The development of modern, democratic societies benefits from an increased and improved access to information.
Pursuing this principle, we need to rethink the current scientific research dissemination system, in order to ensure the access to and use of knowledge, also bearing in mind the various interests at stake.
The state of the art in this field is largely characterized by a system in which publishing businesses rely on several factors, namely the current copyright management system, contractual and technological means and their market power, with the aim of pursuing and protecting their commercial interests.
Against this background Open Access (OA) principles are born. There are many versions of OA, reflecting the different perceptions on how such tool should be managed. These are important policies and legal questions, raising a variety of issues which cover the fields of private and constitutional law (including copyright, contract law and fundamental rights), and affecting a wide range of private and institutional legal interests.
A considerable amount of work still needs to be done in order to transform a simple commitment toward the adoption of policies allowing access to and dissemination of knowledge, into a concrete and desirable procedure for the publication of scientific research. This is also one of the main objectives of the present work, which may be summarized in terms of the following questions:
1) In the rapidly changing digital environment of today, is it possible to have a system for disseminating and publishing scientific research that is socially and economically sustainable, taking into account the interests of society, researchers, institutions, public research funding bodies, while not forgetting the role and commercial constraints of publishers?
2) If so, what form would the system take? What its specific aims, and how (by what formal and informal mechanisms)would it be appropriately structured? What changes to national and European (and international) law would it require in order to be implemented? Would it require further harmonization in the fields of intellectual property and/or contract law?
3) Are the existing Open Access policies (at European, national and institutional level) able to support this system and meet its central aims? If so, which OA policies in particular? If not, how would those policies need to be amended in order to make them suit the system?