SCHOLARLY COMMUNICATION ISSUES:

A NEWSLETTER FOR THE UIUC COMMUNITY

UIUC Library

Issue #2, September 10, 2001


US COPYRIGHT OFFICE WONíT SUPPORT COPYRIGHT LAW REVISIONS

The U.S. Copyright Office released a report (http://www.loc.gov/copyright/reports/sec-104-report-vol-1.pdf) in late August that recommends against revising the copyright law to reinforce the rights of libraries and consumers to lend and archive electronic materials. Readers of Issue #1 will recall that the Digital Millennium Copyright Actís (DMCA) anti-circumvention provision undermines the "first sale principle," which is the right to lend, resell or make personal copies of a copyrighted work one owns without the permission of the copyright owner. For a summary of the DMCA see http://lcweb.loc.gov/copyright/

TWO SCHOLARLY SOCIETIES CHALLENGE 1998 COPYRIGHT ACT

The Association of Computing Machinery and the Computing Research Association have filed declarations in federal court regarding the legal challenge to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) in the Felten v. RIAA lawsuit (see Scholarly Communication Issues #1). They support the plaintiffs, who are led by Princeton University computer scientist Edward Felten and who are asking the court to rule portions of the DMCA unconstitutional. They argue that its broad prohibitions on disseminating information and technology restrict speech protected by the First Amendment. "It is imperative for the court to understand that the application of any law that may limit the freedom to publish research on computer technology will impose a cost on the academic community, the process of scientific discourse, and society in general," stated Dr. John R. White, ACMís Executive Director. "We believe the threat of litigation under the DMCA will have a profound chilling effect on analysis, research, and publication." See www.acm.org/felten and http://lazowska.cs.washington.edu/felten for more details.

And in a case related to Feltenís, Dmitri Sklyarov pleaded not guilty to four counts of trafficking in illegal technology and one count of conspiracy under the DMCA. A federal grand jury indicted Mr. Sklyarov, a Russian graduate student, and his employer, ElcomSoft of Moscow, on charges arising from contributions to the Advanced eBook Processor, software that can decrypt the electronic books of Adobe Systems. Mr. Skylyarov was arrested in July at a convention at which he presented parts of a dissertation on flaws in e-book security. The Advanced eBook Processor was available for a brief time on the Internet; it is estimated that fewer than 10 copies were sold.

NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE CHANGES ACCESS MODEL

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) http://content.nejm.org/ has changed its access model from a single name and password shared widely among library patrons to one that provides access from only five IP addresses for every print subscription; NEJMís move was made allegedly because of anecdotal evidence of decreasing numbers of print subscriptions. The new model requires faculty and students who want to access a libraryís electronic subscription to use specifically-designated workstations. Librarians have been vocal in their displeasure with NEJMís new access model and are threatening a boycott similar to the recent one taken against NATURE, a move that helped NATURE decide to restructure its offers to libraries.

PUBLIC LIBRARY OF SCIENCE: SHOULD ACCESS TO ARCHIVED ARTICLES BE FREE?

Nearly 27,000 life scientists from 170 countries are also trying to change the system of scholarly communication. Theyíve signed an open letter supporting establishment of an online public library that would provide the full contents of the published record of research and scholarly discourse in medicine and the life sciences in a freely accessible, fully searchable, interlinked form. After limited success in trying to persuade traditional publishers to make articles they publish freely accessible in such open and publicly accessible databases as PubMedCentral http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/, the group recently issued this statement:

It is now clear, however, that if we really want to change the publication of scientific research, we must do the publishing ourselves. It is time for us to work together to create the journals we have called for. We are working to establish a non-profit scientific publisher under the banner of the Public Library of Science, operated by scientists, for the benefit of science and the public. With your participation, vision and energy we can establish a new model for scientific publishing. Please join us in this effort.

The University Library plans to sponsor an open forum on the Public Library of Science and other efforts to change the system of scholarly publishing later this semester. Watch this space for information.

ARE E-BOOKS A TOTAL BUST? OR ARE THEY GOOD FOR UNIVERSITIES?

The New York Times recently reported (August 28, 2001) that publishers are disappointed in their sales of e-books, suggesting that publishers embraced e-books too early. Although general consumers may not be interested in buying e-books right now, a recent study done by the Northeast Research Library (NERL) consortium presents a different perspective. NERL's BYTES project (Books You Teach Every Semester) looked at the reserve reading lists of 972 courses in History and English among participating libraries to evaluate how e-books could be used. "Evidence from the BYTES project reveals a need not only for an e-book database but also for an appropriate business model to accompany it," writes Yale Associate University Librarian Ann Okerson, a BYTES project coordinator. According to the data, libraries would be well-served by entering into partnerships with publishers who would provide short-term access to chunks or chapters of books. Okerson acknowledges that obstacles exist, such as copyright, content protection, and the development of a reasonable business model. But if these problems can be overcome, the study offers statistical confirmation that e-books, if used to their potential, could be an important part of undergraduate curricula. Concludes Okerson: "It will take librarians and publishers working together to design a future for e-books in academia."

ARE WE HITTING THE MARK?

Scholarly Communication Issues welcomes your input. Please let us know whatís missing from our coverage. And let us hear your comments about the issues themselves. Does our current system of scholarly communication need to be changed? If so, how should the academic community go about changing it? Send your comments to Paula Kaufman at ptk@uiuc.edu.