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Re: American Meteorological Society License Available

I applaud the AMS for making their license freely available and for taking
a library friendly approach.  But there are a couple of minor points in
the license which while not uncommon, do raise a few flags. 

1. The right to terminate library access without prior notice:  Like many
libraries we now have several file drawers full of these agreements and
take them seriously since our students and faculty are depending on being
able to reach these services.  If the vendor believes we are in violation
of the agreement it would likely be because of some oversight on our part
which we were not aware of, or some misinformation which the the vendor
received that we could easily explain.  Since our users are depending on
access to these services, we always ask for a few days notice before the
vendor pulls the plug so that we can make every effort to rectify the
situation.  In our view this falls under the general sense of dealing with
each other in good faith, and making it obvious in the license that we
both want the agreement to work and that we are entering into the
agreement on equal terms.  We don't want to have to worry that a vendor
may stop providing access at any moment without prior notice. 

2. Does not warranty that use of the journals will be uninterrupted or
that the results obtained will be useful etc.:  It is easy to understand
why similar clauses are in most agreements, but in Texas we are
increasingly concerned about vendor performance issues.  Our concerns
generally apply to higher profiles services than e-journal packages, but
these concerns are increasingly a major part of our consideration as to
whether or not to subscribe to a particular service.  We routinely ask all
vendors about mirror sites, scalability, their commitment to performance,
etc.  While performance guarantees make vendors understandably nervous, we
nevertheless have found ourselves unable to access many crucial services
for hours at a time because of problems on the vendor's servers, or
because they did not properly scale their service.  We have discontinued
service with some vendors because of these problems, and are considering
whether or not to continue with others.  Licenses which explicitly give
one party little recourse if the other party fails to supply a service,
seem one-sided to us and don't seem to fall into the basic idea that the
agreement is between two parties of good will trying to conduct a routine
business transaction in which one party provides a service and the other
consumes it. 

Nobody in Texas would ever lease a new tractor if John Deere said they
might repossess it at any time without notice, nor would any one lease it
if John Deere said the tractor might never start or do any work -- and
that these issues were strictly the leasing party's concern. 

I don't mean to be singling out AMS which has had a long and honorable
relationship with libraries and has always operated with the highest
integrity and been scrupulously fair in all regards.  We are very pleased
to be a subscriber to the AMS print journals and look forward to
maintaining our relationship with them for many years to come. 

But in the larger context of contractural relationships between libraries
and information providers these issues seem to be simple ones of fairness
that we are all too often letting pass without standing up for the
expectations of our users that we be able to provide a service we
advertise.  Is it too much to expect that information providers make a
reasonable and fair attempt to provide reliable service, and that they
refrain from intentionally pulling the plug on the service without a few
days notice? 

--Dennis Dillon
Head, Collections and Information Resources
University of Texas at Austin


>Keith Seitter, Executive Director of the American Meteorological Society,
>has made the AMS's online Journals Subscription Agreement (i.e., contract
>or license) available to all of us.  It's linked as a "What's New" on the
>LIBLICENSE web site.
>This Agreement has many things going for it, including its brevity
>(yes, that is a virtue indeed, compared to some of the 10-25 page
>documents that libraries read and respond to).  More to the point
>are the:  fair use-friendly language, treatment of "occasional" (i.e.,
>walk-in) users, treatment of remote sites/campuses, sensible
>language about liability/enforcement, and long-term access, among
>other things.
>Read it; it's an Agreement that makes sense for electronic journals.
>And, yes, of course, it could be longer and more comprehensive, but
>does it need to be?  We don't think so.
>Ann Okerson
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