Welcome to the Free Online Scholarship (FOS)
August 31, 2001
Public Library of Science (PLoS) deadline tomorrow
Remember that the PLoS deadline is tomorrow, September 1. That means
that starting tomorrow, the 26,000+ worldwide signers of its public letter are
committed to avoiding journals which do not put their contents online free of
charge within six months of print publication.
In a letter sent out today (which I've forwarded to our discussion forum),
the original eight signers point out that there are more signers producing
research articles than compliant journals to publish them. The number of
PLoS-compliant journals is about six. The exact number depends on how
strictly one interprets compliance, but now matter how one interprets it, the
number is small. Hence it appears that one PLoS strategy for moving
forward will be to encourage the development of new (free online)
This will be the real breakthrough. We never had to wait for the
existing journals to see the light, consent to FOS, or change their
policies. We always had the option to create new journals. For
journals publishing online, and dispensing with a print edition, the chief
obstacle is to find respected and motivated scholars willing to serve on the
editorial boards. The PLoS initiative has convened a very large number of
them. A related problem is giving scholars an incentive to publish in
online journals when print journals have more prestige, and when career
pressures mean that increased readership and impact do not offset the loss of
prestige. Again, the PLoS has gathered a large number of researchers who
not only have the incentive, but who have taken a pledge.
The technical problems have long since been solved. For PLoS signers,
the significant political problems have also been solved. Let's see what
happens. As new FOS journals come online, publishing good articles in good
numbers, and charging no subscription fees, I wonder how long it will take for
the number of PLoS compliant journals to rise from six to six hundred.
Public Library of Science
U.S. Copyright Office releases long-awaited study of DMCA
On August 29 the U.S. Copyright Office released its long-awaited study of
the Digitial Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), which was required by Section 104
of the DMCA itself. The study recommends that purchasers of digital
content be allowed to make personal back-ups, provided these are not shared or
sold. This requires that purchasers have the technical means to make
back-ups, which requires publishers to drop the absolute copy protection that
many are using today.
The study does not recommend a "digital first sale" doctrine, which many
DMCA critics wanted. This would have given purchasers of digital content
the right to distribute the content, just as a purchaser of a physical book has
the right to loan or give away the book to others. Because digital
works can easily be loaned or given away while the original owner retains a
copy, the Copyright Office found the analogy between digital works and physical,
printed texts limited.
The study sees no violation of user-rights when publishers "tether" a
digital work to a particular piece of hardware. Tethering prevents
purchasers from taking their purchased works with them when they upgrade
machines or switch platforms. Tethering seems to bother the Copyright
Office, but it is taking no steps because it believes that tethering is rare
"outside the context of electronic books". (So what about inside that
Librarians and user-rights groups have already criticized the study.
Quoting Rick Weingarten of the American Library Association: "In our view,
[the copyright office] still doesn't grasp what technology is doing to the issue
of user rights." Quoting Fred Von Lohmann of the Electronic Frontier
Foundation: "Our worst fears about the [DMCA] are coming true."
The study is based on public comments and a public hearing, which are
faithfully recorded in Volumes Two and Three of the study.
Ariana Eunjung Cha, Keep Digital Copyright Law Intact, Agency Says
Andrea Foster, Libraries Criticize Federal Report on Digital-Copyright
DMCA Report by the U.S. Copyright Office
Another way to pay for FOS
In the U.S. consumers once paid a surcharge on blank audio and video
cassettes. The money went into a fund which was eventually disbursed among
copyright holders of music and video. The theory was that some consumers
would make illegal copies, and the surcharge would compensate the rights
holders. I cannot tell how successful this system was --my search results
are always oddly thin. (If you know what happened to this system in the
U.S., please send me an email or post your information to our discussion
forum.) But as a consumer, I liked the idea. Even though it made all
consumers pay for the copying of some, it legitimated copying. I taped
some copies of LPs and slept without guilt.
This system is used widely in Europe. The agencies levying the
surcharges, however, are stirring controversy by extending their reach to
scanners, recordable DVDs, burnable CDs, hard drives, and other computer
hardware. Their reasoning is impeccable. Computers and their
peripherals are now the ultimate copying machines.
I don't know the algorithm for determining the surcharge applied to each
hard drive, or the algorithm for distributing money to each copyright
holder. But if done fairly, this system has revolutionary potential.
Legalize copying of all kinds, but charge for it when consumers buy copying
systems and media.
Question. Would you prefer that system to what we have now? For
most consumers the question will be about music and video. But here let's
limit the question to scientific and scholarly literature, both in book and
journal forms. Would you pay a little extra for a computer (say, $35) if
all the literature you wanted to read was freely accessible and permission to
copy was universal?
I get the $35 figure from the estimated surcharge on computers to be levied
in Germany. (See Juliana Gruenwald's article, cited below.) But this
estimate may be based on music and video copying. If so, it would have to
rise if the system also covered research literature. But compared to the
volume of copied music, the volume of copied research literature must be tiny
and would raise the surcharge only slightly.
