Category Archives: Law and Policy

Federal Court of Appeal Deals Access Copyright Huge Blow as it Overturns York University Copyright Decision

Posted May 4, 2020

We thank Professor Michael Geist for sharing this analysis of the York University v. Access Copyright decision, cross-posted from his website where it was made available under a CC BY 2.5 CA license.

York University Station by wyliepoon (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Federal Court of Appeal delivered its long-awaited decision the York University v. Access Copyright case yesterday, setting aside the lower court ruling that I had described as “a complete victory” for Access Copyright. The latest ruling will not leave York University and the education community completely happy given the court’s fair dealing analysis, but winning on the mandatory tariff issue removes both the threat of mandated payments to Access Copyright as well as the possibility of a copyright infringement lawsuit by the copyright collective. That represents an enormous win both for York and for a fair approach to copyright licensing that ensures users have licensing choice.

Access Copyright quickly claimed the decision was a “mixed outcome”, but losing on the mandatory tariff issue eliminates its ability to force the education community to enter into its licence. The copyright collective has spent much of the past decade lobbying the Canadian government to reverse the 2012 copyright reforms that added the education purpose to fair dealing. That approach was rejected by the Government’s copyright review, which opened the door to a further expansion with a “flexible fair dealing” model. But the real story of education and copyright in Canada for the past twenty years has been the string of appellate decisions that have largely unravelled the legal underpinnings of the Access Copyright model. The Supreme Court’s CCH decision brought user rights and an emphasis on fair dealing. The Access Copyright v. Alberta decision ended the claim that there was a meaningful distinction between student copying and teachers’ copying for students. This latest decision addresses the mandatory tariff issue, confirming that educational institutions can opt-out of the Access Copyright licence as appropriate and that any claims of infringement will be left to copyright owners to address, not Access Copyright.

To be clear, the decision does not mean that there is no compensation for authors and publishers nor that their copyrights are unenforceable. Copyright law still grants them exclusive rights over their works subject to users’ rights such as fair dealing. This right includes the ability to pursue infringement claims backed by statutory damages. Rather, users have choice in how they obtain the necessary rights for the works they use. Access Copyright has long claimed there was effectively no choice as its approach was mandatory once copying was captured by the licence. This decision canvasses decades of legislative history to conclusively demonstrate that this was never the case. Instead, the Access Copyright licence – even once certified by the Copyright Board – is an option available to users. However, educational users today have a wide range of alternative options including site licensing, open access materials, transactional licences, and fair dealing. Many institutions now use a combination of these paid and unpaid approach as a better approach.

Where does that leave Access Copyright? The copyright collective must compete in the market by offering a compelling value proposition to potential licensees, who will compare the Access Copyright licence to the other available licensing options. If authors or publishers believe that that licensing still leads to infringement, they – not Access Copyright – are entitled to pursue statutory damages in court.

Read the rest of Professor Geist’s analysis of the case and the court’s discussion of the mandatory tariff and fair dealing issues here.

Update: Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org

Posted April 27, 2020

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a decision in Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org Inc, holding that the annotations in Georgia’s Official Code are ineligible for copyright protection.


The Code Revision Commission (the “Commission”), an arm of the State of Georgia’s General Assembly, is mandated to ensure publication of the statutes adopted by the General Assembly. It does so by contracting with the LexisNexis Group (“Lexis”) to maintain, publish, and distribute the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (“OCGA”), an annotated compilation of Georgia’s statutes. Following guidelines provided by the Commission, Lexis prepares and sells OCGA, which includes the statutory text of Georgia’s laws and annotations (such as summaries of judicial decisions interpreting or applying particular statutes). Lexis also makes unannotated versions of the statutes available online.

Public.Resource.Org (“PRO”) is a non-profit organization that promotes access to government records and primary legal materials. PRO makes government documents available online, including the official codes and other rules, regulations, and standards legally adopted by federal, state, and local authorities, giving the public free access to these documents. PRO purchased printed copies of the OCGA, digitized its content, and posted copies online through its own website.

Georgia filed suit against PRO claiming copyright infringement. For a brief history of the litigation, see our earlier post on the case.

Supreme Court’s Decision

The issue before the Supreme Court was whether Georgia can claim copyrights over the OCGA annotations or if it is prevented from doing so because the annotations are an “edict of government.” Under the government edicts doctrine, officials empowered to speak with the force of law cannot be the authors of—and therefore cannot copyright—the works they create in the course of their official duties.

