Pan-European Model Law for the Use of Publicly Funded Scientific Publications
16 March 2021, THE HAGUE – LIBER’s Executive Board has in June 2020 unanimously approved a pan-European model law concerning secondary publishing rights. The model law was initially proposed by two of LIBER’s working groups — Copyright & Legal Matters and Open Access — groups that strongly emphasise the need for a model law and who are actively working towards making this happen.
The proposed law marks a bold step for LIBER since it aims to extensively address secondary publishing rights by involving the European Union and national governments across Europe. Building on secondary publishing laws that already exist in a handful of European countries, the model law proposed by LIBER states a zero-embargo period for lawful self-archiving in publicly available repositories. If adopted, it will enable all European countries to have a secondary publishing law, either by the introduction of specific wording (see below) in law at an EU level, or by member states introducing such laws at a local level.
In proposing such a law, LIBER demonstrates its continued support of the research and library communities as well as of the LIBER member libraries and their patrons. The model law also importantly aligns with one of LIBER’s strategic goals — for Open Access to be the predominant form of publishing in Europe (see LIBER’s 2018-2020 strategy). The law also supports and complements many other Open Access initiatives currently taking place across Europe, such as Plan S, by addressing the different funding realities of different European countries.
Urgency of the Model Law for the Use of Publicly Funded Scientific Publications
The proposed model law is now even more crucial, given recent changes to the scholarly communication field and the current Covid-19 pandemic (where researchers and students are often required to access digital materials from home). Thus, there is a need for immediate digital access to research as well as equity of access across Europe.
Astrid Verheusen, Executive Director of LIBER had the following to say about the model law: “We understand that the current scholarly communication system requires fundamental socio-economic changes which we know will take some time. Therefore, we hope that our model law will help accelerate the work done in the field by so many so that researchers and society can eventually derive significant benefits thereof.”
Background to the Model Law
Over the last ten years, six European countries (France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain) have passed laws which allow journal articles that are the result of publicly funded research to be put online after a certain period. This type of legislation aims at supporting the transition to full Open Access and cuts through the many different and contradictory Green Open Access policies that exist.
Outline of the Law for the Use of Publicly Funded Scientific Publications
In our model law, secondary rights are the rights of authors, their employers, and funders to publish a scholarly article or book chapter after its first publication. The aim of this law is to provide a guaranteed “lowest common denominator” open access law across Europe to ensure, where articles are public or charity-funded, immediate access is lawful. Without this, public or charity-funded articles that are not ‘gold open access’ are subject, if they exist at all, to a myriad of differing publisher rules around republication in local, national, or international repositories. This makes the situation concerning rights particularly complex.
Furthermore, the model law relates to public and charity-funded publications in any of their forms, and allows for their immediate republication (including, where necessary, accompanying tables, images, etc.). Upon first publication by scholarly publishers, the model law requires the publisher and the author to acknowledge the source of funding and to include this in the article together with its metadata – this can sometimes be ignored by publishers despite this being part of the research funder policy.
According to Dr Giannis Tsakonas, member of the LIBER Executive Board and head of the Innovative Scholarly Communication Steering Committee, “[t]he proposed law has a symbiotic relationship with other relevant initiatives such as those which are coming from funders. Firstly, because it focuses on “green open access” and the deposit in repositories with as few technical barriers as possible. Secondly, because it embraces diversity in the culture of openness across Europe with a guaranteed lowest common denominator open access law.”
The Way Forward & LIBER’s Aims at European Level
In light of the Model Law for the Use of Publicly Funded Scientific Publications proposed, we have planned a range of activities on the topic, from gauging a greater sense of how various audiences could utilise or push for secondary publishing rights and the implications thereof for educational activities (webinars, panel discussions, polls, interviews etc.) to engaging with policymakers. More details about these activities as well as the status of the model law can be found in the news section of our website.