To make the system fair, we would need reasonably accurate measurements of
the amount of copying. Otherwise we wouldn't know whether to bump up the
price of a computer $35 or $350 or whether to give Elsevier 1% or 10%.
Download counters wouldn't catch the peer-to-peer traffic. So would you
put up with packet sniffers or other eavesdropping technologies to take random
samples of the copy traffic, as long as your identity was not
Is there any reason why this system couldn't be extended from music and
video to scientific and scholarly literature? What have we learned from
the experience with music and video, or from the wider experience in Europe,
that might help here?
If you are a publisher, would you be willing to make your literature freely
accessible and copyable if you were sufficiently compensated by the surcharge
fund? If you feel short-changed by freely shared digital copies, would you
rather sue readers for violating your copyright, lobby your national legislature
to prohibit the technologies of free copying and sharing, or take your complaint
to the surcharge fund distribution board?
Juliana Gruenwald, Digital Copyright Tug O' War
FOS discussion forum
(Anyone may read; only subscribers may post; subscription is
* On August 29, Texterity launched the TextCafe eBook Logistics Service for
translating ebooks from the Open eBook format to all the other major ebook
* An anonymous U.S. programmer has broken the fifth or highest level of
encryption on Microsoft ebooks. The programmer has announced that he or
she has no plans to make the program public. The purpose was to make his
or her own purchased ebooks readable on more than one platform. Dmitry
Sklyarov faces harsh penalties for taking the same steps with Adobe ebooks and
making his program public (see next item, below).
(Thanks to Denise Troll for bringing this to my attention.)
* On August 28, Dmitry Sklyarov and his company, ElcomSoft, were indicted
on five counts of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
This ends speculation that a plea bargain was in the works. Sklyarov faces
up to 25 years in prison and a fine of half a million dollars.
* While Sklyarov faces punishment for presenting his method for bypassing
the copy protection on Adobe ebooks, his boss at ElcomSoft, Alexander Katalov,
has announced that he will give an updated version of Sklyarov's presentation at
a November conference in Amsterdam.
* Harvard's Berkman Center is throwing its weight behind Edward Felten's
lawsuit to declare that he has a First Amendment right to present his encryption
research and that any part of the DMCA which would prohibit him from doing so
must be found unconstitutional. (See FOSN for August 16.)
* The Computing Research Association (CRA) is working with the Berkman
Center to support Felten. The CRA is a consortium of North American CS
* The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) is also supporting
Felten. It has written an amicus brief to support his First Amendment and
* Most of the journals published by Nature (except the weekly _Nature_
itself) will adopt Advance Online Publication (AOP), the policy of posting
accepted articles to the internet as soon as they are ready. These are the
refereed and edited versions of the articles, final in every way except for
their pagination. _Nature Genetics_ turned to AOP last month, and the
other Nature journals will turn to it in coming months. Nature makes
abstracts available on its web site free of charge, but limits full-text to
* Questia, which calls itself the World's Largest Online Library, has
launched version 2.0 of its service. This is not FOS. Questia
charges students $19.95 a month for access to online texts and study aids like
text highlighters and footnote and bibliography citation generators.
Version 2.0 enlarges the online collection from 35,000 to 60,000 full-text
sources. (We last covered Questia in the July 31 issue, when it struck a
deal with AOL.)
Questia home page
New on the web
* BrightPlanet has released version 2 of LexiBot, its software for
searching the deep internet, the databases not crawled by standard search
engines and by some estimates 500 times larger than the surface internet.
Since much online scholarship exists in these databases, a deep internet search
engine will be a valuable FOS tool. However, while LexiBot claims it will
search 2,200 databases, it doesn't enumerate them anywhere that I could find, so
it's hard to know which scholarly databases are within its scope. The
software is free for a 30-day trial.
* Planet eBook has posted to the web summaries of all the presentations
from the Open Publish 2001 conference in Sydney, July 30 - August 2. For
most presentations, it also offers downloadable full-text.
* The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) has updated its "Pizza Chef" software
for helping users build a document type definition (DTD) for their work.
* In the last issue I printed a dead link for the preliminary results of
the survey conducted by the developers of eprint software (for creating
OAI-compliant archives). The link has since been fixed. You can find
the survey results here:
* Does progress toward FOS seem to be moving slowly? It may seem that
way, day to day, but it helps to remember that the World Wide Web is only 10
years old this month. While FOS was possible on pre-internet computers,
and on the pre-web internet (e.g. arXiv), it didn't really ignite widespread
passion or imagination until the arrival of the web. If you look at what's
been done, and what's on the drawing board, then it's clear that we've come a
very long way in only 10 years. The article at the link below is not about
this at all, but simply reminds us that this is the web's 10th birthday.
In other publications
* In an August 28 contribution to the _Nature_ debate on FOS, Jon Bosak
argues that XML can greatly improve the presentation and retrieval of digital
scientific literature but, unfortunately, only by increasing the production
costs. (Bosak is one of the creators of XML.)
