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.
What is particularly galling is that Conyers held hearings on this bill last year, in which a LOT of important issues were raised about the bill, and there were many on the committee who were skeptical about it. So, what does Conyers do with all that useful feedback? He ignores it, and introduces exactly the same bill in the new Congress. One hopes such an ill-conceived piece of public policy would have no hope when Congress has many more important things on its hands, but one never knows. Let’s hope it dies in committee. But just to be safe, let the members know how you feel.
It’s hard to know why Conyers is doing this. He receives some modest contributions from Elsevier and some others in the publishing industry – but it’s hard to imagine $4,000 buys a piece of legislation. Conyers has recently reorganized the House Judiciary Committee in order to take control of intellectual property cases, so maybe this is part of a more broadly orchestrated “defense” of copyright.