Friday, July 3, 2009

Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) Reintroduced in Senate; Library Journal, 7/2/09

Andrew Richard Albanese, Publishers Weekly via Library Journal; Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) Reintroduced in Senate:

"It looks like there’s a new copyright battle brewing in Congress after U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Joe Lieberman, (I-CT) reintroduced the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), a bill that would require every federal department and agency with an annual extramural research budget of $100 million or more to make their research available to the public within six months of publication.

The bill sets up a direct showdown—or perhaps a stalemate—with Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), who in February of this year, introduced the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act (HR 801) an opposing bill supported by publishers that would prohibit the federal government from requiring copyright transfer in connection with receiving federal funding.


This is the second time around for both bills. The publisher-supported HR 801 was first introduced in September, 2008, in response to the implementation of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) open access mandate, effective as of April 2008, which requires NIH grantees to make their resulting research publicly available within a year. Publishers have bitterly opposed the NIH mandate on both procedural grounds, and on principle.

Procedurally, publishers claim passing the mandate in an omnibus funding bill was wrong, and Conyers, HR 801’s sponsor, has complained that the NIH mandate slighted his Judiciary committee’s jurisdiction, calling it “a change slipped through the appropriations process in the dark of night.” On principle, publishers claim the NIH mandate takes unfair advantage of publishers’ efforts, such as editing and peer-review, and diminishes copyright.

OA on the offensive?

First introduced in 2006, FRPAA represents an even broader, more aggressive mandate to offer public access to taxpayer-funded research across all agencies. Although the initial bill went nowhere legislatively, supporters say it generated critical support for OA policies, including the NIH’s.

The FRPAA would apply to all unclassified research funded by agencies including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Transportation, Environmental Protection, as well as the National Science Foundation and NASA.

Reintroducing FRPAA in 2009 would seem to be a smart political play for OA advocates—going from defense, with HR 801, to offense with the NIH mandate, and FRPAA. OA advocates, however, stress that the bill’s reintroduction is not a strategy—the FRPAA, they say, can pass.
This is partly because the NIH mandate has been successful so far, said Open access proponent Peter Suber. Second, he notes, when FRPAA first went to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in 2006, Lieberman was the committee’s ranking member—he now chairs the committee.

Last but not least, the bill’s aim syncs with President Obama’s pledge to open up government. “Cornyn and Lieberman are not interested in being a symbolic foil to Conyers,” Suber noted. “They want public access to publicly-funded research, and they think this is the time to try again.”

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