A Plea for Polarization: Or Why We Shouldn’t Center Comfort and Peace Before Justice

“I recently read an op-ed calling for less polarization in the world of open access, and I couldn’t agree less. Read it for yourself in the Times Higher Education. Pieces like this are very sophisticated in the ways that they narrow the acceptable range of debate. It demands peace before justice. Let’s break this down….”

Decolonising Open Educational Resources (OER): Why the focus on ‘open’ and ‘access’ is not enough for the EdTech revolution – EdTech Hub

“Open Educational Resources have offered a number of promises and opportunities, primarily in terms of customising learning to students’ needs, pace, and interests. Additionally, it has provided teachers with a wide range of customisation and collaboration options. On the flip side, there is a difference between thinking about new developments in an operational sense and in a social sense. Thinking of developments in education in a technological dimension relates to their operational sense and stops there. However, such developments acquire social and cultural meanings beyond mere function. We understand the latter by looking at what happens in practice as people, communities, cultures, and systems interact with and react to these developments. In effect, there are inherent assumptions within OER that several scholars have taken  a critical look at:

Education science is universal (it is not!) (King, 1999)
Learning outcomes are the benchmark (they are not!) (Fasheh, 1990)
‘Open’ is neutral and apolitical – and so is education data (they are not!)  (Watters, 2014) 
‘Open’ removes systemic barriers to access (not necessarily!) (Bali et al., 2018)
‘Open’ is inherently good or just (not necessarily!)  (Watters, 2014) …”

Amy Brand, Director and Publisher of the MIT Press, Calls to Depolarize the Open Access Debate in Times Higher Education

Amy Brand, director and publisher of the MIT Press, published an op-ed in Times Higher Education discussing the role publishers, universities, librarians, and others play in the open access debate. The MIT Press has long been a proponent of open access; we published our first open access title in 1995 (City of Bits by William Mitchell), and have since grown our open access program to include a variety of initiatives, including our Direct to Open publishing model. Brand argues that open access stakeholders have become divided—but in order to succeed in opening more scholarship, “rigid black and white thinking must be checked at the door,” she writes.

Eine postdigitale Bibliothek der Kunstgeschichte – Gespräch mit Golo Maurer von der Bibliotheca Hertziana, Rom (1) – Aus der Forschungs­bibliothek Krekelborn

From Google’s English:  “Open Access (OA) has nothing to do with publishing suddenly becoming free. There are no volunteers doing slave service. If the publication is to have quality, it has to be edited and proofread, it has to be set and provided with illustrations, etc., just as it used to be. The costs only shift, but have to be paid for. The Max Planck Digital Library (MPDL) has an interesting financing model: It assumes that one third of the costs will be paid by the MPDL, one third by the publisher and one third by the author. The publisher can pursue a double strategy by offering the online publications in OA mode, but at the same time producing print copies that are subject to a fee. Such are still wanted by some institutions and private individuals.  …

If you, as a non-institutional author, want to publish your contribution OA, either the publisher has to bear all the costs or you share them with the publisher. In this respect, OA is window dressing….”

Basically Everyone Tells Senators Tillis & Leahy That The SMART Copyright Act Is An Incredibly Dumb Copyright Act

We’ve already detailed why the latest bill from Senators Thom Tillis and Pat Leahy, the SMART Copyright Act, is dangerous to the future of the internet. You can read that earlier article, but the short summary is that it would deputize the Copyright Office every three years to arbitrarily bless certain “technological measures” that websites, that host 3rd party content, would need to use. The not so hidden agenda here, pushed by Hollywood basically since the internet came on their radar, is that the Copyright Office will say that any site hosting user uploaded content will need to purchase an upload filter to scan each upload to make sure it doesn’t include any of Hollywood’s content.

That upload filters routinely block perfectly legal speech is not the concern of Hollywood — or, apparently, of Tillis or Leahy (they just want to keep Hollywood happy).

