Issue No. 23

July 5, 2002

Paula Kaufman, University Librarian



The American Association for the Advancement of Science has issued a report, Seizing the Moment: Scientists’ Authorship Rights in the Digital Age, which focuses on intellectual property rights in the information age.  It reflects the ongoing and highly complex debate regarding intellectual property, but rather than calling for changes in copyright law, characterized as a daunting prospect that would take many years, the report recommends a more immediate step.  It calls for authors to use their leverage as creators of a work to negotiate licensing agreements with scientific publishers that will maximize access to and dissemination of their work.  Read the report at



We’ve all heard that “information wants to be free.”  Today, a number of biologists are working to make their information free, through a new program called “open-source biology.”  As with open-source software (through which Linux et al are distributed freely), open-source biology, proponents argue, will help develop better drugs more quickly and accelerate development of new knowledge.  Others rail against the prospect of forcing proprietary information into the open, just as publishers of scientific journals have railed against the NIH-sponsored database called PubMed Central, which would post the full text of any scientific article published.  (In the interest of full disclosure your editor notes that she is a member of the PubMed Central Advisory Board.)  Ultimately, though, many scientists see the value of open-source biology because one never knows where the next discovery will come from with data in the public domain.  A sequence of genetic code from a yeast gene put into the NIH-sponsored database called GenBank recently led to a breakthrough in colon cancer research by another database.  Read a more detailed description at



Technology is straining the delicate relationship between libraries and publishers. Publishers used to love libraries, of course, because libraries bought lots of books. Libraries then lent out the books, which reduced the likelihood that cardholders would ever buy the book themselves.  But overall, the tradeoff satisfied publishers, largely because of the inherent limitations: Libraries could lend a book to only one reader at a time, so in a year, even the most popular book might be borrowed by fewer than 50 people.  Now, however, libraries can simultaneously lend a single book to, say, everyone in Manhattan, through downloadable e-books.  Big publishers, most of who live in Manhattan, hate this new development, and they're particularly unhappy with e-publishers.  Random House has already tried to sue RosettaBooks, claiming that the e-publisher illegally published the works of William Styron, Kurt Vonnegut and others with whom Random House had contracts.  The authors, who had cut separate deals with RosettaBooks, disagreed with Random House.  So did the judge, who ruled that e-books comprise a new and different medium, and were not covered by the publisher’s contracts with Styron and the others.  RosettaBooks now offers libraries unlimited access to more than 100 titles on its Web site for as little as $200 a year.  Those libraries, in turn, can offer that e-book for download to as many readers as can access their Web site.  The University of Virginia, for example, claims that 5.8 million e-books have been downloaded by users in more than 100 countries.  (Darwin Magazine 26 June 2002)  (RLG Shelflife, July 11, 2002) 



RLG senior analyst Walt Crawford writes in EContent magazine that "too many libraries have been pushed to the wall and can go no further" in devoting excessive portions of their budgets to STM journals at the expense of monographic acquisitions.  He is skeptical of the "Big Deals" in which commercial journal publishers packaged electronic content with print content, and approvingly cites Kenneth Frazier, director of libraries at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who describes the Big Deal as: “You (the library or consortium) get all of our (the publisher's) articles in electronic form but only if you pay us every penny you're paying now for print subscriptions, plus more, plus a guaranteed annual increment."  (See Frazier at  Where will a solution be found to this expanding crisis for libraries?  Crawford notes that "librarians and scholars are mounting a range of initiatives to weaken the ability of large international publishers to raise STM prices at will.  ARL's SPARC initiative has helped found a number of new, less-expensive scholarly journals, most commonly back in the hands of universities and scholarly societies, competing head-on with established commercial titles.  A growing number of electronic journals and collections of refereed articles are free to readers, with refereeing overhead and server costs covered through institutional sponsorship or author fees."  If this approach fails the crisis will deepen, because "many scholars now recognize the plight of the libraries and are unwilling to see a complete abandonment of monographic acquisitions just to shore up STM periodicals for a few more years. Things are starting to give."  (RLG ShelfLife, 7/11/02)





