Currently before the U.S. Congress is H.R. 3699 (a.k.a. the Research Works Act or RWA). This bill states:
No Federal agency may adopt, implement, maintain, continue, or otherwise engage in any policy, program, or other activity that (1) causes, permits, or authorizes network dissemination of any private-sector research work without the prior consent of the publisher of such work; or (2) requires that any actual or prospective author, or the employer of such an actual or prospective author, assent to network dissemination of a private-sector research work.
In other words, if a publicly funded research project is published by a private-sector company, said publisher gains “ownership” of the research work and can manage (read: limit) access to the work. And, no Federal agency may implement any policy whereby that publicly funded research must be made accessible to the public.
This seems very much like a bill tailored to lock in an advantage for a specific business sector … at the expense of the public that funded the research. The American people should not be denied access to any research funded by their tax dollars. It may not be much of a stretch to say that this bill will have the effect of slowing or stiffling innovation, and innovation is something the United States of America could surely use.
Giles Frydman’s 12 January 2012 article, “Open knowledge saves lives. Oppose H.R. 3699!,” provides an excellent overview of this issue.