HR3699 and SOPA restrictions hit Small businesses

AnnMaria is a small business owner and writes passionately about the harm that HR3699 does to her: I’ll quote extensively below. And I want you to get angry as well.

And start DOING something about it.

I’ve written before about the Scholarly Poor; small businesses are a major part of it. Every time I meet people in small business (and Cambridge is the UK centre of technology-based startups) I ask them whether they (a) want to read the scientific literature and (b) whether they can and (c) whether they suffer. And the answers are (a) yes and (b) generally no and (c) yes. Many businesses give up and only read freely accessible articles and do not re-use the data. There are illegal work-rounds:

  • Ask on Icanhazpdf (it is illegal to send people copies of closed articles)
  • Get a graduate student in your erstwhile to pipe through the articles (also illegal)

But ethical companies don’t do that. And also, as SOPA and RWA come nearer, we shall see prosecutions. If Wiley can threaten a graduate student for reproducing a single graph (an unethical and probably illegal act) are their hired guns in SOPA going to hold back? Because the scholarly publishers as well as the music industry are supporting SOPA. And SOPA won’t be policed by the nice people who we meet in publishers, it’ll be policed by professional enforcers. If you can sue a kindergarten child for pirating music you can also sue a small business.

Here’s AnnMaria:

Research Works Act: Latest Congressional Lie about Helping Small Business

I am pissed


As a small business owner, I am feeling very, very disappointed that there is certainly some law out there that would impose penalties if I drove on over to Riverside County and bitch-slapped [1] Darrell Issa. I’ve grown cynical enough in my old age and after having run a small business since 1985 that I am used to every politician under the sun spouting “Think of small business!” as a knee-jerk reaction to anything, whether their position is for it or against it. Usually, they are easy enough to ignore. Payroll taxes are not going to decide whether or not I hire people – business demand is. Health care – we’ve made that an option for our employees long before it was required by law.

This time, though, they are REALLY pissing me off. Let me tell you what the Research Works Act is and how it really does hurt my small business. As this succinct article by Janet Stemwedel on the Scientific American blog site explains well, not only does it require the American taxpayer (that’s me!) to pay twice for the same research, but also, the very people being protected and profiting are NOT those who produce the work to begin with.

Right now, if a person is funded by federal funds, say, the National Institutes of Health, they are required to submit the results of their research to PubMed’s repository within twelve months of publication. The idea is that if the public paid for this research then the public has the right to read it. Sounds fair, right?

In case you don’t know, rarely do authors get paid by journals.  I’ve published articles in the American Journal on Mental Retardation, Research in Developmental Disabilities, Educational and Psychological Measurement – to name a few. I’ve been a peer reviewer for Family Relations. For none of this did I get paid. That was fine. Almost all of the research I did was funded by federal funds and part of the grant proposals included dissemination – that is, publication of scientific articles. Fair enough. As a peer reviewer, I’m just repaying the service others have done in reviewing my work. Again, no problem.

Yet, in many cases, if I need a journal article for a grant or report I’m writing for a client, it is going to cost me $30 per article.  Contract research is a good bit of where the actual money comes into this company (you didn’t seriously think I made my living by drinking Chardonnay, spouting wanton programming advice and snarky comments, did you?)

The journal did not pay for the research to be conducted – the federal government did. The journal did not pay the author – the federal government did. The journal did not pay the reviewer – they volunteer.


I just pulled up a random small project I had done recently for a client and there were seven articles in there that I would be charged $210 to have used. As I said, this was a small project, and I calculated it would have brought the price up 7.5%

Not long ago, there was a huge outcry about the city of Santa Monica adding a ten cent cost for a paper bag and banning plastic bags. “It will hurt small business!” people cried. Actually, I have always made a major effort to shop at our local businesses, I still do and it has not hurt any business anywhere that I can tell. You know what else I can tell you? That increasing the cost of a $3,000 project to $3,210 is a hell of a lot more significant than paying ten cents for a paper bag!

So what exactly is this bill doing? It is moving money from small businesses, like me,  and like my buddy, Dr. Jacob Flores, who runs Mobile Medicine Outreach and into the hands of large publishing companies, who not coincidentally gave a huge amount of money  to Democratic congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York. I’d like to bitch-slap her, too, but being on the opposite side of the country, it would be a lot less convenient for me.

You can read more detail in this article from the Atlantic, where Rebecca Rosen asks, “Why Is Open-Internet Champion Darrell Issa Supporting an Attack on Open Science? ”

As Danah Boyd points out on her blog, there is this new thing for sharing knowledge now, called the Internet and a major point of the Research Works Act seems to be to prevent it being used to share knowledge that I paid for with the approximately 50%  of my income (yeah 38% federal, 10% state) that I pay in taxes. And you know what, being a graduate from that great institution, the University of California, that enables me to make the money to pay these taxes, I don’t object to that.

What I DO object to is paying again for the same resources I already paid for once just because some lobbyists for large corporations lined Issa’s and Maloney’s pockets.

While it may not be legal for me to bitch-slap Issa it is certainly legal for me to go to the next California event where that lying-ass mother has the balls to stand up and claim to be helping California small business. Anyone who knows the next public event where he’ll be speaking, please hit me up.

One thing, though, I don’t think I’ll be going to any of his fundraisers. I think he’s gotten quite enough money from the publishing industry.


AnnMaria shows the very simple equation:

Supporting the scholarly publishing industry profits = draining opportunity and profits from new technology companies.

The scholarly publishing industry is making profits out of monopolistic restrictions. In so doing it is destroying other industries. We’ve heard in the UK that IP restrictions prevent companies like Google setting up here. If SPOA/RWA are passed it won’t be possible to set up new Googles in California either.

So – if you want wealth generation in the future, support 21st century industries like Google, O’Reilly, and AnnMaria. And let the scholpub adapt or die.

[Peter Suber] Robert Heinlein responded to the [scholpub] position more than 70 years ago (Life-Line, 1939):  “There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute or common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back.”  

[1] Bitch-slap f = (AnnMaria – please send pictures when you do)




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One Response to HR3699 and SOPA restrictions hit Small businesses

  1. Pingback: SOPA/PIPA protests on-message or artless? « Mike Linksvayer

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