Legislative threat to NIH public access policy

Two Democratic congressmen (Howard Berman or CA-28 and John Conyers, Jr. of MI-14) are planning to introduce a bill into the US House of Representatives that would effectively kill the NIH Public Access Policy. They are responding to complaints (and donations) from the American Association of Publishers (the lobbying wing of the journal publishers).

The bill – Owellianly titled “Fair Copyright in Research Works Act” – would make it illegal for any federal agency to require grantees to transfer to the federal government any aspect of the rights given to authors under copyright. Oddly, this legislation follows on the highly dubious assertion by the AAP that the current NIH policy violates copyright law. But by attempting to modify copyright law to make this transfer illegal, the AAP is saying that it currently is legal.

My sources tell me that this bill is unlikely to pass, but supporters of open access and the NIH public access policy should write the their representatives, especially is they are on the House Judiciary Committee. Hearings are apparently scheduled for September 11th.

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