Reviewing earlier cases involving the government edicts doctrine, the Court was guided by an animating principle that “no one can own the law.” The majority opinion found that under the government edicts doctrine, legislators may not be considered the authors of the works they produce in the course of their official duties as legislators. The Court held that the rule applies regardless of whether a given material carries the force of law, and that it applies to the annotations in OCGA because they are authored by an arm of the legislature in the course of its official duties.

As a result, the Court affirmed the 11th Circuit’s decision that the annotations in Georgia’s Official Code are ineligible for copyright protection and finding in favor of PRO.

New Report: Evaluating the Benefits and Costs of a 25-Year Termination Right in Canada

Posted April 14, 2020
Red and white Canadian maple leaf flag against a blue sky
photo by RonnyK | CC0

A new report by Paul Heald recommends that Canada adopt a right for an author (or their heirs) to terminate a transfer of copyright 25 years after the transfer was made. Relying on empirical data, Heald concludes that a carefully crafted termination right would provide measurable benefits to authors and to the Canadian public.

Under section 14(1) of Canada’s current Copyright Act, any grant of interest in a copyrighted work made by an author (except for a grant made in a will) after June 4, 1921 automatically reverts to an author’s estate twenty-five years after an author’s death. As a part of a review of Canada’s Copyright Act, Canada’s Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology Committee and the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage recommended that authors should have a non-waivable right to regain control of a copyright twenty-five years after the initial assignment of rights in the work (rather than twenty-five years from the author’s death). Heald’s report was commissioned by the Heritage Committee to evaluate the effect of such a change.

Heald’s report reviews the private and public benefits of providing a statutory right to terminate transfers. As detailed in the report, providing a termination right gives authors the ability to renegotiate a contract or to bring a work back into print with a new publisher or by self-publishing. The public, in turn, benefits from a measurable increase in the availability of works to the public. Drawing on data from the US, UK, and Canadian book markets, Heald shows the negative effect of copyright term length on the availability of books in print and how rights reversion can increase the ability of book titles.

The report also examines the private and public costs of a statutory reversion right. Heald evaluates claims that publishers will offer diminished compensation to acquire rights that are subject to termination. He concludes that because publishers of books, for example, can anticipate earning 99.5% of the present value of the book by year 25, the potential that an author will terminate a transfer of rights at year 25 should not change the business models of rational book publishers. On the public cost side, Heald argues that potential costs (such as exacerbation of orphan works problems and potential issues for investors in derivative works) can easily be minimized by careful drafting of the termination right.

In sum, Heald recommends that Canada adopt a termination right that:

  • provides creators a non-assignable, non-waivable right to terminate any transfer of an exclusive right no earlier than 25 years after the execution of the transfer;
  • extinguishes itself five years after it becomes available;
  • takes effect no earlier than twelve months after the creator is notified of the intent to exercise the right;
  • requires that notice be subject to registration;
  • requires that termination can only be exercised by claimants holding 51% or more of the termination right; and
  • provides protection for a transferee who properly licensed the copyrighted work to create its own authorized original work of authorship.

The full report is available here.

Resource List: Copyright and COVID-19

Posted April 1, 2020

We’ve collected resources to answer questions that you might have about fair use, access to educational materials, and temporary changes to Copyright Office operations during the COVID-19 outbreak. We’ll continue to add to this resource list as relevant resources are released; please check back often.

Public Statement of Library Copyright Specialists: Fair Use & Emergency Remote Teaching & Research

A group of library copyright specialists recently released a Public Statement on Fair Use & Emergency Remote Teaching & Research to provide clarity for U.S. colleges and universities about how copyright law applies to remote teaching and research in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. In response to concerns that copyright may pose impediments to a rapid shift to remote instruction—or conversely, that copyright is not relevant—the Statement authors review how fair use and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) apply to remote teaching. As they conclude, “[w]hile legal obligations do not automatically dissolve in the face of a public health crisis, U.S. copyright law is, thankfully, well equipped to provide the flexibility necessary for the vast majority of remote learning needed at this time.” Read the Statement here.

