26 February, 2009

Toaster's Late to This Party, Apparently

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI, 14th district [Detroit]) has introduced legislation into the House of Representatives, H.R. 6845, the "Fair Copyright in Research Works Act", that will apparently effectively prevent the public at large from accessing publicly-funded (e.g., NIH) research. This is bad, and in my mad opinion, also rather stupid. I don't think it is inappropriate to compare this to buying a book and then finding that the pages are all glued together.

This issue has been covered by the Scimese over at ScienceBlogs in great detail already (this is why I am late to the party). For broader commentary, check out Coturnix from Blog Around the Clock here and here, Greg Laden here, and Effect Measure here.

What I do not understand is the why of this legislation. ARRA had a clear purpose: beginning to fix the economy. However, this act just seems recidivist and arbitrary. Scientists are not publishing dangerous methodologies and subliminal evil schemes along with their important research, so unless the sponsors of the bill believe that the American people are too stupid and fragile-minded to read raw research and thus must be protected, I don't know why they are doing this. Or, wait, are we too dangerous to be allowed to communicate with the public? Are they afraid we're going to corrupt their constituents with logic, reason, research, and mad science!? Are we all so diabolical that we need to be contained? Maybe this is just the first volley and soon they'll be installing public relations officers at all MRUs whose job it is to Taser us whenever we attempt to speak to the press...

Well, I do have a sign on the door of our lab with everyones' names and the undertitle "Keeping otherwise dangerous minds off the streets and in the lab." Think about it, if scientists intensely curious about the physical world weren't in the lab doing science, wouldn't we probably be doing it at home in much more dangerous conditions instead?

I was under the impression that the big science publishers were not profitable or big enough to have the clout to write this bill, but maybe there have been arcane corporate mergers or something that have made them more powerful than we know (suddenly PLoS seems like Link up against Ganondorf and Zant at the same time). As far as I know the corporate entities of Science, Nature, et al are not publicly held and as such aren't profit driven like the businesses in the RIAA.

My Point:
I have contacted Rep. Conyer's office to ask them why this legislation has been deemed necessary. They said they'd call me with the information once they've gathered it. I'll be posting this conversation as it progresses.

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