Press release 12/09
10 November 2009
Support for the petition „Science and Research – open access to research publications“ for the German Bundestag
The Coalition for Action „Copyright for Education and Research“ welcomes and supports the initiative of Lars Fischer on „Science and Research – open access to scientific publications“, [english translation of the petition text] which has been introduced as a formal petition to the German Parliament. The explanatory statement rightly reminds the parties in authority that something is wrong with how we are communicating our published research findings: Knowledge produced in public institutions with public money is accessible only for a fee, and as a result a large portion of the research community for whom it was written -- to be used, applied and build upon -- are excluded from accessing it unless they pay. Excluded too is much of the general public that funded the research, unless they pay again.
For years the Coalition for Action, together with many other scientific organisations, has pointed out that in regard to copyright the legislative body has to bear the public interest in mind. It serves neither the interests of research progress nor of economic growth for legislators to protect the interests of the commercial exploitation by publishers of the reports of publicly funded research findings at the expense of the interests of research progress itself as well as the public that funds the research and for whose benefit it is conducted. Scientific publications, the petition demands, have to be made accessible online to all potential users free of charge.
Till the end of its term, the Ministry of Justice of the previous government refused to acknowledge in its legislation the growing world-wide movement toward Open Access and failed to mandate Open-Access provision on the part of researchers (as institutions and funders in 24 other countries have done; in Germany, only the Frauenhofer Gesellscheft has so far mandated Open Access). Constructive ideas from the federal council (Bundesrat) (especially regarding §38 of the German Copyright Law), based on well-thought-out suggestions from the scientific community, were dismissed. The new government should do better than this.
Apparently, however, reasoning alone is not enough. The Coalition hopes that the petition, coming from the source – the research community itself -- will reverberate widely. One cannot explain to citizens – they would certainly not consider it to be fair – that online access to something that for all intents and purposes belongs to them (publicly funded research findings) must be paid for by both its intended users (researchers) and the public itself. As a basic rule, publicly funded knowledge should be freely accessible to and usable by everybody (while of course respecting all the personal rights of the author).
The Coalition for Action wishes to draw attention to the new governmental coalition’s agreement that consultations concerning the third reform packet of German Copyright law should start quickly. This reform packet is dedicated to education and science, as decided by the German parliament at the time. Neither education nor science should need to continue to depend on inadequate and even detrimental special exceptions in the law in order to provide free online access to refereed research findings.
If the scientific community finds it difficult to protest against harmful developments in copyright law, perhaps citizens are less squeamish. This petition – which is only for mandating free online access to publications reporting publicly funded research -- can be an important first step toward extending this right of free online access free to further forms of knowledge. The Coalition for Action suggests that all the signers of the Göttingen Declaration (http://www.urheberrechtsbuendnis.de/index.html.en), the Berlin Declaration, the Budapest Open Access Initiative and the EC Open Access Petition -- as well as all other scholars in science and education -- sign the petition. We also advise reading the just-published paper on Open Access “Positionen, Prozesse, Perspektiven” by the Alliance of German Science Organisations (Allianz der Wissenschaftsorganisationen) [http://www.allianz-initiative.de/fileadmin/openaccess.pdf].
Prof. Dr. Rainer Kuhlen
Speaker for the Coalition for Action “Copyright for Education and Science”
Coalition for Action “Copyright for Education and Science”
[http://www.urheberrechtsbuendnis.de] was founded in 2004 in the
context of the reform of copyright law in Germany. The Coalition for
Action fights for balanced copyright law and calls for free access
to the world-wide information pool for everybody who works publicly
in the domain of education and science – anytime and anywhere. The
basis of the Coalition is the Göttingen Declaration on
Copyright for Education and Research of 5 July 2004. This
declaration was signed by six members of the Alliance of German
Science Organisations (Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft for the Advancement
of Applied Research, Helmholtz Association of German Research
Centres, German Rectors’ Conference, Max Planck Society, Leibnitz
Association and the German Council of Science and Humanities), by
more than 365 research associations, information institutions and
organisations and more than 7000 individuals. Speakers of the
Coalition for Action are Prof. Dr. Rainer Kuhlen (Konstanz), Dr.
Müller (Heidelberg), Dr. Sepp (Kassel).
More information by e-mail to rainer.kuhlen at uni-konstanz.de, hmueller at mpil.de and sepp at physik.uni-kassel.de.