Open Access in Peril?

Posted September 18th 2008 @ 9:10 am by

I originally posted this on the blog at MPOW. I’m interested in the thoughts of readers here at Libraries Interact and in particular anything you may have heard about the debate currently underway in Australia about mandatory open access policies.

A recent article on the ars technica website entitled “Congress’s copyright fight puts open access science in peril” outlines some challenges to the open access movement. In particular legislation has been introduced into the House of Representatives in the United States which may end up challenging the ability for institutes such as the National Institute of Health to continue their open access policies. From the article:

Under existing law, the products of federally funded research belong to the scientists that perform it and institutions that host them. Academic journals have traditionally had researchers transfer the copyright of publications resulting from this research to the journals. The current NIH policy requires that authors they fund reserve the right to place the text and images of their publication in an NIH database hosted at PubMed Central (PMC).

The House of Representatives has seen the introduction of legislation, HR 6845 that, depending on its final format, may significantly curtail or eliminate the NIH’s ability to continue its open access policy. The current bill would prevent any arm of the federal government from making research funding contingent upon “the transfer or license to or for a Federal agency of… any right provided under paragraph (1) or (2) of section 106 in an extrinsic work, to the extent that, solely for purposes of this subsection, such right involves the availability to the public of that work.” Those Section 106 rights include the reproduction of the work.

This is particularly interesting given the discussions in research management circles surrounding the possibility of our major funding agencies introducing similar clauses to that which the NIH currently has.

It will be interesting to see how the debate unfolds in the US and more importantly the results of the debates currently underway here in Australia.

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