Author Archives: Krista Cox

Documentary “Paywall: The Business of Scholarship” Premieres in Washington, DC

*This is a guest blog post by Judy Ruttenberg, ARL program director for strategic initiatives.*
*Updated September 11, 2018, with quotation from Geneva Henry.*

The documentary film Paywall: The Business of Scholarship made its global premiere in Washington, DC, on September 5, 2018, the same week that 11 European countries proclaimed that all their publicly funded research would be open access by 2020. Paywall producer and director Jason Schmitt and director of photography Russell Stone welcomed the DC audience, which comprised many of the scientists, publishers, and open access advocates featured in the 65-minute film. With minimal narration and expertly sequenced interviews, the film weaves together two principal stories: the exorbitant financial cost to access for-profit academic journals and the associated, incalculable human cost when doctors, patients, students, and would-be innovators all over the world hit paywalls that deny them access to the latest research.

Schmitt, an associate professor of media and communication at Clarkson University, told the DC audience that the film was made not for them but for their neighbors, friends, and colleagues who are not immersed in the world of academic publishing. To the uninitiated, the system makes little sense. The labor of writing articles is unpaid, as is much of the editing, peer review, and curation. Taxpayers fund most scientific research, whether done within government agencies, or through universities, and yet the results (until recently) have not been available to them. The top five academic publishers—which dominate the market—earn profit margins up to ten times that of top technology firms. While many of the film’s subjects acknowledged innovation and value within these publishing companies, Elsevier in particular, most were quick to say those contributions are outweighed by the costs to the scientific enterprise of excluding so many people from participating in it.

Some of Paywall’s most compelling interviews address the consequences of exclusion. Brian Nosek, executive director of the Center for Open Science (COS), described a meeting with a cohort of graduate students in Budapest who were all studying implicit cognition. Why so many students, in one sub-field? Because the papers are largely available on the open internet. Schmitt met with medical students and faculty in Africa and India who were unable to access the latest literature, and unable to contribute their own discoveries to it. Paywalls inhibit innovation because they minimize the chance that “the right person will be in the right place at the right time,” with respect to the literature, said Tom Callaway, from the open source software company Red Hat. And the audience laughed along with Sci-Hub creator Alexandra Elbakyan as, in a rare on-camera interview, she explained that Sci-Hub is targeting this exclusion by helping Elsevier fulfill its mission to make “uncommon knowledge common.”

Paywall is a celebration of the open access (OA) movement and its victories to level the playing field through preprint services like arXiv, and through policies mandating public access to government-funded research. The film is also a sober reflection on the OA movement’s progress, as for-profit academic publishers have both stalled and monetized open access while maintaining ever-increasing subscription revenue. The consortium of European national funders, called cOAlition S, announced their initiative this week with a set of principles addressing these exorbitant costs, including a cap on open access publication fees and a prohibition on publishing in hybrid journals (that charge a mix of subscription and open access fees). Peter Suber, director of the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication, emphasized in Paywall the critical importance of authors retaining copyrights in order for a large-scale open access system to function.

Geneva Henry, dean of Libraries and Academic Innovation at The George Washington University, also attended the premiere and offered this reflection:

Academic library leaders have been raising the concern for years about the unsustainable rate of inflation with online journals, particularly those supporting the sciences. We have shown our faculty and university leadership the solid data that demonstrates this problem, have cut journals each year to fit our budgets and have been met with criticism by the researchers, have provided information about open access and its advantages, and have received polite nods and smiles from everyone. But little has changed and the high-impact (high-cost) journals are still the ones that remain a priority for faculty publications. Paywall has the opportunity to present these audiences with perspectives from a wide variety of scholars and professionals who identify the issues we’ve been trying to communicate for so long. Its format as a film will enable broader distribution and hopefully be that communication vehicle for bringing this issue to the forefront of academic leadership. We’ve known for a long time that something needs to change and this film will hopefully serve as a catalyst for turning the tide on commercial publishing practices that limit the distribution of knowledge in our society. Perhaps librarians will now be viewed as the canaries in the coal mine rather than a bunch of chicken littles.

SPARC Europe, LIBER (the Association of European Research Libraries), and Research Libraries UK (RLUK) have all issued statements in support of cOAlition S. Peter Suber has also blogged about the plan.

