One of the more pernicious areas of locking up knowledge that we've seen and discussed involves academic journals
. These tend to involve private publishers who get a tremendous amount of completely free labor in terms of content submissions and even reviewers/editors... and then demand the copyrights of the research, while charging universities ridiculously high fees. Those publishers have also gone to great lengths to try to block the US government from trying to make federally funded research available to the public at no cost after a limited amount of time. And, of course, the journals often rely on secrecy to get the most money -- including requiring universities to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) that forbid them from revealing how much they're paying for a journal.
It's nice to see some universities really starting to push back, and it's even nicer when it's a university that I attended and from which I received two degrees. My sister informs me that Cornell University has decided to take a stand and is refusing to sign any NDAs from various journals
, and will make the prices they're being charged for such journals public. As the University made clear in a statement about this policy
, it feels these agreements go against the basic nature of openness and fairness:
It has become apparent to the library community that the anticompetitive conduct engaged in by some publishing firms is in part a result of the inclusion of nondisclosure agreements in contracts. As Robert Darnton recently noted, by "keeping the terms secret, ... one library cannot negotiate for cheaper rates by citing an advantage obtained by another library." For this reason, the International Coalition of Library Consortia's "Statement of Current Perspective and Preferred Practices for the Selection and Purchase of Electronic Information" states that "Non-disclosure language should not be required for any licensing agreement, particularly language that would preclude library consortia from sharing pricing and other significant terms and conditions with other consortia." The more that libraries are able to communicate with one another about vendor offers, the better they are able to weigh the costs and benefits of any individual offer. An open market will result in better licensing terms.
Additionally, nondisclosure agreements conflict with the needs of CUL librarians and staff to work openly, collaboratively, and transparently. This conflict increases the likelihood that the terms of a nondisclosure agreement would be inadvertently violated, posing a threat to the university
The next step is focusing more and more on truly open journals and increasing their acceptance in academia.