Anyway, we already noted how Creative Commons responded angrily to Tillis’ office implying that Creative Commons supported the bill when it absolutely does not. But lots of other organizations are making it known that this bill would be a disaster for the open internet. A wide range of civil society groups, trade organizations, companies, and academics recently sent a letter explaining the many problems of the bill:

First, the proposed amendments to § 512(i) break the careful balance between innovation and copyright protection struck by the DMCA. For example, they significantly lessen service provider and user clarity and certainty in present and future technical measures that are employed to maintain a safe harbor for service and innovation. Rather than build confidence in the use of technical measures or incentivize further collaborative solutions, these changes would inject uncertainty into a law that has proven foundational and has supported creators, rightsholders, consumers, and online service providers of all kinds. The Copyright Office has recognized that in the decades since the passage of the DMCA, no “standard technical measures” (STMs) have emerged. Far from demonstrating an underlying flaw in the DMCA as the legislation appears to assume, this lack of standard technical measures is largely because the constructive uses of the Internet and the technologies and media involved have become so diverse. Identifying anything as “standard” under the new proposal, and avoiding technical conflicts between measures so identified, will become more, not less, difficult.

Second, the new § 514 would result in endless triennial litigation cycles through the creation of an entirely separate—and potentially unconstitutional—category of government-mandated “designated technical measures.” Section 514 gives the Copyright Office1 authority far beyond its competence and expertise to identify and mandate such measures, transforming it into an Internet regulator with responsibility for overseeing an elaborate, multi-agency bureaucratic process that would recur every three years. To avoid costly litigation and potentially extensive statutory damages, service providers would be effectively compelled to devote significant resources into implementing such measures, only to find themselves continuously exposed to renewed obligations each time new measures are designated. Such direct and heavy-handed governmental involvement in the creation of technical mandates for private industry conflicts with traditional U.S. standards policy.

This proposal would also put an agency with no engineering or other relevant expertise in charge of how digital products are designed, irrespective of whether copyright infringement is actually occurring. Additionally, the Copyright Office does not have the expertise to evaluate complex technical issues such as cybersecurity and competition.3 The legislation would put the government in the position of picking winners and losers in the market for content recognition technologies, which risks corruption and capture from specific businesses and vendors pitching their own products.4 The potentially overlapping and burdensome technical requirements designated through this process would ultimately harm users — risking their privacy and security, undermining the stability of services they rely on, and limiting choice and access to information.

Finally, digital services are already constantly fine-tuning their efforts to combat infringement online in response to the evolving tactics of commercial infringers, and they have done so with notable success.5 The legislation thus is not only unnecessary, but would freeze these efforts and stifle the ability of online services to get ahead of emerging challenges — locking collaboration into a triennial regulatory cycle and discouraging the private sector from making critical investments outside of these cycles. Within months of the designation of a technical measure, sophisticated infringers would find workarounds, while service providers would be on an endless cycle of “designated technical measure” rulemakings. Measures designated in one cycle could be rescinded in the next, creating uncertainty and constant churn.

Also a separate letter was sent from a whole bunch of internet companies (not in the “big tech” category), such as Patreon, Etsy, Cloudflare, Pinterest, and Reddit, explaining just how damaging this bill would be.

Changing the DMCA could easily make our work too expensive, difficult, or risky. But the SMART Act would do just that. For example, the bill would authorize the Copyright Office to mandate copyright upload filters. It would create ambiguous legal terms, like “relevant service providers,” that we would have to wade through during drawn-out lawsuits few of us could afford. It would generate a complex maze of “standard” and “designated” technical measures that apply to different companies in different ways—we would have to figure out which ones we had to adopt and if we got it wrong we would be back in court. This is all setting aside any actual copyright infringement, because the bill would allow large rightsholders to sue us just over whether we were using the right technologies.

Finally, it is not just about our businesses. Many of us know, first-hand, how improper copyright takedowns force our user’s non-infringing posts offline. Over-reliance on technology promises to exacerbate those concerns, stripping your constituents of expressive, creative, and economic opportunities. With stakes this high, we hope you will reconsider the SMART Act and instead focus on pro-innovation proposals that can expand opportunities for us and our users.

