‘Open In Action’ Requires Continuity and Solidarity with Fundamental Copyright Reform

Timothy Vollmer

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It’s Open Access Week 2016. Open Access Week is an annual week-long event that highlights the importance of sharing scientific and scholarly research and data. The goal is to educate people on the benefits of open publishing, advocate for changes to policy and practice, and build a community to collaborate on these issues. This year’s theme is open in action.


Today marks the conclusion of another productive, informative Open Access Week. There were dozens of in-person workshops, online webinars, blog posts, and other actions from institutions and individuals all over the world aiming to educate and advocate for a more open system of producing and sharing research.

On Monday we took a look at the increasing drumbeat around improving access to publicly funded research. On Tuesday we published an interview with Robert Kiley of the Wellcome Trust, exploring the perspective of philanthropy in supporting open access publishing. Wednesday we launched a beta version of our Termination of Transfer Tool, a project that empowers authors to learn about whether and when they can regain rights from publishers in order to share their works on an open access basis. We also published an interview with scientist and advocate Erin McKiernan about her work for open science. On Thursday we hosted a Twitter chat with members of the library and scientific community to talk about some of the problems with the current scholarly publishing system, and what we can do about it.

It’s clear that our work and advocacy in open access can’t end today if we expect positive change in support of improved access to scientific and scholarly research.

As Creative Commons CEO Ryan Merkley wrote in WIRED:

If it wasn’t so well-established, the traditional model of academic publishing would be considered scandalous. Every year, hundreds of billions in research and data are funded, in whole or in part, with public dollars. We do this because we believe that knowledge is for the public good, but the public gets very little access to the fruits of its investment.

It’s a shame that our movement needs to argue with policymakers that the public should get access to research that it pays for. It’s a shame that instead of experimenting with an “open by default” approach to sharing scientific information, in much of policy and practice the status quo remains closed.

The work of open access needs to keep in clear view the ultimate goals of science and scholarship—a fundamental search for knowledge—that is now supercharged for sharing and collaboration to solve the world’s toughest scientific and social problems.

But open access is not just about working to flip the default from closed to open.

There are increasing threats to access to information, education, and freedom of expression. Just last week in Uruguay, 14 people were convicted and sentenced to prison for the crime of making copies of educational resources for noncommercial use. In Colombia, student Diego Gomez is being prosecuted for the crime of sharing a research paper online. A copyright “reform” proposal has been introduced by the European Commission, but many of its provisions do little to improve the rights of users and the public. Instead, much of the proposal reinforces protectionist measures for incumbent rights holders, while providing only limited benefits for researchers, teachers, internet users, and consumers.

The open access movement should cooperate and collaborate with related communities of action, including the important work to rebalance the underlying systems of copyright to benefit creativity, innovation, and access to knowledge.

We’d like to thank SPARC for leading this week’s activities, Authors Alliance for their partnership on the Termination of Transfer tool, and the countless libraries, universities, advocacy organizations, and individuals who participated in Open Access Week.