Academic publishers have become the enemies of science: yet more real piracy

by Stephan Kinsella on January 27, 2012

Piracy and theft by the fedgov, that is, of public information, putting it behind walls:

From The Guardian:

Academic publishers have become the enemies of science

The US Research Works Act would allow publishers to line their pockets by locking publicly funded research behind paywalls

The free dissemination of lifesaving medical research around the world would be prevented under the Research Works Act. Photograph: LJSphotography/Alamy

This is the moment academic publishers gave up all pretence of being on the side of scientists. Their rhetoric has traditionally been of partnering with scientists, but the truth is that for some time now scientific publishers have been anti-science and anti-publication. The Research Works Act, introduced in the US Congress on 16 December, amounts to a declaration of war by the publishers.

The USA’s main funding agency for health-related research is the National Institutes of Health, with a $30bn annual budget. The NIH has a public access policy that says taxpayer-funded research must be freely accessible online. This means that members of the public, having paid once to have the research done, don’t have to pay for it again when they read it – a wholly reasonable policy, and one with enormous humanitarian implications because it means the results of medical research are made freely available around the world.

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But, due to lobbying by academic publishers, “If passed, the Research Works Act (RWA) would prohibit the NIH’s public access policy and anything similar enacted by other federal agencies, locking publicly funded research behind paywalls.”

What we have here is a lobbying effort to take work out of the public domain and put it behind a copyright-like wall. In this, it is similar to the recent Supreme Court decision authorizing Congress to re-copyright works long in the public domain.

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