Research Information:FOCUS ON NORTH AMERICA Different strokes for different folks

Michelle Norell investigates diverging approaches to public policy and publishing regulations in Europe and North America


n the context of being an online publishing platform host for both North American and European publishers, the most obvious difference we see between the two continents is the extremely heterogenous state of the European Union (EU) as compared to the more homogenous composition of the US and Canada, which together comprise North America. The EU’s heterogeneity and North America’s homogeneousness have caused both to implement quite different strategies for regulating academic publishing.

Addressing its heterogeneity head-on, Europe – and specifically the EU – has developed sweeping mandates and policies for all of its member countries as a means of increasing integration and fostering uniformity. These policies and initiatives have come in different forms, such as open access (OA) mandates; the practical impacts are still being sorted out. Although still in its very early stages, the

EU’s initiative to create a digital single market seems to be one of its most significant efforts at harmonisation to-date. In contrast, being far more homogenous than the EU, the United States and Canada are not compelled to apply the same level of interventionist public policy. The European Commission (EC) officially kicked off the Digital Single Market strategy in April 2016. At its core, the strategy is based upon protecting the rights of the EU’s citizenry, establishing standards, creating interoperability, and increasing accessibility. An urgent priority for the EU, it will be a major achievement if the EC is successful in executing on the Digital

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Single Market strategy and unifying the disparate markets across 28 countries.

The barriers of language, economies, and culture are obviously daunting and require major long-term investment by the EU. If the EC is able to follow through with the necessary ongoing investment, EU publishers and consumers alike stand to gain quite a lot more homogeneity from the protections and standards that are integral to the Digital Single Market. Another prime example of the more socially-driven EU policy setting occurred in October 2015 when the Safe Harbor agreement was overturned on the grounds that United States surveillance programs were violating fundamental privacy rights of EU citizens.

‘We are already

experiencing the effects of the Privacy Shield’

Since then Europe and the US have entered into the EU-US Privacy Shield agreement, which requires the US to enforce greater protections of European citizens’ data and to cooperate with European Data Protection Authorities.The effects of the updated laws have already been far reaching, affecting not just publishers but the likes of Google, Amazon, and Facebook too.

The complexities of compliance for non- European entities are still being negotiated. Under the EU-US Privacy Shield, each EU country has the right to suspend data transfers with companies that do not adequately protect

data, which introduces potential risk if any lapses do occur.

As a vendor to European publishers, we at Safari are already experiencing the effects of the Privacy Shield and are actively collaborating with our European publishers in completing a thorough review and revision of our processes and contracts to ensure that all are in compliance with the Privacy Shield requirements. This is not a small effort.

Open Access is also an area of important difference between Europe and North America. Europe has committed to progressing on Gold OA whereas North America has predominantly followed a Green OA path.

In practice, this divergence is understandable because North America does not have a national governing body, such as Jisc in the United Kingdom, for Open Access. Looking at Open Access from a strategic perspective, Gold OA aligns with and strengthens the Digital Single Market initiative in at least two important ways. The first way is that by maximising accessibility of content through Gold OA, Europe is progressing the development of an ‘inclusive digital society’ and encouraging the ‘free flow of data’ to foster innovation – both of which are central to the Digital Single Market initiative. And secondly, Europe’s push for Gold OA has seemingly been less disruptive to publishers than Green OA by eliminating the inevitable pressures to shorten embargo periods. Europe’s heterogeneity and North America’s relative homogeneity in language and culture is an obvious difference between the regions. It also seems to be a factor in the most significant distinctions that we see between them. Europe and the EU are trying to impose rules and regulations that can help to unify the market while, for better or for worse, in North America there tends to be a much more laissez-faire, hands-off approach.

Michelle Norell is business development manager at Safari Books Online


Gianna Stadelmyer/

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