American Library Association legislative counsel Miriam Nisbet says recent advances in digital rights management technology could undermine the long-standing right of fair use as well as the preservation and archiving of materials: "You might need to use a piece of copyrighted work for an article that you are writing or that may be needed in the classroom for teaching purposes.  Those are part of a very carefully crafted balance in our copyright law and in our copyright tradition.  If you have technology that totally eliminates any human judgment in the process, then you've effectively overwritten what the law would otherwise allow you to do… Figuring out how that can all work — and work in a harmonious fashion — I think, is the greatest puzzle we face now."  Nisbet is especially concerned about recent legislation introduced by Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-SC) that would require copy protection technology to be installed in all computer devices. "That's a pretty remarkable scope to require such a thing," says Nisbet.  "I think a lot of people have questions about how such a bill would work and would it really be good? … Let's certainly not have a law passed that requires something that we don't know will work."  (RLG Shelflife 7/11/02)



In a series of moves officials of this commercial scholarly publishing company say will "consolidate the gains of our recent growth," the Greenwood Publishing Group announced recently a series of moves that will cut the numbers of its publications and employees.  Among the actions, Greenwood will close the Denver-based offices of Libraries Unlimited (LU), the publisher of an impressive backlist of titles in library and information science.  According to Greenwood officials, Edward Kurdyla, VP of Libraries Unlimited, will remain with Greenwood and will relocate to the publisher's Westport, CT offices, while the current editorial acquisitions staff will be retained but will "work offsite."  Marketing and production personnel were laid off, with LU's marketing and production to be integrated into Greenwood's system.  And in yet another hit for the struggling monograph market, Greenwood Press will phase out its Ablex, Auburn House, Bergin & Garvey, and Quorum imprints, as well as the Oryx monograph list published in conjunction with American Council on Education (ACE).


Greenwood officials say the number of monographs published will be "substantially reduced."  In all, 40 employees were laid off, including three editors.  According to Greenwood spokesperson Elizabeth Neel the majority of the layoffs were production staff, deriving from the company's recent decision to outsource its production.  The moves are part of Greenwood's plan, which includes the recently acquired Oryx imprint, to reposition itself to focus exclusively on reference and information books for academic, public, and school libraries.  The restructuring comes on the heels of Greenwood's 2000/2001 buying spree which included acquisitions of Oryx, LU, and assuming responsibility for sister company R.R. Bowker's authored books line.  (LJ Academic News Wire, July 11, 2002)



Raise the bridge or lower the water?  Increase revenue or cut expenses?  Something's always got to give.  In the case of libraries, James H. Sweetland says that, to date, the most common reaction to the problem of rapidly increasing journal costs has been limiting the size of the journal budget.  "This has been accomplished in most libraries by a combination of making it difficult or impossible to add new journal titles and a succession of exercises in the cancellation of little-used titles.  However, given the price increases, every two or three years a new cancellation exercise is necessary, while the amount of money available for traditional monographic materials in print or microform still declines.  In the long run the problem cannot be solved by these methods."  Where do things stand now?  By the mid-90s a rapidly growing body of full-text material and full-image material had become available, giving libraries the option of acquiring the actual journals (not just the indexing) in electronic form, and the options include several possible sources and formats.  To date it appears that most libraries obtain the funding for electronic sources by canceling other sources.  However, there is surprisingly little solid evidence on the practice — much of the recent information comes by anecdote. And the older literature (in this case looking back maybe three to six years) deals mostly with cancellation of indexing and abstracting services rather than the primary documents."  But Sweetland ends by expressing concern over the findings of a study that concludes that there is "a demonstrable lack of user take-up of most kinds of electronic library-information resources."  If that is the case, Sweetland wonders just where "is the reality in all of this?"  (Library Link Jul 2002)



By most accounts, 2001 was a dark year for the e-book.  Or was it?  While the high profile collapse of netLibrary and the closings of nascent e-imprints like Random House's atRandom and AOL/Time Warner's iPublish grabbed the headlines, a recently released report from the Open eBook Forum has given the e-book industry renewed optimism.  Despite the very public hard times for some of the most ambitious e-book operations, the e-book itself is in fact catching on, says the report.  In releasing the results of its industry-wide survey, the Open eBook Forum—an e-book industry trade and standards organization designed to collect business data, as well as develop industry standards and champion e-books—says the e-book industry showed significant growth in all facets of the business.  Open eBook Forum members contributing data include Adobe Systems Inc., AOL Time Warner Book Group, HarperCollins, Microsoft Corporation, OverDrive, Random House, Inc., Simon & Schuster, Palm Digital Media, and McGraw-Hill.