Funded by a grant from the Open Society Foundations, Paywall will be screened by more than 175 universities this fall, and is available to stream under a CC BY 4.0 license at www.paywallthemovie.com. SPARC, a global coalition committed to making open the default for research and education, helped organize the DC premiere.

Government Petitioners’ Brief Points Out Verizon Throttling of Fire Department Battling Largest Fire in California History

On August 20, 2017, petitioners challenging the FCC’s abandonment of net neutrality protections in Mozilla v. FCC filed their initial briefs. Coverage of Mozilla’s joint brief with other non-government petitioners (including companies and public interest groups) is available here and here. This blog post focuses on the brief filed by government petitioners, which include 22 states (New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington), the District of Columbia, the County of Santa Clara, Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District, and the California Public Utilities Commission. These states represent over 165 million people, approximately half of the United States population.

The brief of the government petitioners make two primary arguments: 1) that the 2017 Order is arbitrary and capricious and failed to take into account harm to consumers, including public safety issues; and 2) the FCC did not have valid authority to preempt state and local laws from enacting their own net neutrality protections.

The highlight of this government petitioners’ brief focuses on clear and real examples of the harms that absence of net neutrality protections will have on safety, health and the public interest. While the FCC’s 2017 reversal of net neutrality protections relies on voluntary commitments, Internet companies have demonstrated that they will prioritize their own interests over the public’s:

BIAS [Broadband Internet Access Service] providers have shown every indication that they will prioritize economic interests, even in situations that implicate public safety. For example, a BIAS provider recently throttled the connection of a County Fire emergency response vehicle involved in the response to the largest wildfire in California history and did not cease throttling even when informed that this practice threatened public safety (emphasis added).

In this case, while the County was fighting the Mendocino Complex Fire—the largest fire in California’s state history—it experienced throttling by its ISP, Verizon. The addendum to the government petitioners’ brief includes a declaration by Santa Clara County Fire Chief, Anthony Bowden, who notes that the fire department relies on “Internet-based systems to provide crucial and time-sensitive public safety services. The Internet has become an essential tool in providing fire and emergency response, particularly for events like large fires, which require the rapid deployment and organization of thousands of personnel and hundreds of fire engines, aircraft, and bulldozers. During these events, resources are marshaled from across the state and country—in some cases even from other countries” and management of these resources depends on the Internet.

As Bowden explains, the unit facilitating resources “typically exchanges 5-10 gigabytes of data per day via the Internet using a mobile router and wireless connection. Near real-time information exchange is vital to proper function . . . Even small delays in response translate into devastating effects, including loss of property, and, in some cases, loss of life.” As a result, high-speed Internet is critical in addressing these fires.

Despite the fact that Santa Clara County Fire believed it had purchased an “unlimited” data plan, Verizon throttled the County’s usage “and data rates had been reduced to 1/200, or less, than the previous speeds.” When employees of Santa Clara County Fire e-mailed with Verizon, requesting the throttling be lifted for public safety purposes:

Verizon representatives confirmed the throttling, but rather than restoring us to an essential data transfer speed, they indicated that County Fire would have to switch to a new data plan at more than twice the cost, and they would only remove throttling after we contacted the Department that handles billing and switched to the new data plan.

Indeed, in the e-mail exchange attached as an exhibit in the addendum, a reported “side by side comparison a crew members personal phone using Verizon was seeing speeds of 20MBps/7Mbps. The department Verizon device is experiencing speeds of 0.2Mbps/0.6MBps, meaning it has no meaningful functionality.”

In another e-mail exchange questioning why Verizon was throttling the Santa Clara County Fire when the County believed it had purchased unlimited data, a Verizon manager replied, “Verizon has always reserved the right to limit data throughput on unlimited plans. All unlimited data plans offered by Verizon have some sort of data throttling built-in.”

While Verizon’s response to the Santa Clara County Fire Department in the midst of fighting the largest fire in California history as an extreme example of an ISP acting in self-interest, there are other examples of concerns for other state and local government seeking to serve the health and safety needs of its residents. For example, the government petitioners’ brief points to California’s updates to manage its energy grid to balance load, manage congestion and satisfy reliability standards.

