What happens when books enter the public domain? Testing copyright’s underuse hypothesis across Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada by Rebecca Giblin :: SSRN

Abstract:  The United States (‘US’) extended most copyright terms by 20 years in 1998, and has since exported that extension via ‘free trade’ agreements to countries including Australia and Canada. A key justification for the longer term was the claim that exclusive rights are necessary to encourage publishers to invest in making older works available — and that, unless such rights were granted, they would go underused. This study empirically tests this ‘underuse hypothesis’ by investigating the relative availability of ebooks to public libraries across Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada. We find that books are actually less available where they are under copyright than where they are in the public domain, and that commercial publishers seem undeterred from investing in works even where others are competing to supply the same titles. We also find that exclusive rights do not appear to trigger investment in works that have low commercial demand, with books from 59% of the ‘culturally valuable’ authors we sampled unavailable in any jurisdiction, regardless of copyright status. This provides new evidence of how even the shortest copyright terms can outlast works’ commercial value, even where cultural value remains. Further, we find that works are priced much higher where they are under copyright than where they in the public domain, and these differences typically far exceed what would be paid to authors or their heirs. Thus, one effect of extending copyrights from life + 50 to life + 70 is that libraries are obliged to pay higher prices in exchange for worse access.

This is the first published study to test the underuse hypothesis outside the US, and the first to analyse comparative availability of identical works across jurisdictions where their copyright status differs. It adds to the evidence that the underuse hypothesis is not borne out by real world practice. Nonetheless, countries are still being obliged to enact extended terms as a cost of trade access. We argue that such nations should explore alternative ways of dividing up those rights to better achieve copyright’s fundamental aims of rewarding authors and promoting widespread access to knowledge and culture.

Countries with longer copyright terms have access to fewer books (pay attention, Canada!) / Boing Boing

Rebecca Giblin (previously) writes, “We’ve just dropped a new study we’ve been working on for a year. You know how it keeps being claimed that we need longer copyrights because nobody will invest in making works available if they’re in the public domain? Heald and some others have done some great work debunking that in the US context, but now we’ve finally tested this hypothesis in other countries by looking at the relative availability of ebooks to libraries. It’s also the first time anyone has been able to compare availability of identical works (by significant authors) across jurisdictions. The books we sampled were all in the public domain in Canada and NZ, all under copyright in Australia, and a mix in the US (courtesy of its historical renewal system).”

“So what’d we find? That Canada and NZ (public domain) have access to more books and at cheaper prices than Australia (copyright) and the US (mixed). Also that publishers don’t seem to have any problem competing with each other on the same popular titles. And, sadly but not surprisingly: 59% of our sampled ‘culturally significant’ authors had no books available to libraries in any country regardless of copyright status. That’s because even the shortest terms wildly outlast most books’ commercial life (even where they still have cultural value). …”

White House Releases Draft Federal Data Strategy Action Plan – SPARC

Yesterday, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released their long-awaited draft Federal Data Strategy Action Plan which outlines the Administration’s concrete action plan for implementing the President’s Management Agenda priority to leverage data as a National Strategic Asset. It also serves as a blueprint for the government’s implementation of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking/Open Government Act, which was signed into law in January.

Along with the draft action plan, OMB released final versions of the principles and practices it expects agencies to follow in gathering, using, protecting, and engaging with data.

The draft action plan, which is open for public comment until July 5th, lays out actions considered fundamental for the government to undertake during the first year in order to execute the full breadth of the strategy over time. It includes concrete deliverables for each individual federal agency, as well as government-wide actions facilitated by collaborative agency work.

The plan articulates six actions for all federal agencies to individually complete once the action plan is finalized in August:

  1. Improve data resources for artificial intelligence research and development by February 2020
  2. Constitute a diverse data governance body by September 2019
  3. Assess data and related infrastructure maturity by May 2020
  4. Identify opportunities to increase staff data skills by May 2020
  5. Identify data needed to answer key agency questions by August 2020
  6. Identify priority datasets for agency open data plans by August 2020…”

US Authors Guild Joins With AAP and Copyright Alliance on CASE Act

“On last Wednesday (May 1), the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019 (called the CASE Act) was introduced on the floors of the US House by Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York) and Doug Collins (R-Georgia) as HR 2426; and in the Senate by John Kennedy (R-Louisiana), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) as S 1273….

