Another attempt to restrict your access to scientific research

John Conyers (D., Michigan) is a liberal Democrat. As head of the Judiciary Committee he has always carried water for the IP crowd. He's at it again. And he isn't alone. When it comes to paying off campaign contributers this is a non-partisant issue:

These sort of copyright issues cut across the partisan divide, typically aligning members of Congress from both parties from areas of the country with strong content generation industries (TV, movies, music, print). In other words, members of Congress from California, New York, and Florida (Disney) or committee chairs who get a lot of money from these big media companies typically introduce and support these anti-competitive, anti-scientific pieces of legislation. This bill is no exception, being sponsored by John Conyers (D-MI), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Robert Wexler (D-FL), and Tom Feeney (R-FL).

Last week these guys introduced a bill, with the typical Orwellian name "Fair Copyright in Research Works Act (HR6845)t" that would gut the recent requirement that papers describing research funded by NIH funding be available without further permission or charge via a public open access repository.

In particular, besides repealting the NIH open access rule, by amending current copyright law (Title 17), Conley's proposed act would repeal the longstanding "federal purpose" doctrine

under which all federal agencies that fund the creation of a copyrighted work must reserve a "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. (Alliance for Taxpayer Access)

I am one of those NIH supported researchers whose papers get locked up for decades behind copyright permission firewalls. I want you to have access to my research. I want the journals I publish in to be required to make it available to you after a reasonable time period (the shorter the better) as the NIH policy now does. It helps me professionally by making my work more widely disseminated. It helps me as a professional by making it possible to get access to scientific research, now inaccessible because of the predatory and outrageous charges of the large scientific publishers, the same people behind the Conyers legislation.

Open Access advocates are urging constituents to contact their own representatives and senators and especially members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees before September 24 to say you oppose HR6845. Like you, I get pretty tired of having to do things like this, but campaigns like this are incredibly effective. If access to research that you paid for is important to you, this is the time to do something. This legislation will lock you out of access to important public health and medical information. It needs to be stopped now.

Here is a Draft Letter, which you may personalize:


Dear [Representative/Senator];

Representative NAME

As a constituent who is strongly in support of the advancement of science, I am writing to urge you to vote against the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act (HR 6845). This bill takes rights away from researchers at the forefront of our country's efforts to remain the top research nation in the world and puts them in the hands of publishing companies whose business models are stuck on the 1960's. Open access to research is a centuries old foundation of scientific advancement. Open access to government-funded research was a long overdue stance that provides the American taxpayer with the highest return on his or her investment. HR 6845 would undermine science and devalue the government's investment in science. I strongly urge you to vote against HR 6845. Thank you for your time.


Here are the House and Senate Judiciary Committee member and their fax numbers:



Senator Patrick Leahy VT 202-224-3479 (Chairman)
Senator Arlen Specter PA 202-228-1229 (Ranking Member)
Senator Jeff Sessions AL 202-224-3149
Senator Jon Kyl AZ 202-224-2207
Senator Dianne Feinstein CA 202-228-3954
Senator Joseph Biden DE 202-224-0139
Senator Charles Grassley IA 202-224-6020
Senator Richard Durbin IL 202-228-0400
Senator Sam Brownback KS 202-228-1265
Senator Edward M. Kennedy MA 202-224-2417
Senator Benjamin Cardin MD 202-224-1651
Senator Charles Schumer NY 202-228-3027
Senator Tom Coburn OK 202-224-6008
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse RI 202-228-6362
Senator Lindsey Graham SC 202-224-3808
Senator John Cornyn TX 202-228-2856
Senator Orrin Hatch UT 202-224-6331
Senator Herb Kohl WI 202-224-9787
Senator Russell Feingold WI 202-224-2725


name state fax
Rep. John Conyers, Jr. TX 202-225-0072 (Chairman)
Rep. Lamar Smith TX 202-225-8628 (Ranking Member)
Rep. Artur Davis AL 202-226-9567
Rep. Trent Franks AZ 202-225-6328
Rep. Howard Berman CA 202-225-3196
Rep. Zoe Lofgren CA 202-225-3336
Rep. Maxine Waters CA 202-225-7854
Rep. Linda T. Sanchez CA 202-226-1012
Rep. Brad Sherman CA 202-225-5879
Rep. Adam Schiff CA 202-225-5828
Rep. Elton Gallegly CA 202-225-1100
Rep. Dan Lungren CA 202-226-1298
Rep. Darrell Issa CA 202-225-3303
Rep. Robert Wexler FL 202-225-5974
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz FL 202-226-2052
Rep. Ric Keller FL 202-225-0999
Rep. Tom Feeney FL 202-226-6299
Rep. Hank Johnson GA 202-226-0691
Rep. Steve King IA 202-225-3193
Rep. Luis Gutierrez IL 202-225-7810
Rep. Mike Pence IN 202-225-3382
Rep. William D. Delahunt MA 202-225-5658
Rep. Keith Ellison MN 202-225-4886
Rep. Melvin Watt NC 202-225-1512
Rep. Howard Coble NC 202-225-8611
Rep. Jerrold Nadler NY 202-225-6923
Rep. Anthony Weiner NY 202-226-7253
Rep. Betty Sutton OH 202-225-2266
Rep. Steve Chabot OH 202-225-3012
Rep. Jim Jordan OH 202-226-0577
Rep. Steve Cohen TN 202-225-5663
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee TX 202-225-3317
Rep. Louie Gohmert TX 202-226-1230
Rep. Chris Cannon UT 202-225-5629
Rep. Rick Boucher VA 202-225-0442
Rep. Robert Scott VA 202-225-8354
Rep. Bob Goodlatte VA 202-225-9681
Rep. J. Randy Forbes VA 202-226-1170
Rep. Tammy Baldwin WI 202-225-6942
Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. WI 202-225-3190

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I don't understand.