Another example cited by the County of Santa Clara is its “web-based emergency operations center to facilitate coordination internally with other agencies and with first responders in case of emergency.” It uses a web-based public alert system to notify the public about emergencies such as evacuation orders or disease outbreaks and “Significant delays from blocking, throttling, or deprioritization could impede effective notification and jeopardize safety in public-health emergencies.” The County’s hospital also uses web-based systems that are latency-sensitive, including development of expanded telemedicine capabilities which will allow doctors to “perform triage and improve outcomes in time-sensitive situations (such as strokes or vehicular accidents) where immediate diagnosis can mean the difference between life and death.” In developing these improved systems for public health and safety, the County of Santa Clara notes that it invested substantial resources, including over a million dollars in its medical records system, and did so in reliance on the FCC’s protection of an open Internet.

Ultimately, the government petitioners’ brief highlights the ways that state and local government rely on an open Internet to serve the public, health and safety needs of its residents. As the brief notes, the FCC erred in assuming

that providers’ voluntary commitments coupled with existing consumer protection laws provide sufficient protection. The Commission offered no meaningful defense of its decision to uncritically accept industry promises that are untethered to any enforcement mechanism. Nothing in the order would stop a BIAS provider from abandoning its voluntary commitments, revising its Transparency Rule disclosures, and beginning to block, throttle, or engage in paid prioritization, subject only to the Transparency Rule’s limited disclosure requirements—leading to the very harms to consumer interests and public safety that the Commission’s long-standing commitment to protecting the open Internet was intended to prevent.

Mozilla, Internet Companies, Public Interest Groups and Other Petitioners File Brief in Net Neutrality Case

The litigation around the FCC’s decision in 2017 to abandon net neutrality protections is currently before the D.C. Circuit in the case captioned as, Mozilla v. FCC. Briefs by petitioners challenging the FCC’s 2017 Order were filed on Monday, August 20. The first brief (“non-government petitioners”) was filed jointly by Mozilla, Vimeo, Public Knowledge, Open Technology Institute, National Hispanic Media Coalition, NTCH, Benton Foundation, Free Press, Coalition for Internet Openness, Etsy, the AD Hoc Telecom Users Committee, Center for Democracy and Technology and Encompass and a summary of its arguments is provided below. The second brief, which will be covered in separate blog post, was filed by government petitioners, consisting of 22 states, the District of Columbia, County of Santa Clara, Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District and the California Public Utilities Commission.

The non-government petitioners include a wide range of affected stakeholders: Internet companies, broadband providers, Internet consumers and public interest groups.

Mozilla’s brief points out that the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order was the result of a lengthy notice of proposed rulemaking and careful consideration, “Yet in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, the FCC did an abrupt about-face, comprehensively embracing the BIAS [Broadband Internet Access Service] providers’ objections this Court rejected in USTA and Verizon, revoking the telecommunications service designation of fixed and mobile BIAS, repealing all the rules governing BIAS provider conduct, and disavowing every source of authority for such rules.” Indeed, as numerous critics have noted, the 2017 decision by the FCC reversing its early Open Internet Order seemed to be a predetermined outcome.

Mozilla’s brief makes several arguments: 1) the FCC’s Order mischaracterizes the way the Internet works; 2) the FCC impermissibly renounced its enforcement authority; and 3) the FCC’s repeal of the 2015 Open Internet Order was arbitrary and capricious, ignoring the reasoned decision-making required by an agency.

Pointedly, Mozilla’s brief notes: “In 2016, this Court upheld the rules in their entirety. In 2017, a new FCC undid them, again in their entirety, on a record that had changed little, if at all.” Additionally, “One after another, the FCC reversed virtually all of the 2015 Order’s hundred-plus factual findings, proclaiming wrong what had been found to be right in 2015 and upheld as right in 2016. The abrupt about-face was not adequately reasoned.”

In arguing the arbitrary and capricious nature of the FCC’s reversal of the 2015 Open Internet Order, Mozilla’s brief points out that the FCC “erroneously excluded consumer complaints”* resulting in “skewing the record in favor of its preferred outcome and subverting the rulemaking process.” Such behavior contravenes the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) which requires agencies to examine relevant data and provide reasoned explanations; “an agency cannot close its eyes to evidence in its possession on which it chooses not to rely.”

