DR. LOHR: I, too, think that at least in our situation the current regime has existed ever since the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) has been in business, and it has managed to survive through all that, and it is a two-edged sword in our case.
CAS gathers most of its information from the public literature and is able to do that, and permitted to do that, by the rules and regulations under which we live because of certain fair-use provisions and other social-benefit clauses that exist in the law. So, were it not for those things, it is not altogether a certainty that we, and operations like us, could even operate; we might not be able to.
Increasingly, however, the current environment is yielding to a much more transactional basis for dealing with things. Publishers and other sources of information are finding ways to get around some of these provisions; and we find ourselves increasingly getting into contractual arrangements with people and paying people to get information that historically we gathered up for free.
On the other side, however, we do enjoy the protection of the copyright laws and all that this protection entails, especially in terms of dealing abroad. Right now over 60 percent of all the revenue that CAS takes in comes from outside the United States. So the international laws and policies are important to us as well as the types of protections that other countries are willing to afford us by virtue of various treaties and policies that exist between the United States and other countries.
DR. OVERTON: I think it is important that there are no barriers to the free distribution and dissemination of and access to information vital to biology. One of the ways I look at the situation is that we should have a Hippocratic oath on databases: Do no harm when thinking up new laws or regulations that could be put in place regarding databases. This isn't a reflection on the current situation, which I find more or less satisfactory, but it is a concern about what we may see in the future. I will give you an example of what copyright laws have done to education.
When I was an undergrad and a grad student, our professors would hand out these big binders that had reprints and chapters copied from many different books and journals, which made it very cost effective for us to get a diversity of views from a variety of different sources; but we cannot do that anymore. When I teach a course now we are very restricted and very cautious about the sources that we can reproduce for the students. I think that these barriers have been to the detriment of education. Now, changes in the existing copyright law can put up barriers, even more serious barriers, to the future of research.
MS. KELLY: Are there any questions of clarity from the participants here?
MR. RINDFLEISCH: Tom Rindfleisch, Lane Medical Library, Stanford University. I would just like to underscore this business of the cost of course readers. Some of these materials at our institution now cost $70 or $80, which creates an imposition for students getting access to the information as part of their education.
MS. KELLY: So this is a drift in the implementation of current law as you see it?
PARTICIPANT: This is not a clarifying question, but, for James Lohr, I think someone in the audience said that the Chemical Abstracts registry, in his opinion, was not copyrightable. Did you understand why he said that? Do you think he was referring to the chemicals themselves or to all the associated data?
DR. LOHR: In fact, I was going to talk to that in the second question, but I will talk to it now. One of the big problems about the current regime from CAS's point of view is that it is currently fraught with all sorts of uncertainty, regarding what intellectual property rights accrue