1) you want the papers to be published automatically ?
2) you want the copyright to belong to the authors
rather than to the funding agencies ?

you think the suggested change is against 1) or 2) ?

who else things this ?

anon: The current requirement (which I support) is that NIH supported research papers must be made freely accessible within 12 months of publication. That gives the copyright holder (usually the journal) time to control access for their own profit. After that time the author is supposed to deposit the paper in a public repository (e.g., PubCentral) if it hasn't been published in an Open Access journal like a BMC journal or PLoS (as examples). This legislation would allow taxpayer supported research to be locked up by a permission and fee system essentially forever.

Thanks for sharing this piece of legislation. It's encouraging to hear that NIH-funded researchers (and not just us lowly students or science enthusiasts) are in favor of free and open access. I'd like to make you and your readers aware of a resource called Your Candidates Your Health 2008 , where Congressional and Presidential candidates have been asked to respond to questions on health and research, including NIH funding, competitiveness, and more. These issues, along with IP rights and access to research publications, are important not only to those working within science, but also to our nation's economy as a whole. I hope you find this helpful.

Thanks for the information and suggestions/draft letter. As another scientist funded by NIH and other federal agencies, I agree that taxpayer-funded research results should be freely available to the taxpayers (including other scientists and health professionals, as well as anyone else who would like to see what they're paying for). Why do some view this as a radical idea?

> This legislation would allow taxpayer supported research to be locked up by a permission
> and fee system essentially forever

would allow, but will it be done ? The NIH can lock up research - just by not funding it.
The question is how to achieve a maximum of public research results.
And also as early as possible for critical,urgent research such as H5N1.
I'm not sure yet whether the new legislation will lead to more or less
public results. What we need is a movement to reward and favour public research.
A public list of public research, a search engine for public research only.
Good feedback for public research, marking of non-public research.
Awards preferrably to public papers,

anon: No. Research that's been done cannot be locked up by NIH. While NIH can affect funding priorities, the question is about research that has been funded and published. There is a search engine (the NIH CRISP database) of NIH funded research and this research currently must become open access within 12 months. Except if this legislation passes. Thus the stakes are high.

these journals give free access after

0 months : PLOS,EID,
6 months : PNAS,JVI,NEJM,

avoid Elsevier,Springer

(complete list wanted)

Hi Revere-

(as I sit here with a ferocious toothache, nothing like screaming pain to make issues become magically starkly clear)

OK, so the Republicans are screwing us on this one, and the Democrats are screwing us on this one, and it's all about MONEY as usual.

Let's go right to the big picture. Conservatism has been hijacked by neocons & cronyism and failed miserably. Liberalism has been hijacked by control-staters and failed miserably. Where do we go next?? Right-libertarian? Left-libertarian? Social Democracy? Or out in the streets with the proverbial pitchforks & torches? Or what?

Where do we look for a political philosophy that has enough safeguards on it to prevent being hijacked by the money-monsters in their never-ending quest to milk the citizens for every last drop? What's the big-picture solution?

g336: No one seems to know what to do at this point. One thing for sure. I don't want to give these guys a blank check. The McCain-Gramm crew has everything to answer for in this debacle but they had plenty of help from the Democrats. Obama has surrounded himself with the same Wise Men that helped us over the cliff (Rubin and associates in the Clinton years) and I don't trust them either. Whatever they do it has to have lots of oversight so that we can be sure they aren't overpaying their friends (and themselves) for bad paper and when the paper is finally salable again they don't sell it to their friends and themselves at bargain basement prices. These guys are as crooked as they come. And that the bailout includes everyone who is being hurt by this, including those with mortgages. Yes, many of them made bad decisions. So did Lehman Bros. and AIG. What's sauce for the goose, etc.

Regarding political philosophy, I am a libertarian socialist. I want the government out of my private life but I want it to work in my interest to provide things individuals can't provide for themselves: public health, environmental protection, police and fire, etc. Obama does not represent that and McCain is its antithesis. Democrats are closer to what I want but not close enough. At this point all I can do is support their good positions and beat them up for their really bad ones, which are numerous.

Yo Revere-

Looks like we're on similar pages here; the term I use for where I am is "progressive libertarian," which I'm told is not far from where you are.

I wonder about this: the option of composing a ferocious agenda that includes big picture and plenty of small details, and that we can push so hard that it pushes the neocons, cronies, and control-staters right off the far edge of the table.

For example: Compromise shouldn't mean "intelligent design" rather than young-earth creationism. Let's start by demanding to teach Darwin in the religious righties' Sunday School classes, and then "compromise" by keeping science in the public schools and religion in the churches. Let's start by demanding to put the executives of all of those financial companies in prison for fraud, and then compromise by stripping their personal assets back to $100k each as per the FDIC limit for the execs of the companies that get bailed out. Let's start with 100% income & capital gains tax above $4 million per year, and compromise back to 90% at that level and ZERO up to about $30k per adult ($60k for couples). Etc.

And let's do it with such ferocious intensity that it scares the entire kakistocracy out of their wits, to the point where they'll be begging us for mercy.