The FCC’s complete abandonment of net neutrality protections ignored not only the lengthy and detailed record in past proceedings, but also the comments submitted in its 2017 notice of proposed rulemaking. Various amici for the petitioners, whose briefs will be due on Monday, August 27, will also point to the arbitrary and capricious decision-making by the FCC.

*A representative (but not comprehensive) list of companies, organizations and governments is listed on the first several pages.  Several library organizations (including ARL, ALA, and AALL) along with city governments, state governments, public interest groups and companies, are included.

Richard Poynder Interview with UCLA University Librarian Ginny Steel on Open Access

A couple of weeks ago, Richard Poynder interviewed Virginia (“Ginny”) Steel, Norman and Armena Powell University Librarian at UCLA on open access. Ginny Steel is also the past chair of ARL’s Advocacy and Policy Committee and chair of the SPARC Steering Committee. She is, of course, deeply knowledgeable and thoughtful about open access—Poynder notes in the introduction to the interview, “In contrast to many OA advocates in Europe, Steel’s views on open access are nuanced and undogmatic”—and the entire interview (the PDF of which runs 24 pages, including Poynder’s intro) is well worth reading. The interview covers a range of OA topics from goals, current challenges, specifics related to University of California actions, publishers and more.

While I do recommend reading the full interview, here are a few highlights:

Ginny notes that while there are numerous OA models, including ones currently under development, it is important to evaluate these models and determine how they serve the ultimate goals of OA:

What’s really important and needs to be carefully evaluated . . . is 1) who controls the copyright of the content, 2) to whom is reading access provided, and 3) is there equity in the opportunities to publish for researchers in institutions or parts of the world that are not able to provide the level of financial support available in Europe and North America.

The ultimate goal of OA is to allow open sharing of research results in a way that offers equal opportunities for researchers around the world to publish, reserves effective peer review, allows authors to retain control over their work, allows worldwide reading access, and provides a sustainable financial model that covers the costs of publishing . . . It’s still very much a work in progress, and there are competing interests that make these conversations difficult.

Ginny’s statement points to the important issue of copyright because it is the copyright owner who chooses to make a work OA. Additionally, while a publisher with copyright ownership over an article might consent to open access so that a reader can read the text itself, it could try and limit other uses (such as text-and-data mining) particularly for licensed, born digital content.

Thus, the importance of academy controlled, rather than publisher controlled, content in ensuring meaningful open access. Ginny points out that new business models need to be developed and that these models will vary based on disciplinary needs. In addition to referencing the UC’s “Pathways to OA” document, she points to “a small group of members of the Association of Research Libraries is working on ‘Academy-owned OA’ (AO-OA) and is partnering with a handful of professional societies and disciplinary repositories to explore new models to move away from subscription-based models dominated by commercial publishers.”

In the final question, Poynder asks about preprint servers and Ginny responds with an “optimistic” view, while again emphasizing the importance of academy retaining control:

Actually I’m optimistic about the potential of preprint servers becoming full-scale platforms that provide access to preprints, peer-reviewed content, and underlying datasets.

If the academy builds open tools that result in a ‘Sustainable Knowledge Commons’ and there is widespread collaboration with professional societies, I would hope that governance models would ensure that control is retained by the academy and the content creators.

But there will have to be a deep institutional commitment to not cede control.

Designing Open Science in a Decentralized World

*This is a guest blog post by Judy Ruttenberg, ARL Program Director for Strategic Initiatives*

In my past and current roles as a program officer in a regional library consortium, and now at the Association of Research Libraries, I’ve had the privilege of visiting many libraries. I have observed that often, while explaining a (usually challenging) aspect of local culture or practice, librarians at research-intensive universities both public and private will characterize their campus as “highly decentralized.” The new consensus report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, “Open Science by Design: Realizing a Vision for 21st Century Research,” recognizes that because institutions and the entire research enterprise is highly decentralized, so too must the stewardship of research assets be coordinated across key stakeholders. If we, the stewardship community, get this coordination right, researchers will be able to practice and reap the benefits of open science with the confidence that their scholarly contributions will be supported, rewarded, and discoverable in the future.

