Fair Copyright in Research Works Act

U.S. Representatives Conyers, Issa, and Feeny introduced the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act, HR 6845, on September 9, 2008. AAUP sent a letter in support of the bill to its sponsors and the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property.

The letter defined the bill's purpose as follows:

This very important bill will ensure that future actions by the federal government will not diminish the copyright protection currently accorded to scholarly works whose research may be federally funded, in full or in part, but whose publication, in any medium, requires that significant value be added, and paid for, from other sources.

AAUP's letter did not express opposition to the open access mandate initiated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but rather focused its concern on the larger issue of whether federal agencies should have the authority to claim a copyright in "extrinsic works" as a result of their funding of underlying research. AAUP is concerned that these types of mandates could conceivably be enacted by other federal agencies funding research in the social sciences and humanities.

The letter of support highlighted the contributions of publishers in preparing both print and electronic versions of scholarly works. Projects like the Founding Fathers' Papers, which have been prepared and developed for electronic publication by university presses, were cited as examples of the irreplaceable value added by scholarly publishers—added value that is funded only partially, if at all, by federal monies.

AAUP emphasized the importance of member presses' publishing operations as their primary revenue source: on average, they make up 90% of a university or scholarly press's operating revenue. The letter expressed concern that certain open access models might hinder the ability of scholarly presses to generate the revenue necessary for continued scholarly publication:

The members of AAUP strongly support open access to scholarly literature by whatever means, so long as those means include a funding or business model that will maintain the investment required to keep older work available and continue to publish new work. However, trying to expand access by diminishing copyright protection in works arising from federally-funded research is going entirely in the wrong direction, and will badly erode the capacity of AAUP members to publish such work in their books and journals.

No further action was taken on the bill before the end of the congressional session, but we understand that Congressman Conyers intends to re-introduce the bill in the next session.