Copyright’s Broken Promise  
That Congress shall have Power . . . to promote the Progress of Science and useful  
Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right  
to their respective Writings and Discoveries.  
—U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 8  
The case that this book makes for reforming US copyright law so that  
it supports universal open access to research publications has five parts:  
1. Scholarly publishing’s principal stakeholders (including the big pub-  
lishers) are now in agreement that “open access” to research publications  
will do more to promote scientific progress than the subscription journal  
system of the print era.  
2. This open access consensus is not well served by a Copyright Act that  
encourages restricting, rather than opening, access to research, which  
means that the law falls short of its original intent “to promote the Prog-  
ress of Science.”  
3. Rather than reform the act, stakeholders have pursued legal and extra-  
legal work-arounds—with embargoes, final drafts, illegal copies, Creative  
Commons (CC) licenses—that are failing to deliver universal open access  
with all due speed and at a fair price.  
4. So why not legislate statutory licensing (long used with music copy-  
right) for research publications in which research’s institutional users and  
funders are required to fairly compensate scholarly publishers for imme-  
diate open access?  
5. Such a legislative fix is not too much to request of a Congress that has  
enacted nearly sixty digital-era reforms of the Copyright Act for every-  
thing but science, with some reforms working internationally, which is  
the goal of this initiative.  
Copyright’s Broken Promise  
How to Restore the Law’s Ability to  
Promote the Progress of Science  
John Willinsky  
The MIT Press  
Cambridge, Massachusetts  
London, England  
© 2023 Massachusetts Institute of Technology  
This work is subject to a Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND license.  
Subject to such license, all rights are reserved.  
The MIT Press would like to thank the anonymous peer reviewers who provided  
comments on drafts of this book. The generous work of academic experts is essential for  
establishing the authority and quality of our publications. We acknowledge with gratitude  
the contributions of these otherwise uncredited readers.  
This book was set in Sabon by Scribe Inc. Printed and bound in the United States of  
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data  
Names: Willinsky, John, 1950– author.  
Title: Copyright’s broken promise : how the law now impedes the “progress of science”  
and how it can be fixed / John Willinsky.  
Description: Cambridge, Massachusetts : Massachusetts Institute of Technology, [2023] |  
Includes bibliographical references and index. | Summary: “How US Copyright law  
should be reformed to ensure open access to research and scholarship”—Provided by  
Identifiers: LCCN 2022003112 (print) | LCCN 2022003113 (ebook) | ISBN 9780262544412  
(paperback) | ISBN 9780262371476 (epub) | ISBN 9780262371483 (pdf)  
Subjects: LCSH: Copyright—United States. | Open access publishing.  
Classification: LCC KF2994 .W55 2023 (print) | LCC KF2994 (ebook) | DDC  
LC record available at  
LC ebook record available at