Law Journals and Open Access: A Call to Action

Here’s a little article I just wrote for Speaking of Computers, “an e-newsletter for the Stanford academic community.”  This has been covered here before, but I think it’s a message worth repeating, especially as we brace for budget cuts and some hard decisions.  And besides, now I have a really nice photo to share!

 Law Journals and Open Access: A Call to Action

In November, I had the pleasure of attending a meeting of the so-called Gang of 10 law library directors (directors from some of the nation’s top law schools) held at Duke Law School in Durham, North Carolina. One of the activities of this meeting was the drafting and signing of the “Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship,” which calls for all law schools to stop publishing their law journals in print format and to rely instead upon electronic publication, coupled with a commitment to keep the electronic versions available in stable, open, digital formats.

Why Open Access?
Each of the nation’s 200+ law schools produce at least one student-edited law journal, containing scholarship and important policy pieces from law professors, judges, distinguished practitioners, and students. The bulk of legal scholarship is published in such law journals. Here at Stanford Law School we produce nine such journals. Right now the only way to access all of this significant content electronically is through expensive databases such as HeinOnline, LexisNexis and Westlaw.

It would be a better legal information world if researchers could reliably turn to the host law school for any law journal from that school and find all of its articles, available for free in open and stable electronic formats.

Open Access Leaders
It was especially fitting that this inspirational document was drafted and signed by us while at Duke. Duke is a leader in the open online repository movement, with the Duke Law Faculty Scholarship Repository created in 2005, and all Duke law journals made accessible online since 1997. The Duke Law Faculty Scholarship Repository is a full-text electronic archive of scholarly works written by the Duke Law faculty, as well as other scholarship produced at the law school. A scholarship repository and open access law journals go hand-in-hand.

The chief architect of the Durham Statement was John Palfrey, the new library director at Harvard Law School, who is also a leader and visionary in the open access movement. In May 2008, the Harvard Law School faculty unanimously voted to make each faculty member’s scholarly articles available online for free.

What’s Next?
The Durham Statement is our exercise in aspiration, with the hopes of getting more – eventually all – law schools on the open access bandwagon.

There are issues yet to be resolved. For one thing, especially during these difficult economic times, financial analysis is needed. Law schools receive royalties from the online databases that provide law journal access – some schools far more than others – so the cost-savings to the schools from ceasing print and to the schools’ libraries from no longer having to buy, bind and shelve issues needs to be carefully weighed against any potential loss of revenue income. And there are additionally important archival and standards issues to be debated and decided.

The Durham Statement seeks to move the analysis, debate, and discussion forward.

For More Information
Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship
https://legalresearchplus.com/2009/02/20/durham-statement-on-open-access-to-legal-scholarship/
http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/publications/durhamstatement

The Duke Law Faculty Scholarship Repository

Harvard Law School open access motion

durhamdrafters1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The authors of the Durham Statement. Top row, left to right: Dick Danner (Duke),
Radu Popa (NYU), John Palfrey (Harvard), Claire Germain (Cornell),
Paul George (University of Pennsylvania), Jim McMasters (Northwestern),
Blair Kauffman (Yale). Bottow row: Paul Lomio (Stanford),
Judith Wright (University of Chicago), Terry Martin (University of Texas).

Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship

Last November, at the time of the Duke Law building dedication, I joined with several of my colleagues for a terrific meeting in Durham, North Carolina.  One product of that meeting is the “Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship,” (copied below) which calls for all law schools to stop publishing their journals in print format and to rely instead on electronic publication coupled with a commitment to keep the electronic versions available in stable, open, digital formats.

Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship 11 February 2009

 

Objective: The undersigned believe that it will benefit legal education and improve the dissemination of legal scholarly information if law schools commit to making the legal scholarship they publish available in stable, open, digital formats in place of print. To accomplish this end, law schools should commit to making agreed-upon stable, open, digital formats, rather than print, the preferable formats for legal scholarship. If stable, open, digital formats are available, law schools should stop publishing law journals in print and law libraries should stop acquiring print law journals. We believe that, in addition to their other benefits, these changes are particularly timely in light of the financial challenges currently facing many law schools.

 

Rationale: Researchers – whether students, faculty, or practitioners – now access legal information of all sorts through digital formats much more frequently than in printed formats. Print copies of law journals and other forms of legal scholarship are slower to arrive than the online digital versions and lack the flexibility needed by 21st century scholars. Yet, most law libraries perceive a continuing need also to acquire legal scholarship in print formats for citation and archiving. (Some libraries are canceling print editions if commercial digital versions are available; others continue to acquire print copies but throw them away after a period of time.)

 

It is increasingly uneconomical to keep two systems afloat simultaneously. The presumption of need for redundant printed journals adds costs to library budgets, takes up physical space in libraries pressed for space, and has a deleterious effect on the environment; if articles are uniformly available in stable digital formats, they can still be printed on demand. Some libraries may still choose to subscribe to certain journals in multiple formats if they are available. In general, however, we believe that, if law schools are willing to commit to stable and open digital storage for the journals they publish, there are no longer good reasons for individual libraries to rely on paper copies as the archival format. Agreed-upon stable, open, digital formats will ensure that legal scholarship will be preserved in the long-term.

 

In a time of extreme pressures on law school budgets, moving to all electronic publication of law journals will also eliminate the substantial costs borne by law schools for printing and mailing print editions of their school’s journals, and the costs borne by their libraries to purchase, process and preserve print versions.

 

Additionally, and potentially most importantly, a move toward digital files as the preferred format for legal scholarship will increase access to legal information and knowledge not only to those inside the legal academy and in practice, but to scholars in other disciplines and to international audiences, many of whom do not now have access either to print journals or to commercial databases.

 

Call to Action: We therefore urge every U.S. law school to commit to ending print publication of its journals and to making definitive versions of journals and other scholarship produced at the school immediately available upon publication in stable, open, digital formats, rather than in print. We also urge every law school to commit to keeping a repository of the scholarship published at the school in a stable, open, digital format. Some law schools may choose to use a shared regional online repository or to offer their own repositories as places for other law schools to archive the scholarship published at their school.

 

Repositories should rely upon open standards for the archiving of works, as well as on redundant formats, such as PDF copies. We also urge law schools and law libraries to agree to and use a standard set of metadata to catalog each article to ensure easy online public indexing of legal scholarship.

 

As a measure of redundancy, we also urge faculty members to reserve their copyrights to ensure that they too can make their own scholarship available in stable, open, digital formats. All law journals should rely upon the AALS model publishing agreement as a default and should respect author requests to retain copyrights in their scholarship.

 

Richard A. Danner

Duke Law School

 

Taylor Fitchett

University of Virginia

 

Margaret A. Fry

Georgetown University Law Center

 

Paul M. George

University of Pennsylvania School of Law

 

Claire M. Germain

Cornell Law School

 

S. Blair Kauffman

Yale Law School

 

J. Paul Lomio

Stanford Law School

 

Harry S. (Terry) Martin III

University of Texas Law School

 

Kent McKeever

Columbia Law School

 

Jim McMasters

Northwestern University School of Law

 

John G. Palfrey

Harvard Law School

 

Radu Popa

New York University Law School

 

Judith M. Wright University of Chicago Law School