This was originally published at inSCIght.
Related to a post from last week about a petition against Elsevier, the U.S. Congress House of Representatives has put forth HR 3699 - the Research Works Act (RWA). The innocuous name belies the insidious intent. This bill would severely limit the flow of scientific and technical over the internet if it was in any way associated with the federal monies. (Note that since WWII and the infamous military industrial complex, much of science, technology, engineering, and math is at least partially funded by the federal government.)
In some ways this is the conceptual opposite of the SOPA/PIPA fiasco but with the same monopolistic ends. SOPA/PIPA were designed to create and maintain unfair business practices. The RWA, on the other hand, wholesale forbids the sharing of information without the prior consent of - you guessed it - the publisher. What is worst of all here is that it is not entirely clear who benefits.
The usual suspects have provided commentary on the situation and how the language of the act subverts researchers, openness, and the interests of U.S. government itself. This leaves only the publishers with even a marginal short term gain. (I believe that in the long term, restrictions on sharing would in fact harm the balance sheet of the publishers as erecting further barriers to entry for publication would mean fewer total articles written.)
However, if you are an American citizen there is at least a token gesture you can make. There is yet-another-petition over at the White House website urging the president to oppose the bill. At the time of time of writing, there are still 24,000+ signatures needed out of 25,000 required to obtain an official response. The deadline is February 22nd, 2012. I urge everyone interested in academic freedom and not wasting taxpayer dollars to sign. Unlike the cost of knowledge petition, this act does affect the industry as a whole and not only select players.