Fair Copyright in Research Works Act: Ten Associations and Advocacy Groups Send Letter to Judiciary Committee Members Opposing Act

Ten associations and advocacy groups, including AALL, ACRL, ALA, ARL, and GWLA, have sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee members opposing the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act (H.R. 801).

Here's an excerpt:

The U.S. government funds research with the expectation that new ideas and discoveries from the research will propel science, stimulate the economy, and improve the lives and welfare of Americans. Public support for science is enhanced when the public directly sees the benefits from our nation's investment in scientific research. Yet H.R. 801 would reverse the only U.S. policy for public access to research, at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and make it impossible for other agencies to enact similar policies.

Scientific research is advanced by broad dissemination of knowledge, and the subsequent building upon the work of others. To this end, the NIH Public Access Policy ensures that the results of our nation's $29 billion annual investment in research reach the broadest possible audience. The Policy requires that, in exchange for receiving federal research dollars, grantees deposit the final electronic manuscript of their peer-reviewed research results into PubMed Central, NIH’s digital archive, to be made publicly available within 12 months—and was specifically implemented in full compliance with current U.S. copyright law.

The NIH Policy achieves several notable goals: First, it ensures broad public access to the results of NIH's funded research, allowing scientists and researchers to collaborate and engage in cutting-edge research. Such access allows for greater sharing of information, speeding discovery, medical advances, and innovations.

Second, the NIH Policy ensures that the U.S. government has a permanent archive of these critical, publicly funded biomedical research results, ensuring that results can be built upon by not only this generation, but also future generations, of researchers.

Finally, the Policy creates a welcome degree of accountability and transparency, which enable us to better manage our collective investments in the NIH research portfolio and ensure the maximum possible benefits to the public in return.

At the direction of Congress, the NIH Public Access Policy, in place as a voluntary measure since 2005, was recently strengthened to a mandatory policy. As a result, the rate of eligible manuscripts being deposited for public accessibility quickly increased from 19% to 60%. This requirement proved crucial to ensuring that the more than 80,000 articles resulting from NIH funding each year are, for the first time, available to any researcher, physician, faculty member, student, or member of the public who wants them.

H.R.801 presupposes that the NIH Public Access Policy undermines the rights of the author and conflicts with U.S. copyright law. As library organizations and allies we fully respect copyright law and the protection it affords content creators, content owners, and content users. NIH-funded research is copyrightable and copyright belongs to the author. The NIH Policy requires only the grant of a non-exclusive license to NIH, fully consistent with federal policies such as Circular A- 110 and Circular A-102. This policy leaves the author free to transfer some or all of the exclusive rights under copyright to a journal publisher or to assign these anywhere they so choose. Attached please find an issue brief detailing how the NIH Public Access Policy does not affect copyright law [see the letter for the brief].

The NIH Public Access Policy advances science, improves access by the public to federally funded research, provides for effective archiving strategies for these resources, and ensures accountability of our federal investment. Given the proven success of the revised NIH Public Access Policy and the promise of public access to federally funded research, we firmly oppose H.R.801 and ask that you do the same. Thank you for considering the stake and position of the key constituencies in this discussion.

Read more about it at "Conyers Introduces H.R. 801, "The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act."

Urgent Call to Action: Conyers Bill Opposing NIH Open Access Policy May Soon Come to House Vote

There are strong indications that Rep. John Conyers, Jr. will try to get a House vote on the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act (H.R. 801) much more quickly than previously thought. If you want to oppose the bill and support the NIH Public Access policy, you should contact members of the House Judiciary Committee and your Representative immediately by e-mail, fax, phone, or letter. This is especially important if a Judiciary Committee member is in your district.

Here's an excerpt from the Alliance for Taxpayer Access call to action to defeat the Conyers bill:

All supporters of public access—researchers, libraries, campus administrators, patient advocates, publishers, and others—are asked to please contact your Representative . . . to express your support for public access to taxpayer-funded research and ask that he or she oppose H.R.801. Draft letter text is included below. . . .