Resilient Digital Materials for College and University Teaching and Learning: Copyright and Open Education Strategies

The Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property is presenting a series of webinars to help teachers navigate concerns around copyright when finding digital teaching materials:

April 17, 03:00 PM ET: Educational fair use in the COVID-19 emergency: yes you can scan (and more) for colleges and universities (watch the webinar recording here)

April 24, 03:00 PM ET: Finding teaching materials for Fall 2020 and beyond: evaluating resilient digital teaching and learning materials from open and commercial sources for college and university teaching (including finding materials and evaluating licensing) (watch the webinar recording here)

May 1, 03:00 PM ET: Creating teaching materials for Fall 2020 and beyond: authoring and adapting Open Educational Resources for colleges and universities (strategies, systems, and sources for creating OER)

Register here for the entire Higher Education track or for individual webinars within the track.

Reading Aloud: Fair Use Enables Translating Classroom Practices to Online Learning

As many teachers face an abrupt shift to online teaching, there have been questions about how copyright law applies to the translation of classroom-based practices of reading aloud to students to the digital environment. This guide examines how fair use applies to read-aloud activities online, concluding that “[w]hen researchers translate classroom practices of reading aloud to online student facing tools, such as distribution through a school website, learning management system, or live webcast, fair use enables most of the same practices online that take place in person. Read the guide here or watch the webinar recording.

Over 50 Publishers Offering Free Content on Project MUSE

In response to challenges created by COVID-19, Project MUSE has partnered with more than 60 publishers to temporarily make scholarly content freely available to assist with access for the many students, faculty, and researchers now working remotely. More than 15,000 books, and over 230 journal titles—comprising well over 10,000 issues and more than 185,000 articles—are available through this initiative. More details on the content and the full list of participating publishers are available on the Project MUSE website.

United States Copyright Office’s Public Notice Regarding Timing Provisions Involving Certain Registration Claims and Notices of Termination for Persons Affected by COVID-19

The United States Copyright Office has announced temporary extensions for registering copyrights and recording notices of termination for those unable to comply with deadlines as a result of the COVID-19 emergency. The Copyright Office has provided this temporary measure to accommodate copyright owners who may be prevented from completing and submitting materials in a timely manner due to lack of access to physical documents, including deposit copies of copyrighted works, or the inability to deliver materials to a mail carrier. To qualify, applicants must submit a statement certifying under penalty of perjury that they would have met the deadline but for the national emergency. For applications that can be submitted entirely in electronic form, the timing provisions are unchanged. For more information, visit the Office’s webpage dedicated to operational updates during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Authors Alliance Weighs in on the Next Register of Copyrights

Posted March 23, 2020
photo by Carol Highsmith

Authors Alliance has provided guidance in response to the Librarian of Congress’ request for public input on the expertise needed by the next Register of Copyrights and the top three priorities for the next Register.

In our submission, we encourage the Librarian of Congress to appoint a Register who has a demonstrated willingness to take into account the diversity of viewpoints among creative communities, has the knowledge and skills to support the Office’s modernization efforts, and places a high value on developing practices and policies that are informed by empirical data.

In addition, we identify three priorities for the next Register:

  • Improving Ownership Records: The Register should prioritize plans to ensure that the public record of copyright ownership is accurate, complete, and timely. Alongside modernization efforts to make registration easier, the Register should work with Congress to identify and implement meaningful incentives to ensure copyright records, including those reflecting transfers of ownership, are accurate.
  • Providing Comprehensive Access to Records: The Register should prioritize efforts to make registration records and recorded documents fully available and searchable online. The information included in these documents needs to be readily accessible to the public to help facilitate permissions requests, prevent works from becoming orphans, and establish how long copyright lasts for any given work.
  • Making Fees Affordable: The Register should prioritize adopting methods for differentiating fees, giving particular consideration to authors whose works have an unproven or low commercial value. Empirical evidence suggests that registration decreases in response to small increases in registration fees. Affordable fees will bolster the public record and help ensure authors’ legacies are not lost.

Read our full submission at this link.

Authors Alliance Submits Comments to USCO on the Meaning of Publication in the Online Context

Posted March 20, 2020
Photo by Luis VIllafranca on Unsplash

Authors Alliance has submitted comments to the U.S. Copyright Office in response to its request for public input on the meaning of “publication” in the online context. The Office sought comments to support its effort to provide additional guidance regarding the determination of a work’s publication status for registration purposes.

