Open Access Under Threat: HR 3699


In the growing battles about online piracy and who can have free access to what, SOPA, the Stop Online Privacy Act, was just the start. Another legislative bill,†H.R. 3699, the Research Works Act — sponsored by†Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Committee member Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) –†endangers our access to federally-funded research.

In 2008,†the National Institutes of Health made†all federally-funded research publications openly accessible.†But H.R. 3699 would deal a huge blow to “public access mandates and the development of repositories for publicly funded research,” as the†University of Michigan publishing blog notes.†The bill attempts to define “private-sector research work” based on the “intent” of an author, rather than on who is funding their research, the public or private sector.

H.R. 3699 is supported by the†American Association of Publishers, by self-described “private-sector research publishers”†who are seeking “regulatory interference” about the research they publish. †But the point must be made that such research is the work mostly of academics and is undertaken in the pursuit of scholarly knowledge, not monetary profit.†The authors alarmed by H.R. 3699 are academics, professors and scientists whose research is not†in the business, for-profit realm.

What is “private-sector research work”?

H.R. 3699 defines†”private-sector research work” — the research scholars publish in peer-reviewed journals to ensure its validity — as

an article intended to be published in a scholarly or scientific publication, or any version of such an article, that is not a work of the United States Government (as defined in section 101 of title 17, United States Code),†describing or interpreting research funded in whole or in part by a Federal agency.

That is, if you receive any amount of funding from the government, your research could be subject to limited access under H.R. 3699.†Scientific American cites†Dr. Michael Eisen who makes a crucial point, namely that “this bill would not only end the NIHís Public Access Policy, but it would forbid any effort on the part of any agency to ensure taxpayer access to work funded by the federal government.” Under H.R. 3699, we could lose the right to know to what end public monies are being used.

In addition, H.R. 3699 would limit access to research according to something called a “value-added contribution” of publishers. Scholarship published in a†commercial or nonprofit publisher undergoes peer review or editing. As the†University of Michigan publishing blog points out, while publishers make the arrangements for such peer review, the scholars who actually perform the review “are typically not compensated monetarily for their effort,” doing so as part of their work as members of the academic community.

These might seem like fine distinctions. Such technicalities must be pointed out because, once again, †the research that H.R. 3699 covers is from not-for-profit entities including public universities and private nonprofit universities. †As the†University of Michigan publishing blog says, H.R. 3699′s emphasis on authorial intention stems from the for-profit sector of businesses and corporations whose research is “outside the realm of state control or support.”

Our Right to Open Access

Like SOPA, H.R. 3699 is legislation that, while seeking to protect publishers’ rights, threatens the public’s knowledge of research supported by its dollars.†Research by scientists studying cancer at the molecular level or conducting clinical trials on a drug treatment plays a crucial role in our lives.†A recent controversy about a†federal advisory board arguing against the publication of research on avian bird flu has set scientists against security advisers, with the latter saying that national security is at risk and the former emphasizing that blocking such access sets a chilling precedent of censorship.

Is it possible that knowing that one’s research will not be accessible to the public dissuade researchers from seeking federal funding and, accordingly, turning to the private sector, where the research that is funded has a specifically commercial focus?


Related Care2 Coverage

SOPA: Bloggers and Libertarians vs. Hollywood

We Donít Need to Censor the Internet: Tech Community Protests SOPA

EU Copyright Extension: Boon or Censorship?


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David C.
David C.3 years ago


Michael C.
Michael C.3 years ago

Let us see, someone decides to post a birthday party on YouTube and within it there are people singing Happy Birthday to a young child and then there is a site on the internet that sells a pig, when you pull a cord it sings Happy Birthday.

Under H.R. 3699, there would be no difference and yet there is vast difference, at least for now.

David C speaks to his wife's dilemma concerning intellectual property, she has a strong case, and there ought to be an easy avenue to which she can seek relief.

Then there is the possible abuses, to attack a video of a birthday party is a blatant attempt to seize absolute control and to assert it when...lets say, Time-Warner would desire to, merely for profit and control.

At the end of the day, it feels like we are talking about Monsanto, H.R. 3699 is based in absurdity, greed, ripe with possible abuses.

Hope S.
Hope Sellers3 years ago

"In 2008, the National Institutes of Health made all federally-funded research publications openly accessible. But H.R. 3699 would deal a huge blow to “public access mandates and the development of repositories for publicly funded research,”

Read more:

This part should stay the same and not be excluded under Copyright law. I don't believe anyone disagrees that independent of this that authors should be protected by their copyright. Research funded by the government should be openly accessable.

jerry coleman
jerry coleman3 years ago

thanks for the info

David Connally
David Connally3 years ago

@Lee W

And pray, why would Mike win? You both focus on getting a copyright. That is a minor point. The germane issue what do when copyright is ignored. My challenge to both of you is how to enforce the copyright laws - particularly in these days when illegal publication is cheap, easy, and widespread. There is rampant theft of intellectual property on the web.

Maybe I'm wrong but I rather doubt if either you or Mike has ever made a penny from copyrighted material.

Incidentally, while it is true that copyright exists when a work is created, you must surely know there have been high profile suits, particularly in the song/music arena where two writers each claim authorship of a piece. There are surer ways of proving ownership. One simple strategy is to mail yourself a sealed envelope containing the material to be copyrighted. Get one or more independent witnesses to sign and date over the sealed flap. The envelope is of course retained as sealed. In my wife's early writing days, she registered her thesis with (I think) the library of congress. They returned a cute copyright certificate to which the work was attached. It's been so long ago, I don't recall the details.

When a work is published and thousands of copies are printed, each carrying a page with Copyright [author name] and date, the evidence of ownership is usually solid.

Simmon C.
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Lee Witton
3 years ago

Both Mike B and David but if degrees of correctness were to be granted, Mike would win. Copyrighting legally is not necessary but advisable simply because it does, in every aspect of the law protect the originator as proof they were the originator (even if they were not).

Ann W.
Ann W.3 years ago

With the current crop of idiots in Congress, I wonder that the NIH has any money left to give.

David Connally
David Connally3 years ago

@Mike B

You know not of what you speak. You are obviously not an author. I've told you my wife's experience. How do you think existing copyright laws protect her from pirates who put her books on line and refuse to remove them?

There's a great deal of hysteria in the comments. Go read the bill. It's available free on line. After you've read it, explain how it is censorship. Explain how it keeps you from reading government publications.

And tell us why you think you have an inalienable right to steal someone else's creation. While you're at it explain why you want to see the end of scientific journals. Is there a single scientist reading this thread? Have any of you spent days in a library researching a thesis topic? Are there any authors reading this thread? People who pay the mortgage with their royalties?

A well-established author makes around $30k per year, maybe $50k is you're at the top of the midlist group. Only a handful like Grisham make millions.

Kristina C.
Kristina C.3 years ago

Thank you for the article!