Peter Suber, A tale of two bills: the Research Works Act and Federal Research Public Access Act
Connotea Imports 2012-03-08
"The RWA is now dead, withdrawn by its Congressional sponsors and chief lobbyist-supporter. But here's a biography and obituary....The RWA would have repealed the OA mandate at the NIH and blocked similar policies at other federal agencies....Issa believed that the NIH policy violates publisher copyrights. But this is false....To repeat the very familiar facts one more time: under the NIH policy, publishers never acquire full copyright to articles arising from NIH-funded research. These articles are not "privately owned", or at least they're not privately owned by publishers. Some of the rights are privately owned by authors even if the rest are privately owned by publishers. This mixed or divided ownership is exactly what publishers dislike about the NIH policy and exactly what they hoped RWA would fix. It's bad enough when publishers misrepresent this point, and paint themselves as the full owners of these articles when their full grievance is that they are not....The Association of American Publishers (AAP) is on the record with the same kind of distortion....At this point we're thrown back on a familiar dilemma. Are these innocent misunderstandings or culpable misrepresentations?...In contrast to these 19-22 publishers and 146 non-publishers on the record against RWA, there were almost no publishers other than Elsevier on the record in its favor. If the bill were not already dead, we could call the AAP bluff with an open challenge. Can it find more publishers willing to say in public that they support the RWA than have already said in public that they oppose it? Can it find more than 19? More than 10? More than 5?...The Lancet opened its editorial against the RWA with the Mike Taylor language ("Academic publishers have become the enemies of science"), but then said nothing to distance itself from it. The editorial then criticized the RWA, not Taylor. This Elsevier journal effectively endorsed the Mike Taylor language....As I go to press, the petition has more than 7,700 signatures, including my own. Alongside my signature I added this comment: "I appeal to the signatories of this list: make your own work open access (OA), through a journal (gold OA) or a repository (green OA). Don't limit your action to protesting bad publisher behavior." ... The RWA was a radical bill supported by dishonest rhetoric. If Elsevier doesn't realize that, then its next steps will simply reheat simmering, justified anger. Withdrawing support for the RWA is in fact a step toward a more constructive discussion of the issues. But everyone should be clear on why researchers questioned Elsevier's "commitment" to "serving the global research community and ensuring the best possible access to research publications and data." ...FRPAA would strengthen the OA mandate at the NIH, by reducing the maximum embargo to six months, and then extend the strengthened policy to all the major agencies of the federal government. In that sense, it's the opposite of the RWA....Its special strengths are to shorten embargos for extramural research, eliminate embargoes for intramural research, extend OA mandates across the federal government, create flexibility in the locus of deposit, and create flexibility in the method for securing permission....FRPAA would mandate OA for more research literature than any other policy ever adopted or ever proposed....The same forces that brought down RWA are now refocusing on raising up FRPAA. The same forces that protect the NIH policy from repeal now want to see it strengthened and extended to other agencies. The Congressional offices which have begun to understand the issues are heartily tired of publisher misrepresentations. The RWA, COMPETES Act, FRPAA, and the White House RFI can be put roughly this order: anti, weak, strong, and stronger. Subtract anti and what do you have? Unambiguous good news. Only time will tell how good it is. And that's where you come in...."