“Open Science by Design” provides a high-level roadmap for the stewardship community in which research libraries embody a unique combination of mission and professional expertise. Research libraries provide enduring and barrier-free access to knowledge for current and future generations. The open science/open scholarship movement has expanded the research community’s definition of knowledge assets worthy of curation for long-term use to include software, data, code, and more. By practicing scholarship openly, researchers not only create knowledge assets across the lifecycle—from hypothesis and study design to data collection and narrative publication—they also generate a digital paper trail that contributes to our collective understanding of research dynamics and workflow. Given the report’s observation that “commercial publishers have undertaken significant horizontal and vertical integration in recent years, … acquiring important pieces of the scholarly communications infrastructure, such as preprint servers, institutional repositories, and expanding data archiving, and analytics services associated with their journals,” (p 118) decentralization is actually a strength against consolidation and enclosure of that workflow.

If research institutions and funders embrace the NAS recommendations to encourage, support, and reward openness across the scholarly workflow, librarians can contribute both information science and archival expertise early and often throughout that workflow, as well as preserve research environments to enable the study of science itself. For example, the preprint communities hosted by the Center for Open Science’s OSF Preprints now have an integrated annotation layer in hypothes.is. Librarians are embedded in the leadership of many of these preprint services—and in many research projects themselves—and can advise on the stewardship aspects of peer review as the hypothes.is service is implemented. Librarians will also continue to work in long-standing coalitions to influence the information policy environment to support openness. This fall, ARL will produce a Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Software Preservation, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, to ensure that the subjects, products, and tools of scholarship will continue to be accessible despite evolving technology.

Decentralization, often presented as a barrier to coordination, is an advantage and a goal in the context of open scholarship, provided that the stakeholder community adheres to the report’s implementation principles of interoperability, including:

  • Researchers choosing open repositories for their preprints, publications, and data
  • Research funders ensuring that research products are available in repositories that allow for bulk transfer of digital objects
  • Requirement of unique, persistent identifiers for digital objects identified for long-term preservation
  • Greater attention and investment in metadata schemas for improved discovery
  • Participation of professional societies and research funders in the networking and federation of existing repositories for improved discovery.

The SHARE project team has worked with many different types of open repositories (data, institutional repositories, preprints, grant databases, etc.) on all of these issues, and the implementation of improved metadata schemas, persistent identifiers, and methods of bulk transfer are complex. What we’ve learned is that more decentralization, not less, is the answer. Rather than continuing the centralized harvest of metadata from many sources, the SHARE technical team is now developing easy to use tools for institutions and repositories to write their own harvesters to push out their metadata to the network and develop local frameworks for hosting the data they exchange with others. The Data Curation Network, also funded by the Sloan Foundation, is leveraging the decentralization of expertise across more than ten institutions to improve the treatment, discoverability, and use of data.

Research libraries will be critical partners within their institutions and within the research enterprise in the implementation of NAS’s open science principles, standards, and business arrangements. ARL looks forward to continuing existing partnerships and developing new ones to support Open Science by Design.

ARL Urges US House of Representatives to Restore Net Neutrality

*Cross-posted from ARL News*

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is profoundly disappointed with the US Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) repeal of the Open Internet Order, which takes effect today, June 11, 2018. ARL is calling on the House of Representatives to reverse the FCC’s decision and restore net neutrality, a bedrock of equitable access to information.

As of today, internet service providers (ISPs) can legally prioritize some voices—those willing and able to pay a premium—over others, such as nonprofit organizations or people holding minority viewpoints. Instead of ensuring that users can access the content of their choosing on an equitable basis, the FCC is now relying solely on market forces to regulate the flow of internet traffic. This will almost certainly lead to many blocking/paid-prioritization arrangements between ISPs and commercial entities.

One possible avenue to retain net neutrality is through the Congressional Review Act (CRA). Under CRA, Congress can overturn an agency’s decision with a simple majority vote in both houses within 60 legislative days of publication of the agency’s decision in the Federal Register. If both houses vote to overturn the decision, it will then require the signature of the President. The CRA resolution to reverse the FCC’s repeal of the Open Internet Order passed the Senate 52-47 on May 16. The House of Representatives can save net neutrality by taking up the issue and voting in favor of the similar CRA resolution introduced by Representative Doyle (D-PA). The House must act by mid-July if it is to pass a CRA resolution restoring the Open Internet Order.

