Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Open Access Hijinks

Just learned this from Lessig's blog - John Conyers has reintroduced an insanely stupid bill that would outlaw any public agency from requiring that tax payer funded research be made available free. Instead, you'd have to pay a publisher for it. From Lessig:

The Huffington Post is running a piece about H.R. 801, the latest version of John Conyers' awful idea. The law would forbid entities like the NIH from requiring that recipients of government grants make the product of their research openly accessible. (The current practice requires articles be freely accessible after 12 months.) Instead, Conyers' proposal would require that after the American taxpayer has paid for the research, the American taxpayer must pay publishers to get access to the product of the research.

The first important word to emphasize in the last sentence is "publishers." For unlike the ordinary market for creative work, here, the author isn't paid for his work through the copyright system.

This is a ridiculous bill. The simple reality is that the science publishers aren't needed anymore. Of course, no one likes to hear that their jobs aren't needed, and this group is smart enough to run to Congress and try to pre-empt technology from changing their business. This isn't directly related to film, but I'm pretty passionate about the need for open access to educational resources, especially those funded by taxpayers. I'm also pretty sure that what happens here will impact what can happen in the future with access to films. So, for example, the movement to make fully-funded PBS films available to the public for free could be made illegal by a similar act.

Anyway, if you care about this, you can find more info at the Open Access News blog which also tells you how to take action.

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