As if the economic stimulus bill wasn’t keeping everyone busy enough, last week Rep. John Conyers (MI-14) (re)introduced H.R. 801, “The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act”: – in the U.S. House of Representatives. Unfortunately, this “new” bill that seeks to amend copyright code and create a new category of copyright work differs only in bill number assigned – the 110th Congress predecessor (H.R. 6845) that ultimately died in the House Judiciary Committee.
A word-for-word replica of the 110th bill, H.R. 801 would reverse the NIH Public Access Policy, which grants millions of Americans access to vital health care information through the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Central database. According to the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), under the current policy, nearly 3,000 new biomedical manuscripts resulting from National Institute of Health (NIH) tax-payer-funded research are deposited for public accessibility each month. Each manuscript is deposited within 12 months after the publication date, as the NIH Public Access Policy adheres to the agreed upon 12-month embargo period. H.R. 801 would prohibit the deposit of these manuscripts, seriously impeding the ability of researchers, physicians, health care professionals, and families to access and use this critical health-related information in a timely manner.
In response to the bill, the American Library Association (ALA) joined the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalitions (SPARC) and several other national and regional library and advocacy organization to send a letter to the members of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee expressing our long-standing and strong support for the NIH Open Access Policy. In addition, the letter addressed the misconception that the policy affects the rights of authors, specifically copyright. Included, as an attachment to the letter, was the SPARC-sponsored analysis that outlines why the NIH Public Access policy does not affect copyright law.
As champions for open access, we are indeed experiencing déjà vu over the reintroduction of a bill that seeks to amend copyright code and create a new category of copyrighted work. And as soon the economic stimulus bill is finalized, we’ll focus our attention to advocating against this egregious bill.
Corey Williams, Associate Director
ALA Washington Office