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Web Date: September 11, 2008

Protecting Copyright

Bill would protect publishers' investment, affect NIH policy
Department: Government & Policy
Credit: Istock
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Credit: Istock

A new bipartisan copyright bill introduced in the House of Representatives would invalidate federal public-access policies, such as that mandated by NIH (C&EN, March 24, page 14). Such policies require submission to freely accessible archives of final, peer-reviewed journal articles resulting from federally funded work.

The bill, the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act (H.R. 6845), is supported by many advocates in the scholarly publishing industry, including the American Chemical Society, which publishes C&EN.

"The legislation comes in response to concerns that publishers have—whether real or perceived—about the federal government taking the works that exist in our journals after we have expended considerable labor, effort, and costs associated with evaluating and filtering research articles," says Martin Frank, executive director of the American Physiological Society, which publishes 14 scientific journals. Frank was scheduled to testify at a hearing on the bill before the House Judiciary Committee. The hearing occurred after C&EN's press time.

"We believe that it is in the public interest to foster this beneficial publishing activity," ACS President Bruce. E. Bursten says in a letter to the bill's sponsors. He adds that this bill will help sustain the publishing enterprise.

The bill creates the category of "extrinsic work," which is work resulting from multiple-source funding. Work that falls into this new category would not fall under federal policy, including NIH's open-access policy, which mandates that final, peer-reviewed manuscripts must be made freely accessible. This new category would apply to articles published in journals, regardless of who funds the research, because the articles are the result of a peer-review and publication process funded by a nongovernment source.

NIH officials say that a change to copyright law is not needed. "NIH has taken a careful approach to copyrights" in developing the mandatory public-access policy, says NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, who was also scheduled to testify before the Judiciary Committee. He tells C&EN that the policy is not just about posting articles, but it's about integrating publications in a way that allows the data they contain to be exploited by other researchers.

 
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