Don't restrict the flow of technical knowledge
Martin Rowe- January 22, 2010
In follow up to my recent blog posting Technical papers and Open Access Publishing, I call in IEEE to change its policy on access to technical papers. Here’s my story.
I’m a member of two IEEE societies that publish IEEE Transactions. While most of the papers are rather scholarly, I sometimes run across one that I’d like to summarize and provide a link for readers to download the original paper. That happened recently. Knowing that IEEE forbids third parties such as T&MW from posting IEEE copyrighted work (I can live with that), I contacted one of the paper’s authors asking if he would post his paper and I’ll link to it.
The author agreed to post his paper, but he’s not a member of that IEEE society and thus he had no way to download his own work. That in itself is inexcusable, but it gets worse.
“No problem,” I told the author. “I have access to your paper. I’ll download it and send it to you.” Simple enough, right?
Wrong. When I downloaded the PDF document, I received a customized version that included the words “Authorized licensed use limited to: Martin Rowe. Downloaded on [date and time removed] from IEEE Xplore. Restrictions apply.”
I contacted someone at IEEE who told me that if I have a full copy of Adobe Acrobat (we do here at T&MW), I could remove those words from each page and then send the document to the author for posting. I’m still waiting to hear from the author if he agrees to that.
This is absurd. IEEE should be in the business of promoting technical knowledge, which advances technology that can improve lives and create jobs. Instead, it goes out of its way to restrict that flow.