahunt 202-225-5658 MA
Rep. John Conyers, Jr. 202-225-0072 MI
Rep. Gregg Harper 202-225-5797 MS
Rep. Melvin Watt 202-225-1512 NC
Rep. Howard Coble 202-225-8611 NC
Rep. Jerrold Nadler 202-225-6923 NY
Rep. Anthony Weiner 202-226-7253 NY
Rep. Dan Maffei 202-225-4042 NY
Rep. Jim Jordan 202-226-0577 OH
Res. Comm. Pedro Pierluisi 202-225-2154 PR – At large
Rep. Steve Cohen 202-225-5663 TN
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee 202-225-3317 TX
Rep. Charles A. Gonzalez 202-225-1915 TX
Rep. Lamar Smith 202-225-8628 TX
Rep. Louie Gohmert 202-226-1230 TX
Rep. Ted Poe 202-225-5547 TX
Rep. Jason Chaffetz 202-225-5629 UT
Rep. Rick Boucher 202-225-0442 VA
Rep. Robert Scott 202-225-8354 VA
Rep. Bob Goodlatte 202-225-9681 VA
Rep. J. Randy Forbes 202-226-1170 VA
Rep. Tammy Baldwin 202-225-6942 WI
Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. 202-225-3190 WI