So what did the survey show?  HarperCollins's e-book imprint, PerfectBound, has sold more eBooks in the first five months of 2002 than in all of 2001, and average monthly downloads of Adobe Acrobat eBook Reader have increased by approximately 70 percent from 2001 to 2002.  Simon & Schuster has seen double-digit growth in e-book sales from the first half of 2001 to the first half of 2002 and over five million copies of Microsoft Reader have been distributed for use on desktop, notebook, and Pocket PC systems.  The analysis highlighted the growing number of users adopting e-books and related software, the creation of new technologies, and the increasing use of e-books by publishers as marketing tools that work in tandem with traditional book sales efforts. For example, the survey said that HarperCollins' PerfectBound promotions have increased the sales of individual titles as much as tenfold by offering older titles by an author for free in electronic form as a means to promote that author's latest title in print.  In addition, the survey showed that e-book technology, a major stumbling block to widespread use of e-books, is also improving, especially on the library side.  For example, Adobe is now offering a new "automated library lending functionality, which allows patrons to check-out e-books as well as check them back in.  (LJ Academic News Wire, 7/23/02)



Stanford University professor Lawrence Lessig says that the whole notion of what constitutes copyright violation has been misconstrued in the current debate: "This simplistic notion of what copyright is and how people think about it is weakening the debate substantially… It's just not the case that copyright has ever been understood to mean that if you use a copyrighted work in a way unintended by the copyright owner that's 'theft.'  Much more fundamentally, who are the real thieves out there? The public domain was supposed to be fed with new work beginning in 1998 that's been taken away from the public.  It's been taken away by Congress legislating to extend the terms of existing copyrights.  I think that is theft from the public as much as there is theft going on in other contexts. … The presumption about copyright is that it has always been a narrow protection against a commercial competitor.  It has never been an entitlement for copyright owners to control the use of copyrighted work… Libraries buy works and make them available to people in a way in which copyright owners may not always like.  But with new technologies, copyright owners now can control the use of copyrighted works.  Copyright owners now just need to wrap content in digital form, and if a library tries to simply facilitate what it's always done, the library is branded a thief.  That is a massive expansion of the power copyright owners have over their content.  There needs to be a much better debate because the thing that's at stake here is the concentration and control over the future of our culture.  People need to recognize how copyright has changed in a relatively short time — 50 years — and decide whether the values that marked the Constitution's framing are going to be valuable in



the future."  (Library Journal 15 Jul 2002)   (RLG Shelflife, 7/25/02)


Report on Electronic Publishing Urges More Control for Authors

A committee of the American Association for the Advancement of science (AAAS) has issued a report on intellectual property rights in the information age.  The report, “Seizing the Moment: Scientists’ Authorship Rights in the Digital Age,” reflects the ongoing and highly complex scholarly debate about intellectual property law.  It calls electronic publishing a new and exciting prospect for science and its patrons, but notes that the current legal structure may set up roadblocks against the fulfillment of its promise and offers some rather conservative, but effective, tips for authors.  Read the report at



In less than a month, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will dispose of the public's library of millions of paper copies of U.S. patents.  According to a notice posted recently at the USPTO offices, the Office will no longer update or care for the public's paper-copy libraries and will the dispose of the paper copies after August 26.  The notice of the patent library's demise comes after a May 16 hearing at which several individuals voiced their opposition to phasing out the paper in favor of the exclusive use of the USPTO's computerized database of patents.  This notice now seals the fate of more than 6.3 million paper copies of U.S. patents belonging to the public. Roughly 2000-3000 patents are issued each week by the U.S. patent office.  Virginia-based patent researcher Randy Rabin emphasized that the paper collection was far more than an archive and its demise will harm the public's capacity to do patent research. "Everybody [doing patent research] uses these files in their work."  Rabin noted, "They are constantly, constantly used."


USPTO spokesperson Brigid Quinn said the decision to dispose of the paper copies was made only after every patent was digitized and made available through the USPTO's database; a system she maintains is far more efficient and better serves the public. Quinn noted that the database is remotely accessible, and offers a variety of searching capabilities.  In fact, original copies of the patents are not disappearing out of existence. Paper copies of each patent are archived in cooperation with the National Archives, though they are not accessible to patent researchers.


