Although it doesn’t look like copyright legislation, a recent U.S. federal spending bill mandated that more federal funding agencies must require funded research results to be provided on a free or open access basis. This has caused a flurry of news items and blog posts regarding the impact it will have on wider availability of scholarly communication. Open access means that the information is not behind a royalty paywall that is put in place by most commercial publishers who own the copyright, or right of distribution, for scholarly publications.
From a Janurary 17, 2014 “Inside Higher Ed” blog post:
“According to the bill, federal agencies must develop public access policies that provide a "machine-readable version of the author’s final peer-reviewed manuscripts that have been accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journal." The policy applies to all federal agencies with research and development expenditures exceeding $100 million a year.
Library Journal looks at the law a bit differently and provides a bit more detail:
“Included is language that mandates that research funded by agencies operating under the portion of the bill covering Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education must be made available to the public for free online.
That change is good news for advocates of open access, said Heather Joseph, executive director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), as it expands the number of agencies operating under the kind of open access policies that have been in place at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 2008.”
In the mean time, the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee continues to hold hearings regarding the possible overhaul of U.S. Code Title 17, otherwise known as copyright law. The most recent hearing on January 28, 2014 contained significant testimony regarding Chapter 1, section 107, the Fair Use section of Title 17. This section has historically been controversial due to the control if provides the copyright holders over their content. Large media corporations rely on copyright for their profits. Traditionally education stakeholders have argued for more strength in the Fair Use section, while commericial content providers have argued to weaken it or eliminate the section altogether.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation Deeplinks blog is concerned about who is testifying to the Committee:
“Copyright reform hearings continue to lumber along in the House of Representatives, with Tuesday's in the Judiciary Committee marking the seventh in as many months. This hearing was dedicated to "The Scope of Fair Use," and though the panel of witnesses was more diverse than in some of the earlier hearings, there were still some disappointing trends in the conversation.”
Some argue that Congress tends to favor large corporate content providers over other stakeholders, such as non-profits, educational interests and professionals in the arts.
The Committee continues to make videos of the hearings available, including the Jan. 28 hearing.
Copyright law ideally provides a balance between those who produce content and make their livelihoods from the ability to charge others for its use, and those who only thrive when there is free flow of content without restrictive costs. Now is a wonderful opportunity to follow along as legislators debate copyright law issues. This point in time also provides ample opportunity for those who work in fields that use and produce content to educate their representatives regarding what is necessary to keep copyright law balanced and workable.
Blog post created by Lorre Smith