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News Posted on July 18, 2011

Judy Janes, Marissa Andrea Publish on Open Access in The Recorder

Judy Janes, interim director of the UC Davis Mabie Law Library, and Marissa Andrea, Irell & Manella Research Librarian, have published an essay on the Open Access initiative, a movement to make legal scholarship freely available online.  The article appears in the June 13, 2011 issue of The Recorder, and is republished below with permission.

One Journal at a Time

Is it becoming easier to find that law review article on point? As more journals become available on the Internet through an initiative called Open Access, published legal scholarship - once only available in print form from law libraries, or online through proprietary databases ­- will reach a wider audience. This is a movement not only benefiting practicing attorneys, but historians, scholars and members of the public with legal research interests, who will be able to access legal scholarship by simply googling a topic.

Why is this happening? The born-digital movement has advanced the technology, and shrinking library budgets have propelled the movement. Do all, or most, student-run law journals publish electronically? We would like to think that in a few short years, many law schools will join the Open Access movement by placing free copies of law reviews online. Law schools are able to keep archives in institutional repositories and can then move away from paper production. This transition not only helps ease law library resource budgets, but also focuses on ensuring permanent access to digital legal information. The Google effect of Open Access also guarantees that a body of legal scholarship will reach greater numbers of readers, i.e., those who might not have access to proprietary databases.

A Brief History of Open Access

About 10 years ago, when the Internet became the dominant form of communication and compressed file formats, such as PDF, made the viewing of larger documents and images much easier, librarians and academics realized the tremendous potential of making scholarship produced in universities much more widely accessible. Not only was the Internet an ideal distribution mechanism, but also a way to remove cost barriers and escalating fees charged by publishers. In particular, the escalating subscription fees charged by publishers of technical, scientific and medical literature fueled the early days of Open Access.

Open Access is founded on the basic principle that the sharing of knowledge allows others to add upon that knowledge. The unabashed goal of Open Access is free access to all scholarship.

For legal scholarship, the movement gained momentum in 2008 when the law library directors for 12 top-tier law schools met at Duke University School of Law and drafted the Durham Statement, calling for all law schools to stop publishing their journals in print format and to rely instead on electronic publication "in stable, open, digital formats."

The librarian community continues to be actively involved including efforts by the Legal Information Preservation Alliance to create a framework to preserve legal literature regardless of format. While much of the alliance's focus is to ensure permanent access to "born digital" legal information of a governmental nature, it is also committed to the preservation of all vital legal information.

SSRN, RSS and SMARTCLIP/CLJC

The success of RSS feeds, SSRN alerts and SMARCLIP/CLJC email updates has further accelerated the transition to Open Access journals. This means law school faculty members are increasingly opting out of routed print copies of new journal issues and adopting new technologies to stay current. (In legal practice, fee-based proprietary information is, of course, dominant, including alerting materials such as newsletters and reporters).

Learn More

Here are some additional resources discussing Open Access and providing tools for legal research.

See the October 2010 video where Richard Danner discusses Open Access and the Durham Statement and also his paper entitled "The Durham Statement on Open Access One Year Later: Preservation and Access to Legal Scholarship" available at SSRN.

Open Access Journals

Law Reviews on the Web

Open Access at the University of California

More than 35 online journals are now housed with eScholarship, which is a University of California CDL service that facilitates the creation of Open Access journals for all UC campuses.