FTC takes on predatory journals

Inside Higher Ed reports that the FTC has filed a complaint against the OMICS Group, publisher of over 700 open access journals.

Ioana Rusu, a staff attorney with the FTC, said in an interview that the commission is responding to a growing number of calls from people in academe for some sort of action to be taken against publishers that take advantage of scholars wishing to publish in open-access journals.

OMICS, the commission alleges, does not adequately disclose that authors have to pay a publication fee, falsely claims that its journals are frequently cited and lists academic experts with no connection to the journals as editors.

Rusu stressed that the FTC is not passing judgment on open-access publishing in general. “We take no sides between the traditional subscription model and the open-access model,” she said. “We believe both of them can be done in a fair, open, clear and lawful way. What we have a problem with here is people who are trying to benefit from the open-access model to scam people.”

Opening the Textbook: new report

OER2A new research report on faculty awareness, use and attitudes toward open textbooks is now available. Opening the Textbook: Educational Resources in Higher Education, 2015-2016.

Among other findings:

Most higher education faculty are unaware of open educational resources (OER) – but they are interested and some are willing to give it a try. Survey results, using
responses of over 3,000 U.S. faculty, show that OER is not a driving force in the selection of materials – with the most significant barrier being the effort required to find and evaluate such materials. Use of open resources is low overall, but somewhat higher for large enrollment introductory-level courses. …
The most common factor cited by faculty when selecting educational resources was the cost to the students. After cost, the next most common was the comprehensiveness of the resource, followed by how easy it was to find.
There is a serious disconnect between how many faculty include a factor in selecting educational resources and how satisfied they are with the state of that factor. For example, faculty are least satisfied with the cost of textbooks, yet that is the most commonly listed factor for resource selections.

 

New SocArXiv

SocArXiv

 

Richard Poynder has a very informative post about the recent takeover of SSRN by Elsevier and the timely, concurrent launch of a new preprint server for the social sciences, SocArXiv. The new service is built on the Open Science Framework platform.

So what is SocArXiv? As the name suggests, it is modelled on the physics preprint server arXiv, and describes itself as a free, open access, open source archive for social science research. Authors are able to upload their preprints to the service and make them freely available to all. The papers will be provided with permanent identifiers to allow them to be linked to the latest version, or to versions published elsewhere. They can also be made available under Creative Commons licences, and analytics data will be provided to show how often papers have been accessed.

Learn more on SocOpen, the SocArXiv blog.

What does Brexit mean for OA?

eu Among the many questions about the impact of Brexit: What will this mean for OA in the UK and what will the UK’s exit mean for OA in the EU?

Both the EU and the UK have been leaders in the Open Access shift for some time. In April the EU, currently led by the Netherlands, published a very ambitious plan (the Amsterdam Call to Action for Open Science) to shift all scientific publications to OA by 2020 and to make all publicly funded research data openly available.

Two blog posts look at the possible effects on OA progress of the budget pressures and the structural changes the Brexit will cause:
Open Access and Brexit
Brexit: Risks to the Knowledge Economy and the Money Scrum

Knowledge Unlatched Usage

In its successful pilot phase, Knowledge Unlatched worked to secure pledges from at least 200 libraries in order to unlatch (that is, make freely and openly available) a collection of 28 front-list titles from recognized scholarly publishers. 297 libraries from 24 countries pledged, including the Boston College University Libraries.
Usage stats are now available for this collection and the breadth of use and numbers  of downloads (80,000!) make the Boston College investment seem very worthwhile. We have also contributed to unlatch the next round of publications. This is an interesting alternative publishing model to watch.

Elsevier Purchases SSRN

Today Elsevier announced that it has acquired SSRN (Social Science Research Network), a site that is used to share preprints and working papers, particularly in the humanities and social sciences. Much like Elsevier’s earlier acquisition, Mendeley, SSRN works as a network for scholars and researchers to share their work online, which has led some, such as Scholarly Kitchen, to see this as an indication of “Elsevier’s interest in the open access repository space.” However, as noted by the Financial Times, “news of the deal met with an angry reaction from some academics, who expressed concern that the world’s largest journal publisher might restrict access to papers.” It will be interesting to see what form Elsevier’s interest in open access takes and how the scholarly community reacts to the purchase over the next weeks and months.

VP Biden calls for Open Access

oa_or_front-3~s600x600Heather Joseph reports that, in a speech to the American Association for Cancer Research, Vice President Joe Biden calls for more Open Access to research results in order to speed up the development of new cancer treatments and cures:

Noting that “we should measure progress by improving patient outcomes, not just publications,” the Vice President addressed the need for not only making open access the norm in cancer research, but also rewarding researchers for making their papers openly available.