The USPTO database is comprised of an image file, which contains digitized images of the patents themselves, and text files, which date back only to 1971.  Although the

files can be searched in a number of ways using key words, patent researcher Randy Rabin told the LJ Academic Newswire that at least one search used by researchers—classification—is in danger.  Although the USPTO database can be searched by classification, Rabin says that the classification system is crumbling in the digital environment.  "With a patent, it often pays for a someone to be their own lexicographer."  He noted, "So if the classification system starts to deteriorate, we're left with just key word searching."  Rabin also said that the quality of the digital images in the database lagged far behind the quality on paper.  "Details are completely missing," he noted, adding that parts often contain intricate illustrations and that a small detail can mean big business—or big legal bills.  Rabin was joined in his view by a number of other witnesses, including an attorney who told USPTO officials that there was "no equivalence of the completeness" of digital records vs. the paper records.  Another former patent examiner, Joseph Clawson, took issue with a notice placed in the Federal Register by the USPTO that asserted that "the paper patent and trademark registrations collections are no longer needed for public reference" because of electronic availability.  (LJ Academic News Wire, 7/30/02)



SPARC has released a major position paper, The Case for Institutional Repositories (also in PDF). Institutional repositories are digital collections capturing and preserving the intellectual output of a single or multi-university community. "Institutional repositories can provide an immediate and valuable complement to the existing scholarly publishing model, while stimulating innovation in a new disaggregated publishing structure that will evolve and improve over time. Further, they build on a growing grassroots faculty practice of self-posting research online. While institutional repositories necessitate that libraries --as their logical administrative proponents-- facilitate development of university intellectual property policies, encourage faculty authors to retain the right to self-archive, and broaden both faculty and administration perspectives on these issues, they can be implemented without radically altering the status quo. Moreover, they can be introduced by reallocating existing resources, usually without extensive technical development. In sum, institutional repositories offer a strategic response to systemic problems in the existing scholarly journal system --and the response can be applied immediately, reaping both short-term and ongoing benefits for universities and their faculty and advancing the positive transformation of scholarly communication over the long term."  FOS Blog, 7/29/02



The National Academy of Sciences has agreed to hold the meeting proposed recently by Ronald Atlas, president of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). The meeting will address the question whether information that might be useful to terrorists should be deleted from research articles before publication (either by authors or editors).  Atlas posed the question to the NAS when he noticed that many authors submitting papers to ASM journals were asking to withhold information that might create security risks.  While Atlas believes the question should be discussed, he opposes this kind of self-censorship, fearing that it will lead to incomplete research results that cannot be replicated.  FOS Blog, 7/29/02



The Christian Science Monitor reports that library building construction is booming in the U.S., despite those who predicted the end of libraries.  Last year, $686 million was spent on library construction, the second-highest dollar total ever spent and a 15% increase over a decade ago.  Aside from the construction of 80 new libraries, 132 existing ones underwent renovation.  Read the full story at



Two recent articles that focus on the barriers that copyright laws present to users are indicative of the growing awareness of the issue among members of the scholarly community.  In “Copyright’s New Sting,” (, Kent Wada and Ruth Simon of UCLA discuss dealing with demands from copyright owners to users of online material—demands to remove the work from online access immediately.  They foresee that the trend toward increased protection of intellectual property rights in cyberspace is on a collision course with a generation that has grown up with Napster-like resources and Internet2 pipes at their fingertips.  In “Copyright as Cudgel,” Siva Vaidhyanathan ( also discusses the loss of due process and the burden of proof on those who are accused of copyright infringement, which it describes as censorship.  Further, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA, discussed in many previous issues of this Newsletter) upends more than 200 years of copyright law: the principle that what copyright law does not specifically protect remains available for everyone to use, for whatever purpose they see fit.  The DMCA bars the circumvention of electronic access controls that protect online works, even when some or all of the protected work is in the public domain.  He ends with this: “We must be blunt about the current system’s threats to free speech, intellectual freedom, and the free flow of information.  We must be careful not to be trapped in nihilistic rhetoric about the ‘end of copyright.’  Copyright need not end if we can rehabilitate and rehumanize it.  Our jobs depend on it.”


Editor’s Note:  This Newsletter will soon mark its first year of publication.  I welcome your comments and suggestions.  Please send them to me at