Open Access Laws Threaten Online Subscription Business in U.K. & U.S.

The U.K. and Oklahoma may be putting a dent in two subscription businesses’ profits. The U.K. government recently called paywalls for scientific journals “deeply

The U.K. and Oklahoma may be putting a dent in two subscription businesses’ profits.The U.K. government recently called paywalls for scientific journals “deeply unhealthy” and announced plans to make all research publications “open-access” in order to promote knowledge sharing and scientific advancements.But Reed Elsevier calls the new rule “catastrophic,” saying it could reduce the company’s profits by 60%.While the new law is limited to the U.K., the European Union could adopt similar regulations, and paidContent reports that the U.S. is already looking to do so.In fact, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma is being asked to review whether a subscription website for lawyers is violating the state’s open access laws.Subscription site and state contractor KellPro charges Oklahoma Bar Association members $50 a month or $600 a year to download court documents from its site. The company does not allow citizens who are not Bar Association members to join.Instead, average citizens “have to drive to the county courthouse, ask to examine documents in person and pay up to $1 per page for copies.” At the same time, Oklahoma residents continue to pay for the construction of a statewide online system for free public court records access, yet the system is no where near being launched.Therefore, an administrative director of the courts asked the Supreme Court to look at KellPro after multiple complaints.Both the U.K. law and the court decision in Oklahoma could affect many B2B subscription sites, particularly those serving the academic and legal sector.However, the terms of use employed by both sites may also be hurting their bottom lines. In the case of KellPro, by making the site’s services available only to certain types of people (i.e., Bar Association members), the site is employing a country club mentality that is bound to rile up other taxpayers. And Reed Elsevier had a practice of bundling academic journal subscriptions instead of letting customers buy subscriptions to individual journals.Better to make your paywall, subscription, or membership site open to anyone willing to pay your subscription price. And make sure you’re giving customers bundled options that make sense for the way in which they use your product. Otherwise consumer backlash can lead to more laws that undermine efforts to get paid for content creation, curation and delivery.

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