“Net neutrality was essentially a nondiscrimination rule enabling the free and open exchange of ideas, thereby helping libraries fulfill their mission of advancing education, innovation, knowledge creation, and economic growth,” said Mary Ann Mavrinac, president of ARL and vice provost and the Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of the University of Rochester Libraries. “We call on the House of Representatives to pass the CRA resolution restoring the open internet and we urge President Trump to sign it.”

Challenges to the FCC’s repeal of the Open Internet Order are also currently pending before the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. ARL is working with other library and higher education associations to advocate for the restoration of strong net neutrality protections through submission of an amicus brief highlighting the importance of these rules for access to information, research, education, and freedom of speech.

Take action on this issue by emailing, calling, or tweeting to your Representatives and encouraging them to restore an open internet by voting for the CRA resolution. Battle for the Net provides an easy way to email, call, and tweet to your lawmakers.

Marrakesh Treaty Unanimously Supported by U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and Judiciary Committees

The United States is moving closer toward ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled (Marrakesh Treaty).  The Marrakesh Treaty is a World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) based treaty that was adopted in June 2013, and went into force in September 2016 when Canada triggered entry into force as the 20th country ratifying or acceding to the treaty.  The Marrakesh Treaty provides minimum standards for limitations and exceptions to create and distribute accessible format works for persons who are blind or print disabled, and also allows for cross-border exchange of accessible formats. Cross-border exchange is a critical feature of the treaty and could greatly alleviate what is known as the “book famine,” a situation in which the National Federation of the Blind estimates that no more than 5 percent of published works are created in an accessible format.

The United States Senate has been actively considering the Marrakesh Treaty, and the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (S.2559) was introduced by a bipartisan group of Senators on March 28, 2018, including Foreign Relations Committee Chair Corker (R-TN) and Ranking Member Menendez (D-NJ), Judiciary Committee Chair Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Feinstein (D-CA), and Senators Hatch (R-UT), Harris (D-CA) and Leahy (D-VT).

During the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on April 18, 2018, witnesses included Manisha Singh (Department of State), Allan Adler (Association of American Publishers), Scott LaBarre (National Federation for the Blind) and Jonathan Band (Library Copyright Alliance). During the hearing, Singh said that ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty was a “win for everyone,” and pointed out that it would allow people with print disabilities in the United States access to 350,000 additional works that they do not currently have access to.  She noted that while 35 other countries have ratified the treaty (now 37), none of the current parties have the breadth of the collections in the United States. Members of the Committee and the witnesses repeatedly noted that there is no known opposition to the Marrakesh Treaty.

The Senate Judiciary Committee reported the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act unanimously out of committee on May 10, 2018. Chairman Grassley’s prepared statement noted:

I’m glad we’re considering S. 2559 today, a bill to implement the Marrakesh Treaty. The United States signed the treaty in October 2013 to facilitate access to published works for blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled persons. The Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the Treaty and is planning to move on the Treaty’s ratification process.

The Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act is a consensus bill that was developed by both the Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees with stakeholders within the publisher, library and print disabilities communities. We did this in consultation with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the Copyright Office. As such, the bill enjoys the support of all these stakeholders, as well as other interested industry, copyright and public interest stakeholders. I particularly want to commend the National Federation of the Blind, the Association of American Publishers, and the Library Copyright Alliance for working with us in reaching an agreement on legislative text and proposed legislative history. We would not be here today without their efforts.

[ . . . ]

S. 2559 would go a long way in helping to give people with print disabilities—here in the United States and all over the world—greater access to materials in formats such as braille, large print and specialized digital audio files. It is a bipartisan, consensus bill that enjoys widespread support. It is supported by the copyright community as well as by the Administration.

Today, May 22, 2018, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee followed suit and also reported the treaty out of committee unanimously.  The Marrakesh Treaty will now go to the full Senate for consideration and needs at least a 2/3 majority to pass.  ARL urges the full Senate to support the Marrakesh Treaty, which will promote access to knowledge for those who are bind, visually impaired or print disabled both in the United States and abroad.

