An online access project has given Yale Law School faculty broader readership than ever before.
The Law School Library added roughly 3,000 faculty-published scholarly articles from legal journals to an open access database on its website over the past year — giving it the largest online repository of its kind. The efforthas made Yale a leader among institutions seeking to increase the amount of academic content that is freely available to the public.
The database has generated more than 300,000 downloads from visitors worldwide in the last 12 months alone, and law librarians at Yale said they hope the University’s progress will encourage other law schools to implementsimilaropen access initiatives. While law libraries across the country have already worked to compile repositories likeYale’s, Law School librarian Blair Kauffman said none of these databases are on par with the University’s, which will continue to expand as faculty publish more articles.Julian Aiken, access services librarian at the Law School Library, said the site has received traffic from more than 41,000 visitors in over 160 countries within the last year.
“With the repository, we’re able to reach an audience that would never have seen this scholarship before,” Kauffman said. “There’s some guy in Sri Lanka or India or China who now has access to scholarship that they can read and comment on.”
Transferring the faculty-published articles from law school journals to the online repository caused few copyright problems, Kauffman said. Though other academic articles are typically published in commercial journals, which retain some rights to the work, he said legal scholarship is usually published in law school journals that give authors authority over copyright matters — a practice endorsed by the Association of American Law Schools’ open access guidelines.
“If a law review were to contact us and say, ‘We claim copyright on that and object to having this article in your repository,’ we’d take it down and then work with them,” Kauffman said.
Aiken said copyright conflicts could arise because many of Yale’s faculty approach their legal studies from interdisciplinary perspectives, sometimes leading them to publish articles in commercial journals. As the repository continues to grow, Aiken said he and Law School librarian Fred Shapiro will negotiate copyright deals as needed with commercial journals.
Kauffman also said articles would be removed from the site if faculty members complained about having their work placed in the repository, adding that none have requested their work be taken down so far.
Still,Judith Wright, law librarian at the University of Chicago, said professors who author legal scholarship have no financial incentive to keep their work from open access repositories.
“Law faculty want their work widely distributed, and they want people to use it,” she said. “They don’t make any money off of it and the journals don’t either.”
Most major commercial journals have also grown more lenient with open access policies in recent years, said Richard Danner, Duke University’s senior associate dean for information services.
As Yale continues to expand its repository, other law schools across the country are also developing their own online databases.
Michelle Pearse, the librarian in charge of open access initiatives at Harvard Law School, said the library is working to educate faculty about the online repository and recruit faculty contributions.
The University of Chicago Law School does not have an open access repository yet, Wright said, adding that the library is waiting for the university to move forward with the creation of a general open access repository before the law school begins its own.
As of press time, the Yale law library’s repository has received 473,929 downloads.