The Internet Archive has also made it clear just how dangerous this bill would be:

This bill and its supporters do not represent the public’s interest in fair copyright policy and a robust and accessible public domain. That is a shame, because much good could be done if policymakers would put the public’s interest first. For example, the Copyright Office—which holds records of every copyright ever registered, including all those works which have passed into the public domain—could help catalogue the public domain and prevent it from being swept up by today’s already-overzealous automated filtering technologies (an idea inspired by this white paper from Paul Keller and Felix Reda). Instead, the public domain continues to be treated as acceptable collateral damage in the quest to impose ever-greater restrictions on free expression online.

This bill is extremely harmful. So far, all signs suggest that Tillis and Leahy don’t care about that at all. But the people who use the internet every day should care about it — and should care about the cavalier attitude these senators have towards the internet, all because Hollywood supports them and hates the open internet.


“The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) strongly opposes enactment of the SMART Copyright Act of 2022, S. 3880, introduced by Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Tillis. Before addressing the specific problems with the legislation, including the burdens it would place on libraries and free expression, LCA explains that S. 3880 is both unnecessary and premature….”

Authors Alliance Opposes the SMART Copyright Act of 2022 | Authors Alliance

“Last week, Senators Thom Tillis and Patrick Leahy introduced new legislation regarding technical protection measures used to protect copyrighted works online, entitled the Strengthening Measures to Advance Rights Technologies (SMART) Copyright Act of 2022. This new legislative proposal represents the latest in a multi-pronged effort to fortify protections for copyrighted works online (coming on the heels of the Copyright Office’s recent notice of inquiry about the development of technical protection measures, about which Authors Alliance submitted a comment). If passed, the SMART Copyright Act of 2022 would establish a procedure for the Librarian of Congress to designate standardized protection measures (“STMs”) to be adopted by online service providers. 

Authors Alliance strongly opposes the SMART Copyright Act of 2022. By requiring that digital platforms and service providers implement technical protection measures which could monitor content uploaded by users, the SMART Copyright Act of 2022 could lead to content “filtering mandate[s]” interfering with authors’ and other creators’ abilities to speak freely online. Authors and creators are the parties that copyright law is designed to protect, making the proposal one that is inconsistent with the very purposes of copyright. 

The SMART Copyright Act of 2022 would enable the Librarian of Congress to designate STMs to be implemented across industries, supposedly based on input from a diverse group of stakeholders. While the bill’s sponsors claim that the legislation “ensures that any designation of existing measures requires input from all stakeholders and assessment of public interest considerations,” it is telling that groups representing the content industry have praised the proposed legislation, while proponents of fair use and the free exchange of knowledge have opposed it. Even if the Copyright Office were to develop STMs that reflect a broad consensus across a diverse group of stakeholders, this would leave out the stakeholders who do not favor the widespread implementation of STMs in the first place (like Authors Alliance). Mandating that service providers use content moderating technology would impede the free flow of information and would not serve the interests of authors and creators who prioritize seeing their works reach wide audiences. …”

Guest Post – Plan S and Scholarly Publishing: Some Lessons Learned – The Scholarly Kitchen

“On 30th November MyScienceWork organized a webinar to take stock of the journey since the launch of Plan S. The webinar focused on the evolution of publisher policies, open access (OA) business models, and the challenges and opportunities related to these topics. This post provides a recap of the webinar, particularly the conversation among Ashley Farley (Head of Open Access Policy at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), Nick Campbell, Ph.D. (Vice President of Academic Affairs at Springer Nature), and Johan Rooryck (Executive Director of cOAlition S). The webinar was moderated by Sally Ekanayaka of MyScienceWork, who is also the author of this post….”

Revealed: leading climate research publisher helps fuel oil and gas drilling | Climate science | The Guardian

“Scientists working with one of the world’s largest climate research publishers say they’re increasingly alarmed that the company consults with the fossil fuel industry to help increase oil and gas drilling, the Guardian can reveal.

