Someone on Twitter, @ReinventionInc, asked this question about HR3699 and the dissemination of publicly-funded scientific knowledge, and it got me interested in the subject too, so I thought it was worth getting a conversation going on here about it...
HR3699, the 'Research Works Act', says that "No Federal agency may adopt, implement, maintain, continue, or otherwise engage in any policy, program, or other activity that -- (1) causes, permits, or authorizes network dissemination of any private-sector research work without the prior consent of the publisher of such work; or (2) requires that any actual or prospective author, or the employer of such an actual or prospective author, assent to network dissemination of a private-sector research work." (Source)
Because even government funded research can become "private work" with the added value of the commercial publication process, this has been interpreted as essentially forbidding the government from requiring the author/researcher to make the result publicly available.
The full potential impact of the bill (which faces a long road to passage anyway) is still a bit murky by my reading, but certainly the above is generally a tough question - I'm wary of attempts to limit open-access online and elsewhere, but scientific intellectual property is a delicate issue and most academic journals do continue to provide an important part of the scholarly publication/dissemination process.
What do you think? Should publicly-funded research be publicly available? What are the limits to this?