copyright conflicts and online open access

If you follow copyright and intellectual property legislation, you might get the impression that universities and libraries are under attack from the publishing industry. There have recently been a series of lawsuits and bills designed to strengthen content publishers at the expense of authors and universities.

One awful example is SOPA (and it’s companion bill in the Senate, PIPA), which attempts to combat online “piracy”, may pass, and if it does will have very negative consequences for the stability of the Internet since it undermines the domain name system on which the Internet depends. Many of us noted and supported the Internet blackout earlier this week, which seems to have had an effect in getting widespread attention for the problem. The UO’s congressional delegation is firmly opposed to PIPA and SOPA, but if you have colleagues at other institutions it would never hurt to alert them to the issues.

Another such bill is H.R. 3699, which would undo the progress that the National Institutes of Health have made in making taxpayer-funded research publicly available. H.R. 3699 has started to generate strong reactions from the academic community. For example, there was an excellent op ed piece in the New York Times last week by Michael Eisen — see “Research Bought, Then Paid For”   In stark contrast, a recent OSTP request for information solicits advice that could result in extending the NIH public access mandate to more federal agencies. The UO filed a response discussing some of the benefits of improved public access. You can read it at

Yet a third interesting bill is H.R. 3433 (aka the GRANT Act), which, nominally in the name of public access to information, in fact would have serious consequences for NSF funding since it would mandate public disclosure of the names of reviewers (bye bye blind peer review) and would publish all grant applications (bye bye competitive advantage as foreign countries jump on the bandwagon based on which NSF grants are funded before our researchers have a chance to do the research).

I’m happy to report that our Office of Public and Government Affairs (Betsy Boyd) is on top of all of these.  She writes “There are several bills, as JQ noted, that threaten innovation and open access in the name of transparency and open access.”

We live in interesting times.

[Originally posted by JQ Johnson, Director, Scholarly Communications, UO Libraries]

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