Elsevier, a Dutch company behind many renowned peer-reviewed scientific journals, including The Lancet and Global Environmental Change, is also one of the top publishers of books aimed at expanding fossil fuel production….”

Kick-off debate on the future of scientific publishing – Background – Utrecht University

“On 10 February 2022, the Utrecht University Library in cooperation with the Open Science programme organized a roundtable meeting titled ‘How does Open Science affect our publishing strategy’. The aim of this meeting was to have researchers discuss the challenges and opportunities they face during the publication process with the transition to open science….”

Left in the Cold: The Failure of APC Waiver Programs to Provide Author Equity – Science Editor

“This article is about author equity and waivers, not about workplace diversity and equity, which is the focus C4DISC’s efforts to date. But we believe concern over waiver programs and author equity aligns squarely with the stated values of C4DISC and with many of the stated diversity, equity, and inclusion values of its member organizations. We also believe it is insufficient for scholarly communication organizations to only pursue equity and diversity in certain aspects of their operations while ignoring it in others. Therefore, this is an article about inequity in scholarly communication. It is about the continued restriction of space for marginalized communities in scholarly communication. And it is about the growth of barriers and the exclusion of diverse perspectives in scholarly communication.

The authors will offer 3 perspectives on the issue of waiver programs and author equity: 1) Romy Beard, until recently, was the Licensing Programme Manager at Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL), where she worked with libraries and consortia from developing and transitioning economy countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa; 2) Sara Rouhi is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at PLOS, where she focuses on building non-APC, inclusive business models to make publishing more equitable; and 3) Curtis Brundy oversees collections and scholarly communications at the Iowa State University Library, which has committed to transitioning its subscription spending to support equitable OA. We will include recommendations for improving waiver programs as well as for adopting open models that have equity built in, making waivers unnecessary….”

What Kind of Writer Accuses Libraries of Stealing? – Popula

“I got in a rumpus with some writers on Twitter last week over the right of libraries to own and lend ebooks. Twitter fights are generally trivial as hell, but not this one. Four of the world’s biggest corporate publishers are suing the Internet Archive over this issue right now, and for anyone who wants the freedom to read, write and publish whatever you want, digital ownership rights matter.

So specifically, this Twitter beef was about Controlled Digital Lending (CDL), a legal framework authored by copyright scholars and lawyers that enables libraries to own and lend ebooks without violating copyright laws, by mimicking the terms of traditional library lending. CDL is rapidly gaining support in the library world….”

Who’s afraid of Green? Market forces and the Rights Retention Strategy | Plan S

“Publishers state that the version of record (publisher’s version or VoR) is the product that readers and authors prefer, want, and specially seek out. In fact, Springer Nature published a white paper describing their findings from their own survey on this very topic. If it is the case that authors and readers prefer the VoR, then authors (or their agents such as libraries) will pay for it. That is how the free market works. If a company provides a product or service people want, customers will pay for it. People will cancel if the service is not delivering what they need, is too expensive, or a competitor provides an alternative that’s better, cheaper, has more widgets, etc. 

So what’s the big deal? Why are major publishers trying to discredit repositories and the use of AAMs? What are they frightened of?

They should have nothing to worry about. They’ve even got years’ worth of external evidence in the form of Arxiv (hosting >2M articles), which, every year, disseminates thousands of physics and related subject preprints and AAMs very similar to the VoR. Journals continue to publish those same papers, despite content being freely available in Arxiv. If Springer Nature and other publishers believe their own statements, readers and authors will seek out the VoR. Repositories even help them to do this; one of the benefits of repositories is the free publicity they provide for publishers. Each discoverable record in a repository includes the DOI of the VoR for users to easily locate the VoR with a single click, and either access the full text immediately, or pay to access it (e.g. here and here). 

