Publishers Category


Elsevier responds to the boycott

As the number of signers of the Elsevier boycott passed 2,400 (see yesterday’s blog post–the total this morning is over 2,600), an Elsevier spokesman responded, as reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

“Over the past 10 years, our prices have been in the lowest quartile in the publishing industry,” said Alicia Wise, Elsevier’s director of universal access. “Last year our prices were lower than our competitors’. I’m not sure why we are the focus of this boycott, but I’m very concerned about one dissatisfied scientist, and I’m concerned about 2,000.”

Boycotters dispute the claim:

Protesters disagree, and say Elsevier is emblematic of an abusive publishing industry. “The government pays me and other scientists to produce work, and we give it away to private entities,” says Brett S. Abrahams, an assistant professor of genetics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “

Web site for the boycott is here:


Elsevier boycott gains momentum

A boycott aimed at the publisher Elsevier, initiated by Timothy Gowers, a prominent mathematician from the University of Cambridge, has picked up support in recent days, attracting as of Jan. 31 at 4 pm CST over 2350 signatures. One of the motivations for his call for a boycott was Elsevier’s support for the Research Works Act (RWA–see our blog post of January 11th).

Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education Josh Fischman reports:

 “Timothy Gowers of the University of Cambridge, who won the Fields Medal for his research, has organized a boycott of Elsevier because, he says, its pricing and policies restrict access to work that should be much more easily available. . . The company has sinned in three areas, according to the boycotters: It charges too much for its journals; it bundles subscriptions to lesser journals together with valuable ones, forcing libraries to spend money to buy things they don’t want in order to get a few things they do want; and, most recently, it has supported a proposed federal law (called the Research Works Act) that would prevent agencies like the National Institutes of Health from making all articles written by its grant recipients freely available.

For the full Chronicle article see

The boycott’s web site (where you can sign of if you’re so minded) is


“Tough love for authors”: © ≠ Ownership

Interesting post by Rich Anderson on the balance between authors’ rights as creators and readers’ rights to make use of their creations. Additional comments on ebooks, the Authors’ Guild suit against Hathi Trust, and other matters.



Authors’ Guild vs Hathi Trust et al–continuing developments

Statements and observations continued through the end of last week and beyond arising from the Authors’ Guild suit against Hathi Trust. Much of the focus centered on the orphans listed by Michigan that turned out not to be. Stories in Inside Higher Education and the Chronicle provide summaries and links to the various statements. Worth noting is Kevin Smith’s open letter to one author of a work shown not to be an orphan arguing that the best chance for this book to find readers today would be exposure in digital form in HathiTrust.


Authors’ group sues HathiTrust, Michigan and other universities.

From the September 13th Inside Higher Education:

The Authors Guild on Monday sued the HathiTrust (a consortium of universities) as well as Cornell and Indiana Universities and the Universities of California, Michigan and Wisconsin, charging widespread copyright violations. The universities and the trust have worked with Google on its project to digitize books (a project now on hold) and on a recent effort to release to their campus communities digitized copies of “orphan works” ….”

Iowa had been poised to join Michigan and others in making available “orphan works” which we held in print form to the campus.


Appeals court decision on “first sale” doctrine could affect library lending

A decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on the First Sale doctrine could affect the right of libraries to lend (and individuals to resell) some books.  See the analysis of Duke Scholarly Communications Officer Kevin Smith at and


The Georgia State filing – A declaration of war on the faculty?

