The publishing industry is dangerous. Why? Because it is big and rich, but it is also in danger. The publishing industry, like the music industry, and like the commercial proprietary software industry, faces structural reorganization of the markets served and uncertainty in the flow of cash into coffers. So we should not be surprised when we see the industry buying off members of congress to get legislation passed that protects the industry from change that is coming. Change the industry does not want to see.
The most recent event is the reintroduction of a bill in congress that will abrogate the current NIH public access policy. This has been tried before and it is being tried again. From Michael Eisen’s blog:
John Conyers (D-MI) has reintroduced his publisher-backed “Fair Copyright Act” which would effectively end the NIH Public Access Policy by eliminating the government’s right to impose conditions on grants that would give the government the right to distribute works arising from federally funded research.
As many have pointed out, the whole premise of the bill is absurd. Publishers are arguing that the NIH has taken their copyright. But, of course, if that were true, they would already have protection under federal copyright law, and they would be suing the government. Instead, they are pushing legislation that would actually remove the governments right to distribute work it funds, thereby clearly demonstrating that they believe the government’s action is perfectly legal under copyright law.
Please go to Michael’s blog and read the entire entry. Also, the Open Access News Blog has a summary of press and bloggers reactions to this bill. Here.