March 5th, 2009
It seems Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) is up to his old tricks again, doing the bidding of the large publication houses and introducing H.R. 801, the misleadingly named Fair Copyright in Research Works Act. This bill would remove the requirement that publications from publicly funded research be made available freely to the public after a period of time. In effect allowing journal publishers to profit from tax payer funded research findings, but not tax payers. Never mind the fact that these publications are peer-reviewed pro bono by other researchers. The bill is opposed by a wide range of groups, from Nobel laureates to libraries to patient advocates. James Boyle has an article with an entertaining, if somewhat fanciful, conversation between a representative sponsoring the bill and his staff. The article closes with an interesting point: it is only when these articles come out from the protection of publisher web sites that the true power of hyperlinking and networking on the web can be applied to the advancement of science (perhaps Sage could learn something from Prof. Boyle).
A blog post by Lawrence Lessig easily finds the link between campaign contributions and this bill which is so obviously not in the public interest. MAPLight.org shows that the publishing industry has given $110,950 to committee members that will be determining whether this bill goes to the full House; with bill sponsors receiving, on average, twice as much money as non-sponsors.
So don’t just sit there, if your representative is on the House Committee on the Judiciary, write to them and urge them to oppose this bill. You can find an example letter (from the last time they tried to push this sort of bad legislation through) here (don’t forget to update the bill name and number). And support open access journals!