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COVID-19 brings to light the need for open access books

person reading a tablet/e-book
“Now more than ever, at a time when globally most schools are closed... with more than 1.5 billion learners and students affected worldwide... and people obliged to stay at home... the power of books can be leveraged to combat isolation, to reinforce ties between people, and to expand our horizons, while stimulating our minds and creativity” is what the United Nations is stating.
 
"Reading well is one of  the great pleasures that solitude can afford you", Harold Bloom
 
For more than 20 years the book publishing industry, scholarly and educational ecosystem - including authors, publishers, researchers, academic societies, bookstores and libraries - celebrate World Book and Copyright Day on 23 April each year, initiated by UNESCO in 1995. This day is followed by World Intellectual Property Day on 26 April, established by WIPO in 2000 to raise awareness of the importance of intellectual property rights and to celebrate creativity and the contribution made by creators and innovators to the development of societies across the globe. 
 
UNESCO quote for the World Book and Copyright day: 'Read ... so you never feel alone'
Photo: UNESCO quote for the World Book and Copyright Day
 
This season is a timely opportunity for Globethics.net as a publisher, library, and institution of higher learning, to promote its books, publications, and courses, particularly as we are able to offer our products and services online.
 
To provide and guarantee continued access to books, information, and education as widely and openly as possible, when schools, universities, and libraries are closed due to the current pandemic, is an immense challenge and task, that millions of parents, educators, teachers, and researchers are confronted with daily.   
 
To have free access to books, scientific information, formal and non-formal education, and lifelong  learning, through electronic means, such as e-books, online classes, distance learning, and video-conferencing, becomes a necessity, even an emergency in these times. Thanks to the Internet and ICT this is made possible, albeit often with copyright restrictions, paywalls, and commercial licenses that unfortunately hinder access to information, education, and innovation.
 
The US based Internet Archive launched a National Emergency Library providing free access to 1.4 million mainly in-copyright books from the 20th century, during this time of crisis. This was, however, heavily criticized by the Authors Guild, who saw their interests being compromised, even though nothing illegal has been done.
 
An international coalition of legal experts, scientists, and technology specialists, launched the Open COVID Pledge, an initiative and call to encourage companies, universities, and researchers around the world to make their intellectual property (patents and copyright) available free of charge for use in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. They initiated specific COVID-19 licenses that are royalty free and limited in time to provide free access to the latest research on this virus, during the time of the pandemic. 
 
Renowned academic publishers, computer companies, online vendors, and medical laboratories have joined this initiative or opened up their research publications, patents and other research data during this crisis.
 
Also the European Union is supporting this effort through OpenAIRE, with the launching of an open research data platform, the COVID Data Portal on 20 April, 2020 to “enable the rapid collection and sharing of available research data”.  
 
Libraries and library associations around the world call on legal authorities, policy makers and publishers to adapt copyright law in this extraordinary situation, to enable researchers, educational establishments, and libraries to “fulfil  their educational responsibilities and provide remote services using in-copyright works without fear of litigation for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis”. For example, LIBER, the Association of European Research Libraries issued a statement about this on 9 April 2020 and a representative group of US college, university, and public librarians made a pledge for a flexible interpretation of the “fair use” principles provided in US copyright law “in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak”.  
 
Even beyond this crisis, (free) access to books, information, knowledge, and education will remain an urgent imperative for all actors and stakeholders of the book publishing industry, scholarly and educational ecosystem to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” (as expressed in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4, SDG 4).  That’s why the role of libraries, publishers, educational and scientific institutions are so important and valuable. They are the (open) gateways to books, information, knowledge, education, and innovation. Let us remember and thank them all in this time of crisis for their excellent initiatives and efforts to enable reading, teaching, education and research.
 
Globethics.net makes available research publications, mainly from scholars from the majority world, under an open CC (Creative Commons) license and provides an open library with millions of documents available free of charge. 
 
Also, with its online academy, Globethics.net offers educational resources and courses on ethics for free or at very low cost.   
    
In this newsletter, you will discover some of these valuable resources, interesting books and publications, helpful tips from the Library, encouraging testimonies from our network, and other good news and ideas, that bring some (de)light, hope and inspiration in these gloomy and depressing days.
 
Andreas Waldvogel, Programme Executive Online LibraryAndreas Waldvogel
Programme Executive Online Library
Globethics.net