If an author wants to make an unformatted AAM version available, then so be it. Provided the VoR offers the features that customers want, then publishers have no cause for concern. If it doesn’t, then the publisher will have to rethink – but that’s how it should be, and how markets work. According to the publisher produced white paper cited above, there is nothing for publishers to worry about. As Peter Suber, arguably the father of the OA movement, stated, ‘There are no good reasons to put the thriving of incumbent toll-access journals and publishers ahead of the thriving of research itself’.

Perhaps it is true that services like Unsub and the SPARC log of journal big deal cancellations mean that ‘green’ OA is having an effect on subscriptions. If it is, then why? Could it possibly be because what is on offer is too expensive, rights are too restrictive, and the product is not what the customer wants in some way? This is what the competitive market entails, and any services that are losing out clearly need to re-evaluate and reconsider what they are offering. …

Publishers that talk about self-archiving as “The false promise of Green OA” are missing the point. Green OA isn’t promising anything – it is an expression of the right of authors and institutions to disseminate and use the research finding papers and other outputs they created, or were created with their affiliation, in a way that they choose. If supporting that right happens to result in a service that users prefer and choose to use in preference to a publisher’s VoR, then so be it. But publishers should not be so disingenuous to the authors that contribute content for the publisher’s use at no charge by trying to deny them the rights to disseminate their own work in the ways they choose. The content belongs to the author. 

It would appear that these publishers don’t want a normal market to operate. They are creating a monopoly (“the exclusive possession or control of the supply of or trade in a commodity or service”  

Open access is building a one-time, shared, international library collection | Martin Paul Eve | Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing

“One of the challenges for the open access movement has been to work out how to transition from a model in which libraries build their own local collections to one in which they fund open access. The model of article and book processing charges has led us to believe that these are different activities. Buying access to articles and books is “collection building” for access while paying for outputs of your own authors to be OA is “scholarly communications”.

This cognitive and economic model impedes our ability to think differently. For one thing, it places different merits on the expenditure. Collection building is seen as delivering local relevance and access for student and staff groups, while scholarly communications expenditure delivers research reach. The model also makes it harder for us to move budgets across from subscription expenditure to OA expenditure because the two types of expenditure are seen as delivering different goals (access vs. dissemination/reach). Models such as Opening the Future and the Open Library of Humanities (both of which I run), as well as Subscribe To Open (which I don’t), attempt to work around this by decoupling author-side output from payment.

Really, though, a better way of understanding what we’re trying to do with open access is that we want to build a global collection, once, for everyone. This is why high-quality, easy-to-ingest metadata for open-access materials is important for libraries; it means that the OA content contributes to a local collection. It’s also why I consider models that get away from “paying for your own authors” so important. Instead of building small fiefdoms with relative levels of access, we should re-conceive of the mission of OA as building a shared pool of knowledge, into which any of us can dip.”

Guest Post – Perspectives on a “Unified Approach” to the Future of Open Access   – The Scholarly Kitchen

“This post is a thought experiment conducted by two individuals, both with interest in advancing open access, but who are situated in quite different contexts within the scholarly communication milieu. Melissa is a librarian at a large state university in the United States. Michael is the Open Access Program Manager at a small/mid-size Canadian scholarly publisher. We originally met through the SSP fellowship program. Our earliest conversations revealed that we both shared a passion for open access, yet we recognized that our perspectives differed in some respects. We began discussing how different stakeholders who comprise various areas of the scholarly ecosystem may also view open access through their own lenses, which could in turn impact how we work together to identify solutions to open access challenges.

To explore this concept further, we undertook an experiment: we each went off on our own and drafted a high-level synopsis on our own personal perspectives on the opportunities and challenges of an open access future. Once we had each drafted our viewpoints, we reconvened and discussed the results, identifying areas where we agreed and areas where we diverged in our perspectives. The outcome of this experiment highlights how stakeholders, and indeed different individuals, may have contrasting viewpoints on open access as they look through their own lens. The following is our attempt to view open access through the cloud of difference and disagreement, to see what a “unified approach” to open access looks like at a personal and local level.”