H.R. 801 is designed to amend current copyright law and create a new category of copyrighted works (Section 201, Title 17). In effect, it would:

  1. Prohibit all U.S. federal agencies from conditioning funding agreements to require that works resulting from federal support be made publicly available if those works are either: a) funded in part by sources other than a U.S. agency, or b) the result of "meaningful added value" to the work from an entity that is not party to the agreement.
  2. Prohibit U.S. agencies from obtaining a license to publicly distribute, perform, or display such work by, for example, placing it on the Internet.
  3. Stifle access to a broad range of federally funded works, overturning the crucially important NIH Public Access Policy and preventing other agencies from implementing similar policies.
  4. Because it is so broadly framed, the proposed bill would require an overhaul of the well-established procurement rules in effect for all federal agencies, and could disrupt day-to-day procurement practices across the federal government.
  5. Repeal the longstanding "federal purpose" doctrine, under which all federal agencies that fund the creation of a copyrighted work reserve the "royalty-free, nonexclusive right to reproduce, publish, or otherwise use the work" for any federal purpose. This will severely limit the ability of U.S. federal agencies to use works that they have funded to support and fulfill agency missions and to communicate with and educate the public.

Because of the NIH Public Access Policy, millions of Americans now have access to vital health care information through the PubMed Central database. Under the current policy, nearly 3,000 new biomedical manuscripts are deposited for public accessibility each month. H.R.801 would prohibit the deposit of these manuscripts, seriously impeding the ability of researchers, physicians, health care professionals, and families to access and use this critical health-related information in a timely manner.

All supporters of public access—researchers, libraries, campus administrators, patient advocates, publishers, and others—are asked to contact their Representatives to let them know you support public access to federally funded research and oppose H.R. 801. Again, the proposed legislation would effectively reverse the NIH Public Access Policy, as well as make it impossible for other federal agencies to put similar policies into place. . . .

Draft letter text:

Dear Representative;

On behalf of [your organization], I strongly urge you to oppose H.R. 801, “the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act,” introduced to the House Judiciary Committee on February 3, 2009. This bill would amend the U.S. Copyright Code, prohibiting federal agencies from requiring as a condition of funding agreements public access to the products of the research they fund. This will significantly inhibit our ability to advance scientific discovery and to stimulate innovation in all scientific disciplines.

Most critically, H.R. 801 would reverse the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy, prohibit American taxpayers from accessing the results of the crucial biomedical research funded by their taxpayer dollars, and stifle critical advancements in life-saving research and scientific discovery.

Because of the NIH Public Access Policy, millions of Americans now have access to vital health care information from the NIH’s PubMed Central database. Under the current policy, nearly 3,000 new biomedical manuscripts are deposited for public accessibility each month. H.R.801 would prohibit the deposit of these manuscripts, seriously impeding the ability of researchers, physicians, health care professionals, and families to access and use this critical health-related information in a timely manner.

H.R. 801 affects not only the results of biomedical research produced by the NIH, but also scientific research coming from all other federal agencies. Access to critical information on energy, the environment, climate change, and hundreds of other areas that directly impact the lives and well being of the public would be unfairly limited by this proposed legislation.

[Why you support taxpayer access and the NIH policy].

The NIH and other agencies must be allowed to ensure timely, public access to the results of research funded with taxpayer dollars. Please oppose H.R.801.

More Coverage of the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act

Here are some additional articles/postings about the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act.

Fair Copyright in Research Works Act: Bill Opposing Open Access Reintroduced in House

Rep. John Conyers has reintroduced the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act (H.R. 801) in the House.

Here's an excerpt from Peter Suber's posting:

The Fair Copyright Act is to fair copyright what the Patriot Act was to patriotism.  It would repeal the OA policy at the NIH and prevent similar OA policies at any federal agency.  The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, where Conyers is Chairman, and where he has consolidated his power since last year by abolishing the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property.  The Judiciary Committee does not specialize in science, science policy, or science funding, but copyright. 

The premise of the bill, urged by the publishing lobby, is that the NIH policy somehow violates copyright law.  The premise is false and cynical.  If the NIH policy violated copyrights, or permitted the violation of copyrights, publishers wouldn't have to back this bill to amend US copyright law.  Instead, they'd be in court where they'd already have a remedy.  For a detailed analysis of the bill and point by point rebuttal to the publishing lobby's rhetoric, see my article from October 2008.

I'll have more soon on ways to mobilize in opposition to the bill and support the NIH and the principle of public access to publicly-funded research.  Meantime, if you're a US citizen and your representative is a member of the Judiciary Committee, it's not to early to fire off an email/fax/letter/phone call to your representative opposing the bill and defending the NIH policy.  You can find ammo here:

Also see: "Bill Banning NIH-Like Public Access is Reintroduced in Congress."