* In the August 28 _New York Times_ David Kirkpatrick reports that ebooks
are not taking off as fast as boosters hoped.
* Archives should be interoperable. So should information-swapping
applications, publishers, and text formats. But digital rights
languages? In an August 24 article posted to Planet eBook, Renato Iannella
makes the case for the Open Digital Rights Language (ODRL), an interoperable
language allowing a description of rights to accompany digital content.
* In the August 23 _Wired News_, Kendra Mayfield describes the University
of Phoenix's plan to phase out print textbooks in favor of ebooks. The
University of Phoenix is a for-profit university specializing in distance
education. Even apart from Phoenix's special needs, Mayfield reports that
publishers see demand from the education market for customized, interactive
* In the August 17 _NewMedia_, Bob Woods describes the success of the
Library of Congress's American Memory site: 100 million hits in the 12
months from April '00 to April '01. American Memory is a huge, free,
online collection of Library of Congress materials in many media. It's
aimed at students studying American history. If material useful to
students deserves the name of scholarship, then American Memory is an FOS
* In the August 9 _Chicago Tribune_, David Streitfeld argues that consumers
don't see ebooks as solutions to real problems. The article focuses on
fiction and trade non-fiction, not scholarly ebooks.
* In the August 3 issue of _The Filter_, Lawrence Lessig shows how the
copyright debate has changed since 1995, when it seemed that the thriving of the
internet meant the death of copyright. He re-articulates the problems with
the DMCA in light of recent defenses of it, and argues that the real issue is
not whether copyright is dead but "how many other values get sacrificed in the
name of protecting copyright."
Share your thoughts
* On August 31, the RLG and OCLC want your comments on their draft report
on the "Attributes of a Trusted Digital Repository." The goal is to
develop strategies and systems for long-term access and preservation to digital
* In May, Adobe launched eBook U, an initiative to sell ebooks to
universities and explore the potential for ebooks for teaaching and
learning. Under the plan, Adobe's university partners will get free
software and training for making ebooks, and Adobe will study how they
* In the August 7 issue, we explored the problem of the commercial
exploitation of FOS. One defense against it is to copyright free online
articles, rather than put them into the public domain. This gives the
author the right to stop a publisher from making copies which it might use
commercially. An August 23 story posted to Cosmiverse reports on an
intriguingly analogous problem --with no FOS connection beyond this
analogy. If you are a celebrity worried that stalking fans steal might
your hair brush or restaurant fork, and have mad scientists clone you, then you
may thwart them and sleep soundly at night by copyrighting your DNA. Can
you really copyright your DNA? Either you can, or California's DNA
Copyright Institute, which secures DNA copyrights at $1,500 a pop for
clone-anxious celebrities, is a fraud. (Could clone-worthy celebrities
really be gullible?)
Copyright your DNA
The DNA Copyright Institute
I've been receiving a steady stream of helpful suggestions for my Guide to
the FOS Movement, launched last week. I've noted all of them an acted on
most of them already. Meantime, I have my own backlog of worthy sites to
add. If only I didn't have this newsletter to take my time--
If you plan to attend one of the following conferences, please share your
observations with us through our discussion forum.
* The International Cultural Heritage Informatics Meeting
Milan, September 3-7
* 5th European Conference on Research and Advanced Technology for Digital
Darmstadt, September 4-8
* DELOS Workshop on Interoperability in Digital Libraries
Darmstadt, September 8-9
* Experimental OAI Based Digital Library Systems
Darmstadt, September 8
* Preserving Online Content for Future Generations
Darmstadt, September 8
* International Autumn School on the Digital Library and E-publishing for
Physics, Astronomy and Mathematics
Geneva, September 9-14
* Digital Libraries: Advanced Methods and Technologies, Digital
Petrozavodsk, September 11-13
* Intellectual Property and Multimedia in the Digital Age: Copyright
New York, September 24; Cincinnati, October 27; Eugene, Oregon, November
* Digital Resources for Research in the Humanities
Sydney, September 26-28
* EBLIDA Workshop on the Acquisition and Usage of Electronic
The Hague, September 28
* Summer School on the Digital Library 2001: Electronic
Florence, October 7-12
* IT in the Transformation of the Library
Milwaukee, October 11-14
* International Conference on Dublin Core and Metadata Applications
Tokyo, October 22-26
* Information in a Networked World: Harnessing the Flow
Washington D.C., November 2-8
* Electronic Book 2001: Authors, Applications, and
Washington D.C., November 5-7
This is the Free Online Scholarship Newsletter (ISSN 1535-7848).
Please feel free to forward this newsletter to interested colleagues.
If you are reading a forwarded copy of this issue, you may subscribe yourself by
signing up at the FOS home page or the FOS Newsletter page.
FOS home page, general information, subscriptions, editorial position,
FOS Newsletter, subscriptions, back issues
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Guide to the FOS Movement
Copyright (c) 2001, Peter Suber