[TYPES] In a letter to the US White House, ACM opposes free distribution of peer-reviewed journal articles

Gabriel Scherer gabriel.scherer at gmail.com
Fri Dec 20 08:53:05 EST 2019

Dear types-list and SIGPLAN,

I have long been of the opinion that our scientific publications
should be Open Access, and that editors should not request more than
a fair price (cost of publication, which Dasgtuhl estimates at $60
per article). In particular, I believe that copyright transfer
agreements, as imposed by most editors including the ACM, is deeply
unethical: the publishers are not the authors of our scientific
production and they should not force us to give our copyright to
them. A non-exclusive publishing agreement should be enough.

Whether or not you agree with this position, you may be interested in
the content of the following letter to the US White House that
a coalition of scientific publishers, *including the ACM*, signed and

  press release from the coalition of editors:

(This letter was written in the context of a proposed US legislation
to force more scientists to publish their work in Fair Open Access
venues. I haven't been able to find a precise link to a discussion of
this proposed legislation.)

The following parts of the letter co-signed by the ACM are
particularly juicy:

> [We] have learned that the Administration may be preparing to step
> into the private marketplace and force the immediate free distribution
> of journal articles financed and published by organizations in the
> private sector, including many non-profits. This would effectively
> nationalize the valuable American intellectual property that we
> produce and force us to give it away to the rest of the world for
> free.

> This mandate [...] would make it very difficult for most American
> publishers to invest in publishing these articles. As a consequence,
> it would place increased financial responsibility on the government
> through diverted federal research grant funds or additional monies
> to underwrite the important value added by publishing. In the coming
> years, this cost shift would place billions of dollars of new and
> additional burden on taxpayers.

In my discussion with many of us, I regularly hear that the ACM is
"not evil" (the SIGPLAN, of course, is pure good!) and that placating
its weird views (for example, that it really does cost $700 or $900 to
publish an article as Open Source) is good for our research
community. It do not see how this argument is compatible with the ACM
signing this letter.

I believe that many of our activities, which we collectively trained
ourselves to see as harmless administrative details of our research
work, are in fact empowering the ACM to make those claims. Should we
accept to give away our copyright, or pay¹ unreasonable
Gold Access author processing charges (APCs)?

¹: The SIGPLAN decision to cover APC costs for PACMPL articles is
shielding many of us from paying APCs. But many of the smaller
conferences, symposiums or workshops in our community whose
proceedings are handled by the ACM are still limited to "pay
$900" (or "pay $25 per page") as the only Open Access option, with
copyright transfer as the only free choice, which is effectively
keeping those proceedings Closed-Access.

More information about the Types-list mailing list