“The CASE Act would create a streamlined, much less formal process than currently exists in federal court,” according to the [Authors Guild] staff’s messaging. “The parties would not need to hire attorneys and all proceedings would be conducted remotely, drastically reducing the cost. A three-‘judge’ tribunal within the Copyright Office would hear small copyright cases. … The process would also be entirely optional for both parties.” …

There is disagreement about the bill, albeit respectful, coming from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the nonprofit that works to defend civil liberties issues as they pertain to the digital space. “Though it’s well-intentioned,” a letter from April 23 on the subject from the EFF reads, “this bill would re-ignite the nationwide problem of copyright trolling, just as the federal courts are beginning to address this abusive practice.” 

The foundation’s position is that the CASE Act makes it easier, not harder, for copyright trolls to operate, and that it raises potential threats to the privacy of “home and business Internet subscribers.”

The EFF writes, “We recognize that federal litigation can be expensive, making the pursuit of many small-dollar-value claims impractical for copyright holders. But we believe that much of that expense results from procedures that promote fairness, established and refined through decades of use. Creating a new, parallel system that allows copyright holders to dispense with those procedures invites abuse, especially given the Copyright Office’s institutional bias.” …”

Affordable College Textbook Act Reintroduced in U.S. Congress – SPARC

SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), an international alliance of academic and research libraries working to broaden access to knowledge, today applauded the reintroduction of the Affordable College Textbook Act in the U.S. Congress. The bill aims to make higher education more affordable for students by expanding the use and awareness of open educational resources (OER) — high quality academic materials that can be freely downloaded, edited and shared to better serve all students….”

A Model for Public Access to Trustworthy and Comprehensive Reporting of Research. | Health Care Quality | JAMA | JAMA Network

In the future, these potential benefits of requiring a peer-reviewed, publicly available comprehensive final report will be weighed against the costs. In a few years, it will be possible to determine if these final reports have expanded the reach of each research study, whether they are used in systematic reviews, and how lessons learned from peer review of the final reports have changed the way that the institute does its work. For the present, it may be enough to hope that an openly accessible peer-reviewed comprehensive final research report will help to increase public trust in research. It is possible that the sponsors of the legislation were on to something important when they set the institute on this path. However, the realization of their vision is in its infancy and its putative benefits are largely speculative. There is still much to learn….”

Assembly Democrats’ Bill to Make College Textbooks More Affordable Heads to Governor – Insider NJ

The bill (A-327-3254-1149) requires each institution of higher education to submit a plan to the Secretary of Higher Education to expand the use of open textbooks and commercial digital learning materials. “Open textbooks” are educational resources for college courses that are available online for free or at a reduced cost….”

European copyright directive ‘opens door to mass digitalisation’ | Times Higher Education (THE)

Librarians believe that a new copyright directive passed by the European Parliament could open the door to the mass digitalisation of books, films and audio recordings, potentially meaning fewer trips to distant libraries for scholars and students who need access to obscure material….

It should make it easier for libraries to digitalise documents that are still in copyright but are not commercially available. These could include radio broadcasts, out-of-print books and unpublished oral histories, said Ben White, a member of the legal working group at the Association of European Research Libraries.

It could help to make available “huge amounts of unpublished material with a big research value”, he said.

At the moment, libraries must seek permission to digitalise these documents one by one, painstakingly tracking down the copyright owner for each, he explained, meaning that digitalisation is not possible at scale….”

Ricerca, primo sì all’Open Access. Pubblicazioni a pagamento solo per sei mesi – Corriere.it

From Google’s English: “The law on Open Access to scientific publications was approved on Wednesday, March 13 in first reading in the House. Commission President Luigi Gallo’s proposal passed in plenary with 272 votes in favor and 185 abstentions and a vote against, after a rapid journey in the Culture Commission, which accepted various contributions and modifications. Now it will go to the Senate….

The law modifies the copyright and allows the authors of research – scientific and otherwise – the right to publish, after six months from the first publication for a fee, the results of their work for free to ensure open access for all. The right to republish will be applied to those researches that are funded entirely or partially with public funds. The author will remain the owner of this right even if he exclusively assigned the rights of economic use of his work to the publisher or editor….

The approval in the first reading of the Gallo law follows by a few months the announcement of the European Union that last September launched the Plan S which provides that from 2020 the scientific publications financed by public funds must be published in journals or platforms of Open Access.”

Creating a data-first culture at federal agencies — FCW

The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 provides guidelines on how agencies should collect and analyze data to promote effective and efficient policymaking across programs and organizations. Data, not gut feelings or political influence, will determine how policy is created, modified or retired and whether a program achieves its intended objectives….

The legislation also incorporates the Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act of 2018, which requires federal agencies to make their program and activity data available in machine-readable format and to maintain and publish inventories of their datasets. The rich datasets captured will be available to the public and, more importantly, shareable among federal agencies. Having accessible data finally gives federal agencies the ability to explore critical metrics about the citizens they are serving, programs they are executing and the results of their work. …”