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Thread Title: Fair Copyright Act is to fair copyright what the Patriot Act was to patriotism
Created On Tuesday February 17, 2009 7:51 AM

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Tuesday February 17, 2009 7:51 AM

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A year or two ago I posted the news here that Pres. Bush had signed legislation that required NIH researchers who were recipients of public money to make their resultant papers freely available via Pub-Med or the like. Now, having realized that letting those who actually fund the research reap its benefits was both fair and logical, there is a bi-partisan effort to undo this.

Representative John Conyers (D-MI) has (re)introduced legislation to outlaw this free dissemination on the erroneous and deceptive premise that it violates the rights of the holder of the copyright. Since ownership is by the government/taxpayer, his argument is blatantly disingenuous. Going under the Orwellian Doublespeak title of Fair Copyright in Research Works Act, it transfers the rights to publish to private publishers who in turn sell it for a hefty charge.

From Mike Masnick at TechDirt:

Last year, Congress finally got fed up with the fact that publicly funded research was being locked up in various scientific journals. The whole journal business is something of a scam. Unlike other publications, the folks who write the papers for journals pay the journals to get their content published. On top of that, the "peers" who review the works aren't paid for their work either. In other words, these journals get a ton of free labor... and sometimes that labor pays them. And, then, on top of that, they charge ridiculously high prices for anyone to subscribe, claim the copyright on all submitted works, and are incredibly aggressive in enforcing that copyright. An academic I knew, at one point had to consider doing an experiment a second time just to get the same results, because mentioning the earlier results of his own study might violate the copyright of the journal. And, remember, much of this is happening with research that was funded by taxpayers.

So, Congress decided that any research that was funded by NIH (which funds about $30 billion in research each year) had to also be openly published one-year after it was published in the journal. It's hard to see how this damages the journals at all. They still retain a significant monopoly right on the works -- and have a year's head start. Yet, the journal publishers have been screaming bloody murder, and even trying to force academics to pay thousands of dollars to cover the "cost" of republishing the article in an open archiving database."

Last time he tried this 46 law professors and 33 US Nobel laureates in science pointed out the numerous flaws in the legal thinking and the counter-productive effect on research and education it would have. It appears he wasn't swayed.

Story and links here.

Let your Congress-person know that you feel research paid for by the public, for their mutual benefit, should not be taken away and given to private for profit publishers to produce thus both restricting its dissemination and requiring those who initially funded the research to pay for it all over again.

That said, perhaps we all should just use the bill's sponsors convoluted logic and claim our tax documents are our personal copyrighted materials and require payment of fees by the IRS if they want to use our materials in processing our returns.

But seriously, H.R. 801 is legally flawed and not in the interest of the American people. Tell Congress.

Edited: Tuesday February 17, 2009 at 8:08 AM by art...



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