Challenges to Licensing from Some Publishers
Last revised: February 23, 2012
Ivy Anderson, Director
Collection Development and Management
California Digital Library
The University of California libraries and the California Digital Library facilitate access to online resources through systemwide negotiation and licensing. At the same time, we seek to influence the marketplace through consortial licensing decisions. We think that we can best serve the long-term interests of UC faculty and students by insisting on resources that meet high standards for content quality, fair and affordable pricing, and licensing terms that allow broad access to our user community.
With a few publishers, these standards fall far short and become roadblocks in the licensing process. The following information is provided to explain to the UC community why systemwide licenses are not yet available for certain online resources. We continue to monitor these publishers and their licensing models in hopes of negotiating reasonable and acceptable terms for UC-wide access.
In most cases, the roadblocks to licensing center on sustainable pricing. There are serious budgetary issues facing the UC libraries which are discussed in a related public letter.
Nature Publishing Group (NPG)
For the most recent statement on the dispute with Nature Publishing Group, see our separate information page at http://osc.universityofcalifornia.edu/npg/
In 2001, NPG appeared on the Challenges to Licensing webpage for a number of issues that were ultimately resolved (see archival link below). In 2009, three issues prompted serious renewed concerns with NPG's licensing policies. Although UC concerns about unsustainable pricing are in temporary abeyance while discussions between UC and NPG are ongoing (see the above update), we continue to be concerned about the long-term implications of these issues:
- Lack of sustainable long-term pricing
In 2008, CDL was pleased to negotiate what we believed to be a stable pricing agreement with Nature Publishing Group for both Nature and its companion titles following several years of extremely steep price increases (for example, in 2007 UC's proposed cost for Nature increased by 65% - after significant negotiation, the increase was reduced to 54% - far exceeding the rates published by NPG on its website).
Dishearteningly, in 2009 Nature informed the CDL that it again planned to sharply raise licensing fees for the University of California Libraries, this time by as much as 300% beginning in 2011 - an order of magnitude amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
- Excessive price increase for Scientific American
Nature Publishing Group recently acquired Scientific American from its sister company at the Holtzbrinck group. With this change in management, the cost of UC's online site license would have been more than twice the fee currently charged for systemwide access. It is worth noting that this fee represented a 'discounted' offer: the list price quoted to the CDL was well over five times our current cost. The price of an institutional print subscription also increased more than seven-fold.
There was no plausible justification for raising online licensing fees for Scientific American to such exorbitant levels. As has been pointed out by others (see for example the Open Letter from the Oberlin Group libraries at http://www.oberlingroup.org/open-letter-scientific-american-oberlin-group-library-directors ), pricing a general interest periodical such as Scientific American at such levels is unreasonable and unlikely to be considered a fiscally responsible investment by many libraries.
For this reason, the University of California Libraries unanimously decided to cancel an online license to Scientific American upon expiration of the subscription in May 2010. Campus libraries are happy to work with faculty and students to identify alternative high-quality sources of scientific news reporting and analysis.
- Loss of perpetual rights and cost increases for transferring titles such as Polymer Journal (published on behalf of the Society of Polymer Science, Japan)
UC lost access to the 2006-2009 archive of Polymer Journal in 2010 when the content moved to nature.com unless we signed a site license with NPG. These years were formerly available on J-Stage, which is now maintained as a closed file through 2005 only. Campuses expected more than a doubling of the print or e-only pricing.
Given these concerns about Nature's pricing policies, the UC Libraries are not currently licensing the online versions of new Nature journals.
Members of the UC community who share our pricing concerns may wish to write to the publisher directly to express their views. Communications may be addressed to Steven Inchcoombe, Managing Director, Nature Publishing Group, London at exec@Nature.com and shared with Ivy Anderson, CDL Director of Collections and the University Librarian at your campus.
UpToDate (submitted by the UC Health & Life Sciences bibliographer group)
UpToDate is a popular online point-of-care clinical information resource that most of the UC Health Sciences Libraries wholly or partially fund for their campus' healthcare providers and medical students. Unfortunately, UpToDate's refusal to allow remote access to authorized users as part of their basic license fee, or to charge a reasonable extra amount, is of great concern to UC libraries. A recent price which UpToDate provided to UCSD to provide remote access with its contract would have cost an estimated $250,000 annually, on top of the annual license fee. Numerous UC and other academic health centers have raised this concern with UpToDate because their remote access policy is not in keeping with the policies of other publishers.
Remote access is vital for the UC community. Physicians often need to consult information resources in response to patient care needs while off-site. Affiliated medical students and residents often work rotations in clinical locations outside of the UC, or want to learn more about conditions they encountered as part of their studies from home. UpToDate's practice of not permitting remote access as part of the basic license fee falls outside the norms of pricing and standard features for electronic content. Due to this, the University of California Health and Life Sciences librarians feel obligated to alert the UC community about UpToDate's unacceptable licensing practices.