Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Maine Governor supports open access

In an unusual move for a US governor, Maine Gov. John E. Baldacci has asked the US government to exclude the state from the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) treaty obligations specifically related to libraries, archives, and museums.

Proposed changes to GATS could potentially make it difficult for governments to pursue open access policies such as that implemented in the UK last Autumn i.e. the results of publicly funded research in the UK have to be made freely available on the Web. Traditional journal publishers have complained that this amounts to unfair competition and the proposed changes to GATS could enshrine these complaints in international law, making them very difficult to counteract. The WTO have denied there are any such proposals.

Given the way international rules in intellectual property generally get agreed, however, (TRIPS, WIPO treaties of 1996, proposed WIPO broadcasting treaty, any one of numerous EU directives etc.) this is one situation which merits close monitoring.

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