Notes on the Research Works Act

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The bill itself

  • The main section (Section 2) is brief: "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."


  • According to MapLight (Money and Politics Light), Elsevier has given two campaign contributions to Issa and 12 to Maloney for the 2012 campaign cycle. Out of 31 contributions Elsevier has made to House members for this cycle, 14 or 45% have gone to Issa and Maloney.

Publisher opposition

  • This section tries to track the publishers who have publicly opposed the bill.
  • AAP members who apparently oppose the RWA, but whose positions require confirmation
    1. University of Chicago Press. In a January 17, 2012, comment on Richard Poynder's blog, Arno Bosse reports that the U of Chicago Press told him that it does not support RWA. But Bosse doesn't speak for the press and doesn't quote a statement from the press.
    2. Cambridge University Press. A week after CUP told Richard Poynder that "it is too early for us to make any public statements" on RWA, Poynder was allowed (January 17, 2012) to share this statement from Peter Davison, CUP's Director of Corporate Affairs: "Cambridge University Press has submitted testimony to the United States Office of Science and Technology in response to the Request for Information (2011-28623) on subjects related to HR 3699. Our testimony is not identical to the position adopted by the Association of American Publishers. In particular, we write: ‘We support all sustainable access models that ensure the permanence and integrity of the scholarly record... The Bill as proposed could undermine the underlying freedoms expected by and of scholarly authors....’ "
    3. American Anthropological Association. On February 3, 2012, the AAA Executive Committee issued a statement opposing "any Congressional legislation which, if it were enacted, imposes a blanket prohibition against open access publishing policies by all federal agencies." On the one hand, this description taken literally does not describe the RWA. On the other, this interpretation of the RWA is very common and might have been held by the AAA Executive Committee.

Other opposition

(Limited to major statements.)

  • Ten US library, publishing, and public-interest organizations: American Association of Law Libraries, American Library Association, Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries, Association of College and Research Libraries, Association of Research Libraries, Creative Commons, Greater Western Library Alliance, Public Knowledge, Public Library of Science, and the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC). See their January 24, 2012, joint open letter to Congress.
  • Seven public-health groups: Knowledge Ecology International, American Medical Student Association, Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, Health Action International, Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders, Public Citizen, and Universities Allied for Essential Medicines. See their February 8, 2012, joint open letter to Congress.

Action against the RWA

  • See the petition against the RWA at We The People, the White House petition site. Online since January 23, 2012. If the petition gathers 25k signatures, the Obama administration will review it and issue an official response.