Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What is Taxpayer Access?

hint: it's something i've been bitching about for a long time

We pay taxes and some of that money goes to fund scientific and medical research, research into important questions. We've paid for it, we should have immediate and unfettered access to the published results, all taxpayers, not just the scientists.

Unfortunately for We The People, publishers make money from selling us access to published results, and they charge a small fortune. I don't know about you, but I could easily blow an entire paycheck on the articles I want to read, were I willing to part with $20-$30 for each article. I'm not.

Neither are some other folks:

Access to scientific and medical publications has lagged behind the wide reach of the Internet into U.S. homes and institutions. Subscription barriers limit U.S. taxpayer access to research that has been paid for with public funds.

Taxpayer access removes these barriers by making the peer-reviewed results of taxpayer-funded research available online, and for no extra charge to the American public.

To achieve this, the ATA supports applying the developing practices of Open Access as defined by the Budapest Open Access Initiative in February 2002.

Here's their Call to Action, fax your Senator before Sept 28th.

If you'd rather call, write, or e-mail, here's some other contact information for the Senators.


Steve Bates said...

A reminder: faxing is no different from emailing in this day and age. Both end up being absorbed by a computer and displayed on a screen, or ignored. If someone tells you to fax rather than email because it's physical and can't be ignored, please laugh in their face.

I agree with the substance of your post. But I will not fax anyone anything, probably ever again, unless it is to comply with some silly law.

hipparchia said...

good point. i vote for clogging up whatever tubes ya can.

Keifus said...

Thanks for the heads-up. Every time you post about this, I think about the issue a little differently.

Last week, I was digging around the internets for some turn-of-the-century (the last one) newspaper articles. (I wanted to get a feel for the style.) All the archives I found are pay-per-view. That sucked. Owning a collection of written material and charging admission doesn't seem (to this primitive legal mind) to involve copyright (but the words oughta be reproducible). I'm disgusted to think that it might still be under copyright protection though.


diambt: boat diameter

Steve Bates said...

I've decided I like this idea a whole lot. I've added the link button for ATA to a sidebar column on the YDD.

Keifus, whatever ABC-Disney may tell you, copyright does not last forever and a day. Read your Constitution. Congress has the power (Art. I Sec. 8) "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries"; please note particularly the "limited times" part, because it's evidence the Constitution's framers had thought this through.

Copyrights and patents are supposed to be an incentive to new creation or invention:

* If they didn't exist, that incentive would be considerably reduced. You deserve some compensation for your creative efforts.

* If they lasted forever, neither the author/inventor obtaining the copyright or patent, nor the later author/inventor proposing to use it in pursuit of future works, would have as much incentive. I.e., at some point, the public interest requires that creative works enter the public domain, as a basis for further creation by others.

If the newspapers you are seeking are old enough, chances are good the contents are in the public domain. But good luck prying them loose from their former copyright holders without paying fees.

Steve Bates said...

Oh... standard disclaimer: I am not a lawyer of any kind, let alone an IP lawyer, nor do I play one on the web. Nothing above is to be construed as legal advice. I'm just a guy who has read the Constitution a few times.

Keifus said...

Hiya Steve, I get the general idea behind copyrighting (read the clause myself a time or two, and slept through a couple company training thingies). I was thinking of the rather ridiculous extensions of the law that you were. I find it doubtful it extends 110 years, but I wouldn't quite rule it out.

I doubt there's enough demand to break through the subscription wall and start transcribing though.

Keifus said...

Er, interpolate the grammar as necessary, please.

Steve Bates said...

Keifus, your grammar is so consistently superior to my own and that of a great majority of web writers, that it never occurred to me to be bothered by anything you wrote above.

hipparchia said...

and then there's copyfraud to worry about.

plus. i'll have to look into it some more, but i think i've read that drug companies are patenting drugs and reaping the profits from basic research they did with public money grants. if true, grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Keifus said...

Evidently, works published ca. 1900 should just barely make the cut into the public domain. [link]

I don't know about that last comment, hipp. A lot would depend on the details. I think you'll be hard pressed these days to find research that isn't done under public funds (which I think is OK as it shares the risk), and I don't think I like the idea of the government developing industry (I mean, look at the drug cos to get a taste of what happens when they get too close). The transition has to occur at some point.

oopzt: oops, there goes my ticket to NZ. (really. Oh well.)