Friday, September 26, 2008

Frank testifies in support of copyright protection for scientific publishers

Martin Frank, the executive director of The American Physiological Society and coordinator of the DC Principles Coalition, testified before a U.S. House subcommittee in support of HR 6845, the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act.

The bill was introduced in response to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) requirement that final peer-reviewed manuscripts based upon NIH-funded research be published on its web site within 12 months of publication in a scientific journal. HR 6845 would "prohibit the NIH from requiring the transfer of rights to publish a peer-reviewed journal article." The bill is pending before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property.

"NIH has undermined our publishing activities by diminishing a basic principle under copyright -- the right to control the distribution of the works we publish," Frank said. "The NIH could have provided access to their funded research without diminishing copyright protections."

The NIH has said that it has rights to the articles because the agency funded the research, Frank told the subcommittee. However, the NIH takes the articles only after the publisher has done the heavy lifting of validating the science through the costly and time consuming peer review process, he said. By protecting copyright, HR 6845 would help maintain the viability of the robust peer review process that helps ensure the quality and integrity of scientific research.

"We are gravely concerned that the funding base of some journals may be eroded to the point where they can no longer adequately serve their scholarly communities," Frank said. Without HR 6845, some publishers may be forced to increase their authors' fees at a time when funding for research is shrinking.

Frank pointed out that the NIH could have followed Congress's direction under the America COMPETES Act, which authorized the National Science Foundation to provide access to research reports, summaries of journal articles and citations to the copyrighted articles, rather than the articles themselves. The NIH also could have worked with publishers to provide access through existing links to journal article abstracts posted on PubMed.

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