He continued: “What you propose and how it affects patients, it seems to me, should be the basis of whether you continue to get the grant. And scores of your colleagues — scores — said make publications more readily available.”

“Right now, you work for years to come up with a significant breakthrough, and if you do, you get to publish a paper in one of the top journals,” the Vice President said. “For anyone to get access to that publication, they have to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars to subscribe to a single journal. And here’s the kicker—the journal owns the data for a year. Your outfit does this.“

“And by the way, the taxpayers fund $5 billion a year in cancer research every year, but once it’s published, nearly all of that taxpayer-funded research sits behind walls. Tell me how this is moving the process along more rapidly.”

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Google Books Case

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition for writ of certiorari submitted by the Authors Guild in their case against Google Books. In their petition, the Authors Guild had argued that the Second Circuit had “upended the meaning of the phrase ‘transformative use’ employed by” the Supreme Court in an earlier case and had “effectively nullified the four statutory fair-use factors set forth by Congress, including any real analysis under the fourth factor of the market harm to rightsholders caused by Google Books and by its many likely imitators” (pages 3-4 of the Petition). Now that the Supreme Court has declined to hear the case, the Second Circuit’s original decision affirming the fact that Google’s actions meet the requirements of the fair use doctrine.

You can read more about the case and the statements from the parties in the wake of the Supreme Court’s action in the New York Times.

Sweden’s Recent Copyright Ruling Could Impact the Sharing of Images Online

The highest court of Sweden ruled yesterday that tourists may take pictures of art in public spaces but that the posting of these images to Wikimedia Sverige (translated as Wikimedia Sweden) violates the copyright of the artists. You can read the full statement of the Court and the decision on the Court’s website (in Swedish). According to The Guardian:

The Visual Copyright Society in Sweden (BUS), which represents painters, photographers, illustrators and designers among others, had sued Wikimedia Sweden for making photographs of their artwork displayed in public places available in its database, without their consent.
The Supreme Court found in favour of BUS, arguing that while individuals were permitted to photograph artwork on display in public spaces, it was “an entirely different matter” to make the photographs available in a database for free and unlimited use.
“Such a database can be assumed to have a commercial value that is not insignificant. The court finds that the artists are entitled to that value,” it wrote in a statement.

The damages owed by Wikimedia Sweden have not yet been decided. You can read the Wikimedia Foundation’s full response to the ruling on their blog.

eReserves and Fair Use Again

You may remember that the Georgia State e-reserves case resulted in a District Court ruling largely favorable to libraries, but with a bright line 10% standard applied for fair use. The publishers appealed and the higher court sent the case back to the District Court for a new fair use analysis.

The new ruling, yesterday, is still quite favorable to libraries and does away with the 10% rule. It does apply a financial analysis to each posted excerpt based on data available to the court after the fact, but not to the library or professor beforehand.

Both Keven Smith and Brandon Butler have written helpful analyses.

Some bottom-line advice from Smith:

 All we can do, then, is to continue to think carefully about each instance of fair use, and make responsible decisions.  We still have some rules of thumb, and also some places where we will need to think in a more granular way.  But nothing in these rulings need fundamentally upset good, responsible library practice.

The second takeaway from this decision is that we should resort to paying for licenses only very rarely, and when there is no other alternative.  The simple fact is that the nature of the analysis that the Court of Appeals pushed Judge Evans into is such that licensing income for the publishers narrows the scope for fair use by libraries.  To my mind, this means that whenever we are faced with an e-reserves request that may not fall easily into fair use, we should look at ways to improve the fair use situation before we decide to license the excerpt.  Can we link to an already licensed version?  Can we shorten the excerpt?  Buying a separate license should be a last resort.  Doing extensive business with the Copyright Clearance Center, including purchase of their blanket campus license, is not, in my opinion, a way to buy reassurance and security; instead, it increases the risk that our space for fair use will shrink over time.

And, from Butler:

Her new analysis, stripped of its bright lines and clear arithmetic, seems to amount to nothing more than her opinion about whether the use will substantially harm the market value (actual and potential) for the works used. How much harm is “substantial”? Well, in several places Judge Evans says the harm must be so extensive as to risk undermining the publishers’ entire motivation to publish the work. So, it would need to eat their entire profit margin (or enough that they decide it’s not worth the bother to publish). And in at least one place she seems to suggest that, because there is no marginal cost for a publisher to offer to license use of excerpts from a work, there is no real harm when GSU decides not to pay the license. This is heady stuff, and could offer a very wide berth for educational fair use of electronic excerpts.