Gavia Libraria

CHORUS: hoping for re-enclosure

The Loon hasn’t a great deal to add to Michael Eisen’s scathing takedown of some toll-access publishers’ “solution” to the OSTP memo. She believes he is entirely correct about how the publishers wish to turn this to their financial advantage.

Just this: control of the infrastructure on which open-access copies reside is important for more than immediate financial reasons, and it’s what the publishers are playing for here. Infrastructure that publishers control is vastly easier to re-enclose.

Re-enclosure of formerly open-access journals is a known, already-seen strategy, employed even by academic-library outlets that should be genuinely, bitterly ashamed of doing so. A slyer and less-easily-fought tactic, however, is what Eschenfelder and Benton call “soft technological protection measures.”1 “Soft TPM” in their parlance means deliberately heightening user annoyance, such penny-ante irritants as disabling printing and downloading, using lousy search algorithms, turning away web search engines, and so on. The aim, of course, is making the open-access materials a poorer substitute for what libraries buy.

Soft TPM, the Loon suspects, is considered a stalling tactic by publishers; it gives them time (they think) to repurchase the political capital they shattered with the Research Works Act and use it to overthrow the OSTP memo and the NIH Public Access Policy, ultimately sowing salt on that earth.

To set this train in motion, however, the publishers must succeed with CHORUS. The Loon does not estimate their chances very highly, not after both Congress and the executive branch learned from the RWA fiasco not to trust them, not given the silly hijinks in the UK that ultimately derive from letting the publishers set the discourse.

Still, a few talking points can’t hurt. The Loon offers these in a helpful spirit.

If, against her expectation, the feds look to bite on the CHORUS hook, the Loon recommends using CLOCKSS and Portico as a countermove: all OSTP-eligible works should be deposited in one or the other, and attempts at re-enclosure should be considered release events.

  1. Eschenfelder and Benton. 2006. “An assessment of access and use rights for licensed scholarly digital resources.” Proceedings of the Joint Conference on Digital Libraries 2006.

2 thoughts on “CHORUS: hoping for re-enclosure

  1. Rebecca Kennison

    Actually, I believe the CHORUS workflow provides for required deposit into Portico and CLOCKSS as part of what they themselves are suggesting. Of course, both of those are currently dark archives. What would be a great countermove would be for OSTP to make them light up, which is perhaps what you’re suggesting …