Our comment encourages the Office to promulgate a regulation to allow applicants to identify a work as having been first “published” online. In the Internet age, distribution through online, digital, and electronic channels is the primary primary means by which copyrightable content reaches the public at large, and has eclipsed if not eliminated many traditional, non-electronic forms of distribution. There is no reason why applicants should not have the option to specify such a widespread mechanism of distribution as the means by which their works were published.

We further encourage the Copyright Office to adopt guidance that “publication” occurs when a work is first offered, under the rights-owner’s authority, for viewing online without technological restrictions that prevent downloading or other reuse. To do so would add much needed clarity and promote broader use of copyrightable works.

Authors Alliance thanks the exceptional team at Latham & Watkins for preparing these comments. To read the full comment, click here.

District Court Finds Majority of Uses to be Fair in Georgia State E-Reserves Case

Posted March 4, 2020

On Monday, a district court in Georgia issued a decision in the Cambridge University Press v. Becker case, concluding that 37 of the 48 infringement claims at issue in the case are fair use. This is the latest decision in a case that began in 2008 when publishers sued Georgia State University (“GSU”), alleging that faculty at GSU infringed Cambridge University Press’ and other publishers’ copyrights by assigning chapters from scholarly books to their students via secure course websites. The case has bounced back and forth between the district court and the Eleventh Circuit, with the Eleventh Circuit reversing and remanding the case to the district court twice. For details on the history of the litigation here, see this summary by Krista Cox.

In 2017, we filed an amicus brief with the Eleventh Circuit in support of GSU’s position that limited use of copyrighted material for nonprofit educational purposes falls within fair use. In our brief, we discussed how our members’ experiences accord with the district court’s conclusion that academic authorial incentives to create scholarly book chapters would not be impaired by a fair use ruling.

We explained that the primary motivation of academic authors to write scholarly book chapters is generally to share the knowledge and insights they have gained, and the type of reward that academic authors have generally sought and hoped to attain through writing scholarly book chapters is enhancement of their reputations. Bolstering the case for fair use, we discussed how the use of fact-, method-, and theory-intensive scholarly book chapters assigned primarily because of the originality of ideas, theses, research, data, and methods they contain, rather than on originality of expression, should tip in favor of fair use.

Many of our members are academic authors, and one of our members is the author of a chapter at issue in the case. Our brief highlighted the views of several authors of book chapters at issue in the case who reflected on the benefit of fair use to their goals of reaching readers and contributing to academic discourse. Norma Mertz, Professor of Higher Education Administration at University of Tennessee, Knoxville, wrote “I have no objection to the fair use of chapters from my books. Indeed, I find the suit to prevent use of such chapters a serious hindrance to the advancement of knowledge.”

Other authors pointed to the benefits of publishing academic works. Douglas Harper, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Duquesne University, wrote “There is reputational benefit… to doing this work. … The point of this work is to share it!”

Many of our members believe that this limited use of copyrighted content in a nonprofit educational setting meets the test for fair use. We applaud the district court’s latest decision finding the majority of the uses of unlicensed excerpts of copyrighted works in the e-reserves to be fair.

Does Copyright Require Authorization to Use Data “Subsisting in Copyright Works?”

Posted February 20, 2020

Authors Alliance thanks Matthew Sag, professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, for this guest post (originally published on

The World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva has requested comments on a series of questions about whether “use of the data subsisting in copyright works without authorization for machine learning constitute an infringement of copyright?” I have joined other copyright experts in a submission to WIPO commenting on their questions. This note explains in more detail some of my reservations about use of the phrase “use of the data subsisting in copyright works without authorization” in WIPO’s questions and in our general thinking about the relation between copyright and text and data mining.

The phrase “use of the data subsisting in copyright works without authorization” is unhelpful, to say the least.

To begin with the most obvious problem, the “use” of the data or facts subsisting in copyright works generally requires no authorization. For example, this morning I “used the data” in on the weather page of to my local newspaper to decide whether I should shovel snow or wait for more snow to fall. No doubt, the newspaper is protected by copyright, but the facts contained therein are not.

Moreover, the second problem with the question WIPO proposed is that my “use” of the weather data required no authorization because it did not involve any action on my part implicating the exclusive rights of the copyright owner. I did not make a copy of the newspaper, I did not publicly perform it, I did not turn it into a digital audio transmission, etc.