 

In Vote to Restore Net Neutrality Rules, Several Senators Note Importance of Open Internet for Research, Education and Equity

Today, May 16, 2018, the US Senate voted 52-47 to reverse the FCC’s decision that would eviscerate protections for net neutrality.  The Senate used a procedure known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA), allowing Congress to reverse an agency’s decision with a simple majority vote within 60 legislative days of publication of an agency’s decision in the Federal Register. ARL and other net neutrality advocates are celebrating this vote, which as of just a week ago was not assured of passage.

All 49 members of the Democratic caucus voted in favor of the discharge petition and resolution, originally introduced by Senator Markey (D-MA), and were joined by Republican Senators Collins of Maine, Kennedy of Louisiana and Murkowski of Alaska.

The debate on the floor (video available here) included several statements acknowledging the importance of net neutrality to a wide range of constituents, including the research, library and education communities.  For example, Senator Nelson (D-FL) pointed out that education is built on an open Internet:

. . . and that’s why educators and librarians throughout the country have rallied in favor of net neutrality, knowing that an Internet is no longer free and open is a lost education opportunity for our children. Florida’s colleges, universities, and technical schools rely on the free and open Internet for their vital educational and research missions. Unfettered access to the Internet is essential to research, research into issues as critical to the state and nation as medical research, climate change, sea level rise, whatever the research is.

Nelson went on to note the importance of an open Internet as an equitable issue:

Citizens throughout my home state rely on the internet for civic and social engagement. The internet is today’s social forum. It’s a tool that we use to stay engaged in the lives of family, friends, and peers. The internet can also be an equalizing force, and as such has been a place where communities of color have been able to tell their own stories in a way that they have never been able to tell before, and it has given minority communities the power to organize, to share, and to support each other’s causes every.

Senator Murray (D-WA) spoke as a former educator, pointing out:

Schools have worked very hard to improve access to high-speed connectivity for all students because they know from early education through higher education and through workforce training, students need high-speed internet in order to learn and get the skills that they need.

Senator Markey cited a wide range of stakeholders supporting net neutrality as a right:

This vote is a test of the United States Senate and the American people are watching very closely. This vote is about small businesses, librarians, school teachers, innovators, social advocates, YouTubers, college students and millions of other Americans who have spoken with one voice to say, “Access to the Internet is our right and we will not sit idly by while this Administration stomps on that right.” This vote is our moment to show our constituents that the United States Senate can break through the partisanship and break past the powerful outside influences to do the right thing. The right thing for our economy, the right thing for our democracy, the right thing for our consumers, and the right thing for our future. This is common sense to Americans around the country, with the only exception being telecom lobbyists and lawyers inside the beltway. How do I know? Because 86% of all Americans in polling agree that net neutrality should stay on the books as the law of the United States.

Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY) urged his fellow Senators to vote in favor of the CRA resolution and treat the Internet as a public good, ensuring that discrimination does not occur.  He noted that without net neutrality,

. . . the Internet wouldn’t operate on a level playing field. Big corporations and folks who could pay would enjoy the benefits of fast internet and speedy delivery to their customers, while start-ups, small businesses, public schools, average folks, communities of color, rural Americans could well be disadvantaged. Net neutrality protected everyone and prevented large ISPs from discriminating against any customers. That era, the era of a free and open Internet, unfortunately will soon come to an end . . .

It may not be a cataclysm on day one, but sure as rain, if Internet service providers are given the ability to start charging more for preferred service, they’ll find a way to do it . . .Let’s treat the Internet like the public good that it is. We don’t let water companies or phone companies discriminate against customers. We don’t restrict access to interstate highways saying you can ride on the highway, you can’t. We shouldn’t do that with the Internet either.

This Senate vote in favor of restoring net neutrality protections will put pressure on the House of Representatives, which will need all members of the Democratic caucus plus 22 Republicans to discharge the petition and force a vote. While action using CRA in the House of Representatives faces an uphill battle, public polling reveals that more than 80% of Americans support net neutrality and this issue is one that will likely be a prominent in the upcoming elections. Battle for the Net provides an easy tool for individuals to contact lawmakers and urge them to vote to reverse the FCC’s decision.

