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Pricing/License Translucency: A Proposal for Publishers and Libraries Rick Anderson 18 Oct 2006 14:38 UTC

Everyone is probably sick to death of this topic by now, but I'm going
to risk starting a new thread about pricing secrecy and pricing
transparency.  This message will end with a question for my librarian
colleagues, so I hope that those who are tired of the topic but who may
have an opinion on the question will soldier through to the end and send
a response (either directly to me or to the list).

Now that I've had a week or so to reflect on my experience with Nature
and its demand for total secrecy of pricing and license terms, and on my
on-list conversation with Peter Banks and Joe Esposito and others about
the implications of total pricing transparency, it's occurred to me that
there may be room for a compromise on which both publishers and
libraries can agree.  It seems to me that there is really no reason why
we should have to choose between Pricing Blackout (the position of
Nature and a few other publishers on the fringe of this issue) and
Pricing Transparency (as characterized by Joe's "public posting of
prices/licenses" scenario).

I'd like to propose a compromise, which we might call Pricing
Translucency: suppose a license agreement were to contain a clause like
this: "Subject to applicable law, Licensee shall refrain from
publicizing or otherwise broadly distributing the terms of this License
(including pricing) in any public forum."

It seems to me that a term like this should satisfy both the desire of
publishers not to see public broadcast of the results of their
individual price and license negotiations, while also allowing
librarians the desired leeway to talk to each other individually about
their negotiation experiences.  I don't know of any librarian who wants
to take out a full-page ad in the New York Times saying what price she
ended up getting from Nature; most of us just want to be able to answer
individual colleagues who ask us questions.

I was going to ask the publishers who participate or lurk on this list
to say whether they think a clause like this would be acceptable, but I
think that question is more or less answered by the fact that the vast
majority of publishers don't put confidentiality clauses in their
licenses.  What I do wonder, though, is whether librarians would
generally find such a clause acceptable.  Any thoughts?  (Off-list
replies welcome; if there's interest, I can summarize for the list
without identifying respondents.)

Rick Anderson
Dir. of Resource Acquisition
University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
(775) 784-6500 x273