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RE: NEJM editorial on open access

Dear Bernie, I am puzzled. I have just re-read the NIH proposal which
provoked Dr. Drazen's editorial, and I cannot see in the proposal any
requirement that the rightsholder, whether author or journal, be required
to transfer copyright, either to the NIH or the public.

The purposes of the measure would appear to be fully served by the grant
of a license to the NIH to post the author's version of the article, (or
the publisher's version, if the rightsholder prefers) and allow access to

Why then does an eminent biomedical editor express concern over this?
Since, as Dr. Drazen himself writes, "The NIH proposal is silent on the
issue of copyright," it is difficult to see the problem. The editorial
appears most concerned over the possible inappropriate commercial use that
might be made of the articles in NEJM. This is a valid concern.

Since the NEJM need not license the rights to commercial use to the
material the concern is satisfied. Similarly, the NEJM would, unless it
transfers them, retain rights to all other subsidiary uses: it would
retain the sole right to translate the journal into Spanish, if it chose
to; it would retain the sole right to make a television show out of one of
the articles if it chose to; more realistically, it would retain the sole
right to publish an edition assisting the non-physician to understand the
research and the issues, if it chose to. (I have in mind the parallel
editions of the Merck Manual)

I therefore assume that the editorial is asking that there be specific
language to ensure that the rightsholder need not transfer these rights. I
see no apparent intent to require it to do so. Thus, this is an effort to
prevent a problem that does not actually exist. The NEJM can safely
continue its magnificent tradition of protecting and improving the
integrity and accuracy of medical journals. There are sufficient real
problems with the dissemination of biomedical information, without adding
imaginary ones.

Dr. David Goodman
Note: the NIH proposal is available at 

Dr.Drazen's ditorial is available free in full text at