In another blog post on the Georgia State e-reserves case, Paul Courant, University Librarian (and former Provost) at the University of Michigan, argues that the plaintiffs (Cambridge & Oxford University Presses plus Sage, supported by the Copyright Clearance Center) have crossed the “boundary from adversary to enemy.” Two paragraphs quoted below–for the entire post, see

The plaintiff’s draft order applies formally only to Georgia State, but if the Court grants the plaintiffs what they seek, the result will be, in the words of Duke University’s Kevin Smith, “a nightmare scenario for higher education:” fair use would be destroyed, university faculty, students, and staff would be subjected to outrageously restrictive copyright policies, and every university would be required to hire a squad of copyright cops to ensure that faculty do the publishers’ bidding. And while it’s not an uncommon strategy to ask for far more than you expect to receive in a negotiation, which this proposed injunction surely is, your “highball” offer is certainly something that you wouldn’t mind having. What the plaintiffs are saying is that they are quite willing impose enormous costs on academic performance and academic freedom in exchange for higher profits. This is not the request of a friendly adversary; this is the attack of an enemy. (Yes, academic authors would also receive some financial benefit, but note that the typical split for incremental revenue is around 90-10 in favor of publishers, and that the additional revenue that publishers would receive under the plaintiffs’ draft order would be obtained NO additional cost incurred by the publishers beyond cashing checks and paying their lawyers.)

As a faculty member, I do not know that I could comply with the restrictions in the proposed injunction for using copyrighted material in my classroom; they are too onerous and much too expensive. As an author and an educator, I have a great respect for copyright law, and I believe in a balance between creating incentives for authors and promoting the ”progress of science and the useful arts.” The proposed injunction does not strike that balance; it unreasonably restricts access to copyrighted works, eliminates fair use, and will force professors to spend much of their time in an exercise of copyright self-censorship. Imagine that if every time you wanted to quote from a text, show an image, or distribute a handout to your students you had to seek the approval of the University Copyright Police; the consequences would be dramatic. (Lest you think I am exaggerating, check out the form that, were the publishers to have their way, faculty would have to fill out every time they put copyrighted works on electronic reserve.


“Of goats and headaches”–The Economist on journal publishing

The Economist takes note of the economics of scholarly journal publishing in a short piece, necessarily oversimplified, but catching the essentials. See “Of goats and headaches–One of the best media businesses is also one of the most resented”



Lawrence Lessig on science publishing & free (open) access

Beginning immediately, Transitions, the University of Iowa’s occasional newsletter on scholarly communication issues, will appear as a blog, with postings at regular intervals as circumstances demand.

Our first posting is a link to the audio and slides of Lawence Lessig’s recent (April 18, 2011) presentation on science, copyright and open access to an audience at CERN. Lessig, Harvard professor and copyright guru, argues that the “architecture of access to scientific knowledge” is badly “messed up” and puts forth moral arguments for a move to open access publishing as the solution. Along the way he touches on YouTube mashups, copyright, politics, John Philip Sousa and much else.



Federal Research Public Access Act: Updates and Commentaries

Since the Federal Reseach Public Access Act has been recently come before the House of Representatives and the Senate, there has been a flurry of articles (for and against) the legistlation.

Federal Research Access Bill Making Progress in Congress,  Library, 4/22/2010


Baby steps toward legislation: the broad open access mandate known as The Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) is now before the House of Representatives as well as the Senate, following its introduction by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) last week. Both versions are substantially the same, and with the bill now before both legislative bodies, has at least the potential of becoming law.

During prepared remarks on a press conference call Wednesday morning hosted by the Alliance for Taxpayer Access, Doyle said, “I hope that we can move this bill through Congress before the end of the year.”

. . . FRPAA was re-introduced into the Senate last year. It would require every federal department and agency with an annual extramural research budget of $100 million or more to make their research available to the public within six months of publication. (A similar bill, introduced in the Senate in 2006, died in committee.)

The bill covers all unclassified research funded by agencies including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Transportation, Environmental Protection, as well as the National Science Foundation and NASA.

The bill also would ostensibly trump the current 12-month embargo specified by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) mandate—on which FRPAA is directly modeled—by rolling the embargo period back to six months.

SPARC FAQ for University Administrators and Faculty – SPARC has put together a helpful FAQ to answer the most pressing questions about FRPAA.