Both of these points are Copyright 101, but it is easy to lose sight of the fundamentals when contemplating new and unexpected uses of copyrighted works in a rapidly evolving technological environment. It does not make sense to ask “Should the use of the data subsisting in copyright works without authorization for machine learning constitute an infringement of copyright?” in the abstract. Instead, we need to focus with more precision on the potential copyright issues that are actually raised by AI in particular contexts, and to do that we need to understand the relationship between text data mining, on the one hand, and machine learning and AI, on the other.

Text data mining refers to any computational processes for applying structure to unstructured electronic texts and it generally involves employing statistical methods to discover new information and reveal patterns in the processed data.[1]

Machine learning refers to a cluster of statistical and programming techniques that give computers the ability to “learn” from exposure to data, without being explicitly programmed.[2]

The term AI or artificial intelligence is mostly used to refer more sophisticated forms of machine learning, or else to describe speculative accounts of what might be possible with future technology. If we put science fiction and hyperbole to one side, we can proceed to talk about machine learning and AI interchangeably in terms of the relevant copyright issues.

If moving beyond the premise that AI is a magical process that defies human understanding, we can see the third fundamental problem with the phrase “the data subsisting in copyright works.” The notion that AI is using data that “subsists” in copyright works reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the technology at issue. Unless the copyrighted work is something like a book of used car values, the data does not subsist in the work waiting to be extracted. The data is not a subset of the work. In almost every real-world use case of AI and machine learning, the data is derived by making an external observation about the work.

This is an important point: the non-expressive metadata produced by text data mining does not originate from the underlying copyrighted works. It does not subsist in those works. Instead, it is derived from them by acts of external observation.

As I have explained in a recent paper:

“Imagine plagiarism detection software that reports that student term paper B is substantially similar to an earlier paper A. Paper A originated with student author A, but the observation as to its similarity with student B’s term paper does not originate with either A or B. It originates with the software algorithm programmed to detect plagiarism.

Likewise, a word frequency table derived from Moby Dick did not originate with Herman Melville. Melville obviously realized that he would be writing the word “whale” over and over, but presumably he never set out to make an exact count. In both examples, to the extent the metadata about the work owes its origin to anyone, that person would be the person who derived the data, not the author of the underlying work.”[3]

The false premise that the non-expressive metadata produced by text data mining already “subsists” in the copyrighted works from which it is derived leads to false conclusion that when the data is used, something is taken from the original author. On the contrary, producing non-expressive metadata takes nothing from the original author because under any version of the idea-expression distinction, latent facts are not the property of the author. But even if they were, these are not their facts.

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Appeals Court Issues Important Opinion For Open Access Community And Licensees Of Creative Commons’ Non-Commercial Licenses

Posted January 27, 2020

Authors Alliance is grateful to Elizabeth H. Yandell, associate at Latham & Watkins, for contributing this post about a recent decision interpreting the “non-commercial” element of Creative Commons licenses.

Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued an important opinion interpreting a widely used Creative Commons “Non-Commercial” license. The case, Great Minds v. Office Depot, Inc., addresses whether the license terms are violated when a bona fide non-commercial user pays a for-profit enterprise, like a copy shop, to make copies at the non-commercial licensee’s direction. The court’s answer is no: “Under the License, a non-commercial licensee may hire a third-party contractor, including those working for commercial gain, to help implement the License at the direction of the licensee and in furtherance of the licensee’s own licensed rights.”

In other words, a licensee may rely on contractors like Office Depot to assist in its own non-commercial use of the work without violating the license, even when the contractor earns a profit for its trouble. The opinion provides valuable confirmation of the license’s scope and will ensure continued ease of access to the more than 300 million works licensed under Creative Commons’ non-commercial licenses.

* * *

Many in this community are familiar with Creative Commons and may have interacted with their public licenses. For those who are not: Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that has developed a suite of free-to-use, off-the shelf copyright licenses. Authors use these licenses to communicate that others are legally free to use their works, so long as certain conditions are satisfied. For instance, the license at issue in the lawsuit requires that the licensed work be used only for “non-commercial” purposes, in addition to other conditions.

The lawsuit concerned an elementary school math curriculum called Eureka Math, which is created and published by Great Minds. Great Minds sells Eureka Math in print form, and makes a digital version available for download and non-commercial use pursuant to the license. The most common licensees of Eureka Math—school districts that incorporate Eureka Math into their curriculum—often engage commercial copy shops, including Office Depot, to create copies of the Eureka Math course packet. Great Minds sued Office Depot over these copies, claiming they were not “non-commercial” in nature, even if done at the direction of the non-commercial licensee school districts, because Office Depot made a profit. Great Minds’ position was that Office Depot became a licensee in its own right, and was therefore required to abide the terms of the license. It argued that Office Depot’s for-profit copies violated the license’s non-commercial requirement, and therefore infringed Great Mind’s copyright in Eureka Math.

