Welcome back to our series on current public access initiatives. If you’re just joining us, consider clicking over to Part 1 for an introduction to the three initiatives under discussion:

  • Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR)
  • Public Access to Public Science Act (PAPS)
  • Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Directive

In this installment, we will take a look at what these initiatives have to say about copyright, and we will also consider how the proposed policies could affect researchers and libraries.

Copyright Implications

As written, the OSTP directive, FASTR, and PAPS would have little impact on copyright issues. None of the proposals amend existing copyright or patent law, and all require federal agencies to develop their public access policies in accordance with existing copyright law. However, only FASTR actually advises agencies on how to avoid copyright infringement while the OSTP and PAPS are silent on the matter. FASTR instructs that agencies “shall…make effective use of any law or guidance relating to the creation and reservation of a Government license that provides for the reproduction, publication, release, or other uses of a final manuscript for Federal purposes” (section 4.c.3). This essentially suggests a model like the one in place for NIH and PubMed Central. Funding agencies would possess a non-exclusive license to store and distribute funded manuscripts through designated repositories. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) suggests in its FAQ for FASTR that this could ultimately prompt adjustments in the publishing agreements between researchers and publishers so that exclusive rights are not transferred to the publisher, but notes that “the government’s license precedes any such copyright transfer and so would override it.”

Impact on Researchers and Libraries

This collection of public access proposals is good news for the research community. Public access policies will facilitate knowledge sharing, new research, and preservation of federally funded research. The proposals are also forward thinking, with provisions for system functionality including text or data mining and other computational analysis. Outside of generating opportunities for conducting new research, the effect on researchers is likely to be fairly minimal: researchers would need to deposit the accepted version of their article in a designated repository, but the time investment is expected to be very minor. Each proposal requests that federal agencies coordinate their policies, making it easier for researchers who receive funding from multiple sources to comply.  As mentioned previously, the OSTP directive is the only initiative to suggest public access to data. This could precipitate a philosophical shift for disciplines that are unaccustomed to sharing data if federal agencies developed policies which required public access to data from funded studies.

So where do the libraries come in? Librarians are well-positioned to liaise with researchers, administrators, and IT departments within their institution regarding public access and data-sharing requirements of new legislation. Secondly, federal agencies could identify institutional repositories as the destination for federally funded research. Libraries would feel the greatest impact should the agencies go this route.  This strategy would require additional investment in library staff and infrastructure to support increased demands on staff time and to develop system capabilities that comply with the federal policies. A coalition of library associations has already proposed one such model; their system, called SHARE, will be discussed in our next post.

To be Continued… The final chapter (Part 3) of our series on pending public access policies will introduce the two most prominent models that have been proposed to fulfill federal requirements for a suitable repository.


By Jessica Meindertsma, Rights Management Specialist at the Copyright Resources Center at OSU Libraries