Posted on behalf of Eliot Barford.
An American scientist and noted blogger has posted copies of newly published papers about NASA’s Curiosity expedition on his personal website, potentially breaking copyright laws.
Michael Eisen, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, reproduced the papers — originally published behind a paywall in the journal Science — on his blog yesterday, claiming he was motivated by public interest in the Curiosity project, which is funded by US taxpayers.
Eisen argues that the papers may not be under copyright as most of their authors work for NASA, and are therefore US government employees,
who are whose work is not bound by copyright laws. He writes that “in the interests of helping NASA and Science magazine comply with US law, I am making copies of these papers freely available here”.
US law states that work prepared by “an officer or employee of the United States government” is not subject to US copyright, and can be reproduced and distributed. However, whether this restricts Science’s right to enforce a paywall on its published content is not apparent.
Eisen has previously campaigned in support of open access to scientific findings. He co-founded the Public Library of Science (PLoS), a non-profit open-access publisher of peer-reviewed scientific journals.
Science does not retain copyright of work it publishes, which remains with authors. Authors are permitted to distribute copies of final versions of articles after they are published by the journal, which also makes all peer-reviewed research content freely available a year after publication.
The papers in question describe findings by Curiosity in Mars’s Gale Crater, including a small proportion of water in a soil sample. For more on the articles, see Nature’s news summary.