Creative Commons recognized that Great Minds’ position, if adopted, would severely undermine the utility of its non-commercial licenses. It would mean that bona fide non-commercial users, such as the school districts that use Eureka Math, would be required to handle all intermediate steps in-house (i.e., copying and shipping), or else find contractors that were willing to pay a royalty to the licensor. In turn, Great Minds’ position could also have discouraged or prevented proper licensees who do not have sufficient resources to perform these services themselves from using the works at all.

Creative Commons decided to take action. Represented by the law firm Latham & Watkins, Creative Commons submitted an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in support of Office Depot to provide its interpretation of its license and the applicable law. Creative Commons’ submission explained that it is the end-user who is the licensee, and that it is only the end-user licensee’s purpose that must be non-commercial. Creative Commons explained that the alternative interpretation would yield absurd and arbitrary results. For instance, under Great Minds’ interpretation, a school district can rent or purchase a copy machine and have their employee, who is paid a salary, make copies on it, but may not pay a non-employee contractor to use the same machine. It could also send the same employee to pay a fee to “hit copy” on Office Depot’s copy machines, but could not pay Office Depot to have its employees press the same button.

The court agreed with Creative Commons’ interpretation and held in favor of Office Depot. The court’s decision holds that a “licensee’s hiring of a third-party copy service to reproduce licensed material strictly for the licensee’s own permitted use does not turn that third party into a licensee that is bound to the License terms” and that the license “extends to all employees of the schools and school districts and shelters Office Depot’s commercial copying of Eureka Math on their behalf.”

The Ninth Circuit’s decision is consistent with the Second Circuit’s decision in an earlier lawsuit by Great Minds that made the same claims against FedEx. These results provide important guidance and confirmation for the open access community, and will protect and encourage continued use of works that benefit the broader community and public. Authors Alliance members seeking to share their works with non-commercial licensees can rest assured that those individuals can access and use materials to the fullest extent intended.

Authors Alliance Supports Immediate Access to Federally Funded Research

Posted December 20, 2019
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Media sources report that the Trump Administration is considering a policy to make the results of federally funded research immediately available for the public to freely access and use. Current policy requires results of federally funded research be made available in pre-print form within 12 months of publication. The rumored policy would eliminate the 12-month embargo. As an organization with a mission to advance the interests of authors who want to serve the public good by sharing their creations broadly, Authors Alliance strongly supports such a policy.

Many of our members are authors who rely on taxpayer dollars to fund their research and want the results of that research to be immediately available for potential readers to readily locate and access without being turned away by paywalls. Immediate and free online availability increases their works’ visibility, helping it to reach readers and benefit the public. Absent a federal policy, many authors simply do not have the bargaining power necessary to demand from publishers the level of access they want for their research. 

Removing barriers to access creates a more hospitable environment for future scientific advancements. Medical patients and their family members have especially compelling needs for this information. Many students, teachers, researchers, and other professionals from low- and middle-income countries struggle to get access to prohibitively expensive subscription-based journals. Even individuals at U.S.-based institutions may find that their libraries do not have the resources to subscribe to relevant journals in their fields. By removing price barriers, it is easier for students, teachers, researchers, and practitioners to access the information they need to learn, teach, research, and practice in their fields.

The rumored policy change does not require publishers to make the final version of articles based on federally funded research free—just for authors to make the pre-publication versions available. Publishers can still charge subscriptions for access to the final published version of these articles, not to mention all of the articles not funded by taxpayer dollars. Or publishers can charge for their value-added publishing services to those institutions who want professional peer review. By paying for publishing services rather than paying for the right to read, institutions can use their budgets to pay for publishing rather than for subscriptions, publishers can earn a living, and the public can then read taxpayer funded research without paying for the privilege.

A policy requiring the outputs of federally funded research be made immediately available would maximize the value of investment in research by ensuring that more readers can access research results than if the works were available through restricted means alone. For these reasons, Authors Alliance supports a policy that would ensure that the public is not made to pay both to create and to read research and would open up opportunities for others to build upon research, accelerating the pace of innovation and discovery.