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Keep Up the Good Work. And Please Go Bankrupt. [Some Publishers Are D*cks]

This is likely to be the first of two or three “socialist-leaning” posts I’m going to write this week in honor of the New Hampshire primary. . . .

Anyway, to get to the point, I just read this PW piece and am feeling the rage.

A recently introduced bill in the House of Representatives would bar the federal government from mandating that the public have free access to the research it funds. The Research Works Act (HR 3699), co-sponsored by Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), was introduced on December 16, 2011, and is strongly backed by the Association of American publishers, which, in a statement, characterized the bill as “preventing regulatory interference with private-sector research publishers.” But critics, including academics and the library community, are blasting the bill, calling it a “perplexing turn of events.”

The bill, now headed to committee, is the latest effort by publishers to push Congress to outlaw public access policies since 2008, when the National Institutes of Health adopted a requirement that researchers, as a condition of receiving federal funding, must deposit their final research papers in a government archive to be made publicly available within a year of publication. In 2009, publishers pushed a similar bill, the “Fair Copyright in Research Works Act,” which also sought to bar public access policies, but the effort was abandoned.

The text of the Research Works Act is brief, but in a statement AAP officials say the bill would “pre-empt” federal agencies’ “planned funding, development and back-office administration of their own electronic repositories,” which, AAP claims, “unfairly compete” with established publishers.

“The Research Works Act will prohibit federal agencies from unauthorized free public dissemination of journal articles that report on research which, to some degree, has been federally-funded but is produced and published by private sector publishers,” said Tom Allen, president and CEO, Association of American Publishers. “Journal articles are widely available in major academic centers, public libraries, universities, interlibrary loan programs and online databases. Many academic, professional and business organizations provide staffs and members with access to such content.”

Wow. So, let me get this straight. The NIH and U.S. Government want to make the final reports from the health research they fund available to the public which indirectly funds said research. THAT WOULD BE ABSOLUTELY INSANE. Access to health information for all?! What’s next, health care for children? Thank God (and Tim Tebow) that we live in a country where publishers can prevent this sort of useful information from reaching the people it’s meant to help. Phew.

But seriously, what backasswards logic. As I understand it (and I am still sleep-deprived from the raucous MLA and my nightmarish red eye), the publishers are arguing against “government regulations,” when the government “regulation” they’re complaining about is one that makes the information free and available. Thus, they’re effectively working to prevent publicly funded research from, well, reaching the public.

One of my personal resolutions for the New Year was to stop swearing so much online, but this deserves a hearty FUCK YOU. Not to adopt too radical a perspective, but this is the sort of situation that helps prevent breakthroughs in health and science from occurring, simply in order to maintain the status quo. By limiting access to this research solely to make money and continue running their businesses the way they always have, these asshat publishers are restricting the potential usefulness of this research and only allowing members of a certain class to access it. Great. Keep up the good work. And please go bankrupt. Based on this case alone, I’m pretty sure that would actually add to the greater good of society.

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