For a deeper dive into impacts of the loss of net neutrality for research and higher education as well as legal and policy issues, see the latest issue of Research Library Issues. For additional statements and materials related to today’s vote in the Senate, visit this post on InfoDOCKET.

#RedAlert: One More Vote Needed in the Senate to Save #NetNeutrality

In mid-December 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to reverse the strong net neutrality protections that had been put into place by the 2015 Open Internet Order. Since that time, advocates for net neutrality—an important concept based on the principle that internet service providers (ISPs) should permit access to all lawful content, without favoring some content over others—have continued to fight to ensure that the open character of the internet remains.

In addition to challenging the FCC’s actions through litigation, one possible avenue to retain net neutrality protections is through a process in Congress known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA). Under CRA, Congress can overturn an agency’s decision through a simple majority vote in both houses within 60 legislative days of publication of an agency’s decision in the Federal Register. It would then require the signature of the President.

Soon after a CRA resolution was introduced by Senator Markey (D-MA) to reverse the FCC’s decision, the Senate version garnered enough co-sponsors to force a vote under Senate rules and Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY) has vowed to hold a vote. To date, 50 senators have co-sponsored the resolution, including all 49 members of the Democratic caucus and Senator Collins (R-ME). Only one more vote is needed for CRA to pass the Senate and with today’s discharge petition, a vote will take place in the Senate by June 12.

An open internet is fundamental to ensuring that access to information remains equitable and that some content is not privileged over others. Net neutrality is based on critical non-discrimination principles, promoting freedom of speech and the Senate could take a welcome step in confirming the importance of an open internet. For a deeper dive into impacts of the loss of net neutrality for research and higher education as well as legal and policy issues, see the latest issue of Research Library Issues.

To help secure one more vote—the critical vote for passage of CRA in the Senate—contact your Senator. Battle for the Net provides an easy way to e-mail, call and tweet your lawmaker.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Holds Hearing on the Marrakesh Treaty for Persons With Print Disabilities

On March 15, 2018, the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (S. 2559) was introduced in the US Senate by Judiciary Committee Chair Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member Feinstein (D-CA), Foreign Relations Committee Chair Corker (R-TN), Ranking Member Menendez (D-NJ), and Senators Hatch (R-UT), Harris (D-CA), and Leahy (D-VT), to ratify and implement the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled (ARL’s press release on the introduction of the implementing legislation is available here).  Today, April 18, 2018, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the Marrakesh Treaty.  Witnesses include Manisha Singh (Department of State), Allan Adler (Association of American Publishers), Scott LaBarre (National Federation for the Blind) and Jonathan Band (Library Copyright Alliance).

The Marrakesh Treaty, concluded in June 2013 and signed by the United States in October 2013, provides minimum standards for limitations and exceptions to copyright law to create and distribute accessible formats for people with print disabilities and allows for the cross-border exchange of these formats. The treaty is designed to address the “book famine,” a problem where less than 5% of all published works are created in an accessible format in the United States, a figure that drops considerably in some developing countries. The treaty is in force, with 35 contracting parties, currently: Argentina, Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Israel, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mexico, Mongolia, Nigeria, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Uruguay.

The implementing legislation makes some technical changes to Section 121 of the Copyright Act, including expanding the scope of works that may be reproduced and distributed to dramatic works or musical compositions fixed in text or notation. Section 121 would apply for domestic activity regarding the creation and distribution of accessible format works. The bill also creates a new Section 121A to address activities involving cross-border exchange.

Ratification and implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty is critical to improving access to information and culture for those who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled. The treaty will not only assist those living in countries with extremely limited collections of accessible formats, but will provide significant benefits to those in the United States. The United States will be able to enhance its own collections of accessible format works, through exchange with countries with a common language, such as Australia and Canada, but will also benefit from the ability to import works in a foreign language, such as the nearly 50,000 accessible titles from Argentina.

ARL urges the Senate to quickly ratify the treaty, which will greatly enhance the ability of libraries and other authorized entities to serve those with print disabilities. Ratification and the implementing legislation is supported by a broad group of stakeholders, including organizations representing those who are blind, libraries and authorized entities and publishers.

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