Tag Archives: Open Access

Moving from SSRN to SocArXiv

In May, Elsevier acquired SSRN, an open access repository heavily used in fields of law, economics and other social sciences. A number of great articles raising serious concerns about this acquisition were written following Elsevier and SSRN’s announcement, including posts by Brandon Butler and Ellen Ramsey, Kevin Smith, Paul Gowder, the Authors Alliance, and TechDirt, among others.

More recently, reports surfaced that SSRN started removing articles from its database even when the author to the posted article retained copyright and had explicit permission to post to SSRN. Articles posted under a CC license or originally posted in green open access journals were similarly removed, even where the article contained an explicit footnote asserting that the authors retained copyright. After a huge backlash, SSRN started restoring the papers upon the request of authors claiming a mistake in enforcing their copyright policies. SSRN also indicated that faculty posting final papers would need to add a statement in a footnote asserting copyright and open access permissions or submit their publication agreements to SSRN in order to have their papers posted.

Authors Alliance—as well as numerous academics—responded by asking whether it is time for authors to remove their papers from SSRN and find alternatives. Authors Alliance pointed out:

SSRN authors: you have not committed to SSRN. You can remove your papers from their service, and you can opt instead to make your work available in venues that show real commitment to the sharing, vetting, and refinement of academic work.

Alternatives obviously include an academic’s institutional repository or personal website, but authors might also consider the new, non-profit open access archive for social science research, SocArXiv. The recent announcement of this new archive comes at an opportune time given Elsevier’s May acquisition of SSRN and the ensuing changes to SSRN policies regarding posting of papers. SocArXiv, in partnership with the Center for Open Science, explained:

The initiative responds to growing recognition of the need for faster, open sharing of research on a truly open access platform for the social sciences. Papers on SocArXiv will be permanently available and free to the public.

Social scientists want their work to be broadly accessible, but it is mostly locked up from the public and even other researchers—even when the public has paid for it. SocArXiv wants to help change that. In recent years, academic networking sites have offered to make preprints available and help researchers connect with each other, but the dominant networks are run by for-profit companies whose primary interest is in growing their business, not in providing broad access to knowledge. SocArXiv puts access front and center, and its mission is to serve researchers and readers, not to make money.

Immediately after news broke that SSRN was removing papers, I checked my own author page to see if my dozen or so journal articles and briefs were still posted.  They are and I will use my author page one final time: to download my papers (they’re easier for me to find this way since I placed all of them on SSRN and won’t have to look through different files on my computer to collect them all) before moving them to try out SocArXiv. I hope other others consider moving their works to SocArXiv, as well.

For further reading, see Richard Poynder, “SocArXiv debuts, as SSRN acquisition comes under scrutiny.”

ARL and Higher Education Support Lingua Editors

On November 12, 2015, ARL, together with The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), the American Council on Education (ACE), the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL), the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR), EDUCAUSE, and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) wrote in support of the editors of the Elsevier journal Lingua who resigned en masse on October 27, 2015.  Lingua’s editors cited the journal’s price increases that outpaced costs of production and Elsevier’s refusal to transition the journal to an open access model as reasons for their resignation.  The editors announced a plan to launch an open access journal and, as the letter notes, “The actions of the Lingua editors reflect the underlying values of scholarship that knowledge should be shared as widely as possible for the benefit of research and society.”


The letter continues:

As organizations committed to the principle that access to information advances discovery, accelerates innovation, and improves education, we share the significant concerns raised by the Lingua editors and we support sustainable open access models. Furthermore, research is becoming increasingly international and we must develop a system that fosters global participation, regardless of geographical location or size of institution. To that end, we strongly support the Lingua editors’ decision to pursue an alternative solution, which will better serve the needs and values of higher education and the public that sustains it.

[. . .]

We firmly believe that the higher education and research communities need to collectively advance alternative models of scholarly publishing that are fair, sustainable, and transparent.


For more information, see “ARL, Higher Education Groups Support Lingua Editors, Open Access” on the ARL website.

It’s #OAWeek

Open Access Week 2015 is in full swing!  Here’s a list of events happening this week worldwide.

Just a couple quick points of note.  First, Congress continues to consider S. 779, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), which the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously approved.  It calls on federal agencies with research budgets of over $100 million to establish, to the extent possible, common public access policies for peer-reviewed journal literature resulting from federally funded research.  ARL continues to engage with Congress on this issue to support passage of this bill.

