The transition towards Open Access is gaining momentum. It promises to deliver a major step forward in giving access to the results of science and research, allowing new ideas to emerge and spread more quickly than ever before.


However, it is still a work in progress. Not only business models, but also key parts of the necessary infrastructure are still in development. One example is open access repositories, where researchers can upload their work. These repositories play an important role in allowing the simple sharing and discovery of articles or other materials. They tend to be run by libraries or research institutions, on a non-commercial basis.


There are usually restrictions about what can be uploaded onto these repositories and when, set out in contracts with publishers – for example it may only be allowed to post a ‘pre-print’ version of a paper to a repository. However, with many researchers unclear about exactly what they can do with their work, they sometimes make mistakes.


Ordinarily, these repositories benefit from ‘safe harbour’ provisions – as long as they are ready to correct these mistakes if a rightholder demands it, they will not face legal action. However, current EU copyright provisions risk making the people and institutions who run repositories legally liable, unless they install filtering technologies.


Repositories are financed neither to take on the burden of buying in filter technologies (which risk declaring legitimate uses of works illegal), nor to bear the legal responsibility for mistakes by researchers. If these European proposals pass, open access in Europe and around the world will suffer. The EU’s previously strong record on promoting open access will be damaged.


IFLA has therefore signed onto an open letter, calling on Members of the European Parliament to reject these proposals, and so make sure that Open Access remains open in Europe.


Others interested in signing should go to the SPARC Europe website, where there are instructions on how to do so.