[Insight-users] OPEN ACCESS: Congress's copyright fight puts open access science in peril: Page 1

Luis Ibanez luis.ibanez at kitware.com
Tue Sep 16 17:53:52 EDT 2008


"Congress's copyright fight puts open access science in peril"
By John Timmer

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.

Last week, the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts, the
Internet, and Intellectual Property held a hearing on the proposed
legislation. If anyone was thinking that policies related to publicly
funded scientific research were free of politicking and rampant
self-interest so frequently involved in the copyright and intellectual
property battles, the hearings would have erased them. Legislators
questioned whether it made sense to mandate the transfer of copyrights
at a time when the US government was pushing for other governments to
respect those rights. At one point, hearing chair Howard Berman (D-CA)
noted that the N in NIH shouldn't stand for *Napster*.


Different members of the Subcommittee expressed surprise at various
aspects of the current system, such as the fact that peer reviewers
perform the function free (although, as noted, the process of arranging
for peer review can be expensive). Also eliciting surprise was the
revelation that authors are not paid by publishers for the transfer of


In fact, many publishers charge money for the publication of scientific
research, even those that obtain copyright to the work in the process.
Dr. Elias Zerhouni, director of the NIH, shocked Berman when he
mentioned that the NIH hands out $100 million a year to grant recipients
specifically to cover the cost of publishing their results. It would
certainly have been possible for those testifying in favor of the open
access policy to argue that the public pays part of the cost of nearly
every stage of the publishing process, and might expect to have some
access to the end product.


George Washington University Law professor Ralph Oman pushed it so
aggressively that it appeared absurd. The NIH policy, in his
presentation, "will destroy the commercial market" and leave science
without a peer-review system. When asked if the NIH could manage peer
reviewing, something it already does with grants, Oman had a reasonable
answer—not without increasing its budget to cover the cost—but buried it
in rhetoric about "a healthy distrust for the hairy snout of
government," and his "great confidence in the private sector."
Apparently, he does not own stock in *Shearson Lehman* or *AIG*.



Full article at

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