Additionally, there was great news to start off the week with University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign passing its Open Access policy.  The policy (subject to waivers) states

Each Faculty member, for the purpose of making his or her scholarly articles widely and freely available in an open access repository, grants to the University of Illinois a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, and to authorize others to do the same.

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is one of several universities that have adopted open access policies this year, building on the success of policies adopted by universities previously.  MIT Libraries maintains a list of institutions with open access policies and their scope.

Enjoy the rest of #OAweek2015!

More than 90 Organizations and Institutions Call for Administration Policy on Open Educational Resources

On August 4, 2015, ARL joined more than 90 organizations and institutions wrote to President Obama calling for a policy to ensure that federally funded educational materials “are made available to the public as Open Educational Resources to freely use, share and build upon.”


The letter discusses the impact of open educational resources (OER) and points to several examples where the use of OER has resulted in significant cost savings, including Washington State’s Open Course Library program that has saved students more than $5.5 million.  It also points out that “[e]merging evidence in both K-12 and higher education has begun to demonstrate that students using Open Educational Resources have the same or better academic outcomes than peers using traditional materials.”


The letter recommends:

To achieve these goals, Administration policy on access to federally funded educational materials should direct the agencies to adhere to these core principles:

1.  A broad definition of educational materials. The educational, training, and instructional materials covered by the Order should include any unclassified information resource created, in whole or in part, with Federal funds designed to educate, instruct, train or inform. At the core, these would include learning materials, professional development resources and job training materials, but recipients of Federal funds create many other informational resources concerning, for example, public health, the environment, or energy that could be adapted for educational use if these were made freely available over the Internet under terms that permitted such adaptation.

2.  Free access through the internet. Any covered information should be freely accessible through the Internet if in digital form.

3.  Conditions that enable reuse. To maximize the value of these informational resources created with public funds, it is essential that recipients of Federal funds agree as a term and condition of such funding that they grant to the public broad copyright permission to reuse and adapt these materials for any purpose so long as the creator and the agency receive appropriate attribution.[6]

4.  Prompt implementation. Agencies should be required to implement this policy in no more than 12 months. This action is well within the purview of existing procurement law and does not require notice and comment.

5.  Reporting to OSTP.  Agencies should report their progress and results to the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Canceling Green OA Journals: A Very Expensive Way to Not Save Money (while impeding your community’s access)

A guest post by Ellen Finnie Duranceau, Program Manager, Scholarly Publishing and Licensing, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In a recent blog post, prompted by a recent listserv thread, Joseph Esposito argues that

the better job Green OA does, the more it will be resisted [by publishers]. To keep Green OA programs going, they have to be imperfectly implemented.

In the real world, though, “perfect implementation” is about as likely as, well, perfect anything.

More importantly, I don’t think it’s feasible for a library to design a process that would allow it to know, on an ongoing basis, at a reasonable cost, whether Green OA has been implemented sufficiently by the authors in any particular journal that the library could afford to cancel its subscription.

Indeed, I can’t define a scenario that seems solid enough to even experiment with, let alone deploy, in a research library in the real world.

For this exercise, I’m leaving aside any broader goals of wider distribution of publicly funded research, etc., or any other philosophical commitment one might have to OA, and am just focusing on providing sufficient service to one’s own community. I’m being completely pragmatic.

The initial study to determine whether to cancel is cumbersome, expensive

First, we have the problem that a wide sampling from any given journal would be required, since author practices in self-archiving vary. This sampling would also have to be repeated regularly, and take in several sample years, since practices will vary over time.

Whoever performs this sampling would have to be trained in recognizing which version of a particular article is posted online, since presumably one wants the peer-reviewed version available to one’s faculty, researchers, and students. This would require, in many cases, comparing the manuscript with the version of record (which, please note, is only available to you if you subscribe).

After all the sampling is done and a spreadsheet created, one would have to calculate what percentage of the journal was openly available (and whether that percentage was acceptable–this would have to be a very high number, presumably), and after what time period. This would not be an easy feat, as one has to have numbers representing the total number of articles in order to make the comparison, and as far as I’m aware, this would involve manually tabulating the number of articles in each issue (again possibly through sampling).

Then this information would have to be used in conjunction with other important data such as usage level, faculty interest and feedback, cost, etc. Of course, this whole approach would only be responsible if one had buy-in from the community one is serving. That community would have to believe that this process is reasonable and that the end goal of replacing library journal subscriptions with reliance on authors’ self-archived articles is a good one.