  1. What does the legislation entail?
  2. Who will be affected?
  3. What does the legislation mean for investigators?
  4. What does it mean for higher education institutions?
  5. Why is this legislation needed?
  6. Couldn’t agencies do this without legislative action?
  7. Is the legislation a threat to journals and the peer review they perform?
  8. Will the availability of multiple versions of an article create problems?
  9. Will this legislation take funding away from research?
  10. Does this legislation affect copyright or patent laws?
  11. How can I support the bill and where can I get more information about it?

Provosts and Presidents of 27 Major Research Institutions Support FRPAA – In “The Open Letter to the Higher Education Community” issued by the Harvard University Provost, the provosts (including UI’s Wallace Loh) and presidents of 27 major research institutions have indicated their strong support for the Federal Research Public Access Act.


The United States Congress will have the opportunity to consider the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA). FRPAA would require Federal agencies whose extramural research budgets exceed $100 million to develop policies ensuring open, public access to the research supported by their grants or conducted by their employees. This Bill embodies core ideals shared by higher education, research institutions and their partners everywhere. The Bill builds upon the success of the first U.S. policy for public access to publicly funded research – implemented in 2008 through the National Institutes of Health – and mirrors the intent of campus-based policies for research access that are being adopted by a growing number of public and private institutions across the nation.

We believe that this legislation represents a watershed and provides an opportunity for the entire U.S. higher education and research community to draw upon their traditional partnerships and collaboratively realize the unquestionably good intentions of the Bill’s framers – broadening access to publicly funded research in order to accelerate the advancement of knowledge and maximize the related public good. By ensuring broad and diverse access to taxpayer-funded research the Bill also supports the intuitive and democratic principle that, with reasonable exceptions for issues of national security, the public ought to have access to the results of activities it funds.

The broad dissemination of the results of scholarly inquiry and discourse is essential for higher education to fulfill its long-standing commitment to the advancement and conveyance of knowledge. Indeed, it is mission critical. For the land-grant and publicly funded institutions among us, it addresses the complementary commitment to public service and public access that is included in our charters. In keeping with this mission, we agree with FRPAA’s basic premise that enabling the broadest possible access to new ideas resulting from government-funded research promotes progress, economic growth, and public welfare. Furthermore, we know that, when combined with public policy such as FRPAA proposes, the Internet and digital technology are powerful tools for removing access barriers and enabling new and creative uses of the results of research.

Letter Opposing FRPPA – The Association of American Publishers and the DC Principles Coalition released their April 29 letter to the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, opposing FRPAA.


On behalf of many publisher members of the Professional and Scholarly Publishing division of the Association of American Publishers, the DC Principles Coalition, and other leading publishers, we are writing to express our strong opposition to the Federal Research Public Access Act, H.R. 5037. This bill would require that final manuscripts of peer-reviewed, private-sector journal articles reporting on federally-funded research be made freely available on government-run websites no later than six months after publication. This unnecessary legislation would undermine copyright and adversely impact the existing peer review system that ensures the high quality of scientific and other scholarly research in the United States. In addition, it would impose costly new mandates on federal agencies.

The diverse publishers whose concerns are shared by the undersigned are responsible for coordinating the publication of thousands of journals reporting on basic research and original scholarship, disseminating collectively tens of thousands of refereed research articles by U.S.-funded researchers annually. H.R. 5037 would diminish copyright protections for these private-sector scientific journal articles. The government mandate proposed by this legislation would result in the government distribution of copyrighted journal articles without compensation. Copyright is essential to protecting these works and to preserving incentives for the private sector to continue to invest in peer review, editing, publishing, and maintaining the electronic record of vetted scientific journal articles.

A Scholarly Kitchen Blog post, by Philip Davis, states:

While much is known about how researchers make use of the scientific literature, much less is known about the consumption of scientific literature by the general public.  Other than anecdotal descriptions — say, of patients bringing medical literature they found online into the doctor’s office — little is known about how the lay public uses the primary literature (e.g., scholarly journal articles) compared to public-focused websites, blogs, and discussion lists.

What is known is that Americans are going online seeking health information.

Read on at: