In April of this year the case between publishers Elsevier and Springer against the Dutch universities was heard. A university-wide committee was charged with deciding whether or not the open access paragraph in the new subscription contracts was to be made publicly available. This committee has now come to the decision that the appeal of the publishers is unfounded, and that the universities have to disclose the contracts.
The cause for the hearing was a freedom of information request by the Dutch Librarian Leo Waaijers. He forced the Dutch universities to disclose the documents so that the public might find out whether or not the new ‘gold deal’ was worht it. Two of the major publishing houses resisted and filed their appeals with the Dutch universities.
In a strange turn of events the University of Amsterdam, member of the former negotiating team on behalf of the Dutch universities, itself denied transparency on the open access clause. It stated in that it was simply following the freedom of information (FOI, WOB in Dutch) act during the case hearing.
No convincing arguments
Elsevier and Springer based their objections upon two clauses in the WOB, claiming that publicly disclosing their contracts was against the law. For one they claimed that this would cause a disproportiate disadvantage in their negotiating power. Secondly publication would lay bare sensitive business and technical information about the company.
Although the committee agrees that there are downsides of transparency for the publishers it rules that these are “not of such a disproportionate nature” that it overrules the importance of transparency. It also it found the arguments for the sensitivity of the information in the contracts “incomplete” and “unfounded”.
The publishers can still appeal this decision by going to court. But this has to be done within a term of six weeks of which four already passed before communication of the formal announcement of this decision. Earlier this year ScienceGuide already laid its hands on the controversial contract between Elsevier and the Universities.
For Dutch, click here.