The cumbersome, expensive survey would have to be repeated, year after year, and would get harder and harder to administer

If the decision were taken to cancel the journal, assuming here that the decision rested in significant part on the availability of OA manuscripts, then one would also have to have a cycle of returning to those titles to be sure a certain acceptable percentage was still available. This would be necessary because author practices vary and there is no reason at all to assume that because for one year, a good percentage of a journal was OA, that will be true the next year. So it’s likely a continuous sampling would be required. We are now talking about a dramatic impact on staff resources, so some other work would need to be stopped or slowed. (And by the way, this assumes the cancellation is likely to free up funds, which, in our package-driven purchasing world, is not always the case.)

But let’s assume one does cancel. Then, if one wants to continue to sample post cancellation —as would seem to be necessary —in many cases one would need the version of record to compare with, to be sure one is looking at the peer-reviewed version. Yet this version would not be available once the cancellation had taken place. So staff would be operating without solid information when carrying out future sampling, as it can be difficult to tell a preprint from a postprint without the version of record as a comparison point.

Self-Defeating Workflow: Publishers would respond, making any cancellation at best temporary, guaranteeing that follow-up surveys would be necessary

If any significant number of libraries followed this labor-intensive workflow and reassigned staff from other tasks to do it, within a year or two the affected publishers would simply change their green OA policy for authors, removing it entirely or adding an embargo. The library would have to track these publisher policy changes—another labor-intensive workflow I won’t attempt to lay out, as there is no reliable and targeted signaling process for such changes.

Resubscribing would probably be difficult

If the journal jettisons Green OA, or its authors stop self-archiving in a reliable manner, the library will want to resubscribe. That could be tricky, as the necessary funds may already have been diverted. Even if funds were available, it would be exceedingly labor intensive to resubscribe and decide about and act upon filling any gaps in access, as well as updating relevant metadata to facilitate useful services like SFX linking. Perhaps one would fill the gaps/restore the access via pay-per-view, but now we are talking about having to do another analysis to determine whether that is cost-effective.

Links would be broken in the meantime

When a library cancels a journal, the buttons in library open URL linking software no longer take users from discovery resources like Compendex, Inspec, Web of Knowledge, etc. to journal articles. Known article searches may function, but index-based searching that links to the actual documents to assist those new to a topic area would be limited to subscribed titles.


When looking at how to operate in this evolving ecosystem, I imagine we all agree it’s important to use funds and staff resources wisely, and to look beyond a quarter or a year in thinking about the impact of our decisions. Without considering any philosophical or social goals (no matter how mission-relevant, or noble), and looking just at the practical need of providing key research articles to a community, I do not see a viable workflow that is worth testing even on a trial basis.

This is probably part of the reason you do not hear about libraries canceling journals based on availability of OA manuscripts. I would also guess that if the numbers were run, there would not be any journals to cancel, as author practices in this area are not consistent, and are likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

(Adapted from a post to the SPARC OA Forum Listserv.)

Notes from Register Pallante’s “The Next Great Copyright Act”

By Greg Cram, Rights Clearance Analyst, The New York Public Library

On March 4, 2013, Maria Pallante, the 12th United States Register of Copyrights, delivered “The Next Great Copyright Act” at Columbia Law School. In the lecture, Register Pallante reflected on the history of other major comprehensive revisions to United States copyright law. She argued that the time has come for the next general revision to begin by noting the complexity of current copyright law and its failure, in some areas, to stay current. She highlighted the work the Copyright Office has already undertaken in preparation for the next act, including reports on Digital First Sale, Orphan Works, Pre-1972 Sound Recordings, Mass Digitization, and others. Finally, she laid out a number of issues that are on the table for consideration in the next round of comprehensive revision.

The content of the next comprehensive copyright act is important to libraries and library patrons. Copyright law impacts library services at all levels, from the basics of making unsupervised copiers available to patrons to the complicated digitization of works in library collections. In the lecture, Register Pallante highlighted a few issues important to libraries, including the first sale doctrine, the libraries and archives exception, the blind and print disabled exception, and the length of copyright protection. The next copyright act is certain to implicate many library services, not to mention the general flow of content in modern society.

Because of the importance of this lecture, I am sharing my notes below. The lecture was recorded, but is not yet available on the Kernochan Center’s website. I strongly recommend watching the recording when it is available. I labored to take accurate notes and do not intend to misrepresent the content of the lecture. Even with my diligence, these notes should not be understood to be an official record or transcript of the lecture.

My notes on “The Next Great Copyright Act”

The next comprehensive review should begin soon. A comprehensive review is needed for two main reasons. First, courts are asking Congress to fix copyright law (see, e.g., Golan, Google Books, Tenenbaum). Second, more people need help navigating a complex law and shouldn’t and army of lawyers to understand copyright law.

There should be two main themes for the next great copyright act. First, it should be forward thinking, but flexible. Second, authors’ rights to enjoy control and exploit works needs to be meaningful. Authors are not the counterweight to the public interest because protecting authors is in the public interest. A copyright act that did not protect authors would be illogical. But, the law needs to recognize that some authors are different by giving weight to Creative Commons licenses and public domain declarations.

The issues on the table for the next comprehensive review include:

  1. Incidental Copies

    —Not all copies are the same

    —Perhaps there could be discrete exceptions for certain incidental copies

    —For more information on this issue, see the Copyright Offices 2001 study on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act

  2. Public Performance Right for Sound Recordings

    —Copyright Office is a “strong supporter” of a public performance right for sound recordings

    —Disparities between terrestrial radio and internet radio royalty rates are hampering new business models

  3. Stronger Enforcement

    —The new law must respect the integrity of the internet, including free speech

    —There needs to be, however, a mix of legislative and voluntary efforts to combat infringement online

    —On solution may be to increase criminal penalties for streaming, or at least bring them in line with the penalties for distribution through downloads

  4. Small Claims

    —The Copyright Office is studying this issue

    —Small claims may be a way for rights holders to enforce rights when federal litigation may be too expensive

    —The Copyright Office could, potentially, take a lead role in administering small claims

  5. Statutory Damages

    —Review registration requirements

    —Look at statutory damages from all angles

    —Statutory damages are important part of copyright act and should be retained

    —Need to provide guidance to courts about how statutory damages should be applied

  6. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act

    —The Internet has evolved since DMCA passage in 1998

    —Congress should review the § 512 safe harbors

    —Congress also needs to review § 1201 rulemaking, especially in light of the White House response to a petition on unlocking mobile phones

  7. Registration and Deposit of Published Works

    —The deposit requirements for registration should remain in next copyright act

    —Congress should review the legal incentives for registration

    —How can the Library of Congress add born digital works to its collection through this process?

    —The policies surrounding mandatory deposit should not be driven by the collection building activities of the Library of Congress (see the ACCORD Report for more information)

  8. First Sale

    —Digital first sale will be an issue on the table

    —Physical first sale may also need to be reviewed, depending on the outcome of the Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons case currently before the Supreme Court

  9. Other Exceptions/Limitations

    —The libraries and archives exception in § 108 should be updated

    —Update exceptions for the blind and print disabled in § 121 for the digital world

    —Explore new exception for higher education institutions

    —Personal space-shifting

  10. Licensing

    —Need to review growth of licensing schemes

    —Review mechanical licenses

Now the “bold” issues:

  1. Term of 50 years, renewable for an additional 20

    —The Supreme Court decision in Golan v. Holder is last word on whether life plus 70 years is constitutional

    —However, the term of copyright protection could be modified to 50 years after the death of the author, renewable for another 20 years

    —This would put the burden on the copyright owner to renew copyright term at the end of 50 years after death

    —Modeled after § 108(h), something the Copyright Office is very fond of

    —This proposal would be acceptable under various international treaties, including the Berne Convention

  2. Opt-Out v. Opt-In

    —Extended collective licensing could potentially solve many problems

Finally, Congress should expand the role of the Copyright Office. The Office could help to resolve questions of law or fact through advisory opinions. The Office could also help to establish best practices on a number of topics, including searching for copyright owners. If an extended collective licensing scheme is devised by Congress, then the Office could provide transparency to that system.

An Art Historian Uses the #LibrariansCode to Advocate for Open Access

Laurie Monahan is a professor on a mission. She’s an art historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and for years she’s been working with colleagues to develop an open access policy for the entire University of California system. Monahan compares UC faculty negotiating publishing contracts to the classic pop artists exploited by record labels in the 1950s and ‘60s: they sign away their rights because they are alone and intimidated by exotic legal contracts. By joining together to create a system-wide OA policy, faculty present a united front and ensure wider access to their scholarly work. It’s a powerful image, and one that’s taking hold on campuses around the country.

Part of the proposed UC policy is depositing all UC-generated scholarship in an open institutional repository (IR) to make scholarly work available to the public, but that raised a red flag for some of Laurie’s art history colleagues. Their scholarship often involves embedded images that are subject to copyright, and they wondered, reasonably, whether those images could be used in an article that’s freely available to the public online. This concern should sound familiar to any librarian who administers an IR. Concerns about embedded third-party content can even cause graduate students and professors to change their research plans, focusing on subjects that raise fewer copyright concerns.

Laurie took those concerns seriously, and used the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries to defend the use of third-party content in publicly available research. Principle Six of the Code states that it is fair use for a library to receive material for its IR, and to make deposited works publicly available in unredacted form, including items that contain copyrighted material incorporated on the basis of fair use. The kinds of uses made by art history scholars, who need images in order to explain, illustrate, and support their theses, are likely to be supported by a strong fair use rationale, and Principle Six simply affirms that this rationale will be sufficient to allow publication in an IR. Her email explaining how fair use applies to the IR has made the rounds in the UC community, and hopefully Principle Six will help UC move closer to effective collective action to correct the dysfunctions in scholarly publishing.

This is the fourth blog post in a series highlighting some of the fair use success stories we’re beginning to hear from librarians using the Code to move past fear and uncertainty and into positive action using their fair use rights. As with every Code of Best Practices, the #librarianscode can, will, and should be applied differently by different people and institutions in different situations. It is not one-size-fits-all. Some will be more conservative than the consensus described in the Code, while others may go further, depending on local circumstances. These stories are not meant to highlight ideal or best applications of the Code, as there is really no single right way to use the document. Rather, these stories show libraries moving from inaction to action thanks to the encouragement and support that the Code provides. How will you use the Code? If you have a story to share, please email socialmedia@american.edu.

ARL Issue Brief: MOOCs + Libraries = ???

Research libraries have a stake in MOOCs – who owns the course content, what kinds of materials are incorporated into the virtual classroom and assigned for outside reading, what happens to the data they generate about online learning, whether the courses are accessible for all kinds of learners, and on and on. The laws that shape how we use content in traditional courses may apply in new and unusual ways to these courses, further sharpening the need for active library engagement.

In a relatively short Issue Brief (PDF), I’ve outlined some of the legal questions relevant to library collaboration in MOOC teaching, as well as the related policy issues these new courses raise. A discussion draft was circulated to ARL members prior to the fall membership meeting, and benefitted substantially from their input during the meeting. The draft was also revised in some key places to reflect holdings in the wonderful HathiTrust fair use decision. We hope this will be helpful for anyone in the library world who is thinking about how research libraries fit into the MOOC landscape.

One Step Closer to Getting What You Pay For

photo courtesy of hern42 by CC license

If you pay taxes, then you are contributing to the over $60 billion (with a “B”) the federal government spends annually to support basic and applied scientific research projects in hundreds of universities and labs around the country. It’s not surprising that the richest country in the world would invest some of its public resources in research that can save lives and jump-start new technologies. What is surprising is that after the government spends millions of your dollars supporting this research, the results are made available only through private companies third parties that charge you a fee for access even though you already paid for the research!

Last Thursday the House of Representatives moved to downsize this double-billing system by introducing the Federal Research Public Access Act (aka H.R. 5037, identical to the bill already pending in the Senate, S.1373). More after the jump on what’s in the bill and how you can help get it passed.

Known to its friends as “FRPAA” (rhymes with “sherpa”), the bill would require recipients of research funding from the 11 federal agencies and departments with extramural research budgets of $100 million or more to place a digital copy of the full text of any final manuscript resulting from that funding into an online, interoperable repository, to be made publicly accessible no later than 6 months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal. This gives journals a 6-month window to profit from the journal literature they make available (more than enough to recover costs in the lucrative journal market, where institutions pay millions for up-to-the-second access to bleeding-edge research), but insures free public access thereafter.

The bill’s original co-sponsors are Rep. Doyle (D-PA), Rep. Waxman (D-CA), Rep. Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), Rep. Harper (R-MS), Rep. Boucher (D-VA), and Rep. Rohrabacher (R-CA). Many other members have expressed interest, and we hope more co-sponsors will be added over the next few weeks.

The Alliance for Taxpayer Access has a nice action page where you can find helpful information about how you can show your support for this important legislation. The main thing you can do: contact your Representative and urge them to support the bill. If they are already a co-sponsor, thank them. If they are not, suggest that they sign on to co-sponsor the bill.

This should be an issue everyone can get behind. It’s not a question of whether information should be “free,” because this research is paid for. FRPAA just gives taxpayers access to the science we bought.