Smithsonian Sells Out?

Today's All Things Considered (audio link, see also ABC News for text coverage) investigates a contract the Smithsonian Institution made with Showtime, granting some exclusive rights to the network. The deal is raising the hackles of some filmmakers.

Compare to the for-profit publishing of government documents, Coke's sponsorship of the Library of Congress, and the much-maligned NIH proposal to make tax-funded research public (or the hawking of virgin forests or arctic wildlife habitats, but I digress).

Is the government selling rights to national treasures off like this warranted?


The post is misleading to classify "the much-maligned NIH proposal" with the Smithsonian-Showtime deal, the for-profit publication of government documents, and so on. The NIH policy, which took effect 5/2/05, pulls in the opposite direction: it's an attempt to give the public free online access to publicly-funded research. It's maligned by publishers, who would rather see a Showtime-like deal that preserved private-sector revenues even at the expense of the public interest. It's also maligned by open-access advocates, like me, for not going far enough (it's discretionary, not mandatory, and lets publishers delay the free online access by up to a year). But despite the policy's weakness, it's a step in the right direction, unlike all the other examples in the post, which are steps in the wrong direection.Peter SuberOpen Access Project Director, Public KnowledgeResearch Professor of Philosophy, Earlham College

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