Max Planck Society cancels licensing agreement with Springer

Following difficult negotiations, the Max Planck Society has cancelled the licensing agreement it has had for many years with Springer Verlag

October 18, 2007

The cancellation will take effect as of December 31, 2007. Negotiations failed because no agreement could be reached regarding an adequate ratio between price and long-term services. "Springer held to excessive demands right up until the end of the negotiations; that's why the MPS has cancelled the agreement," according to MPS Vice President Kurt Mehlhorn. An evaluation of usage statistics and comparisons with other important publishers made it clear Springer was demanding approximately double the price for the offered journals than the Max Planck Society regards as reasonable.

The current agreement allowed all Max Planck Institutes access to around 1,200 electronic scholarly journals published by Springer Verlag. The failure of the negotiations means Springer's SpringerLink research interface can no longer be provided centrally for the Society's Institutes. The Max Planck Society and the Max Planck Digital Library will develop strategies together with the Institute libraries most affected to secure the supply of essential contents on a cost-effective basis.

The failure of negotiations with Springer represents a watershed in the Society's relationship with various globally-active scientific publishing houses. Extreme price developments in the supply of information, as well as usage restrictions, are prompting scientific organizations around the world to rethink their policies. From as early as 2003, the Max Planck Society initiated the "Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities", which is intended to promote greater open publication opportunities for publicly financed research.

Springer Verlag's insistence on maintaining its negotiating position confirmed to the more than 240 scientific organizations around the world that have so far signed the "Berlin Declaration" how important their project is. What is certain is that very few publishing houses can afford to undermine the public's interest in the broadest possible access to knowledge through excessive price structures. If publishers have the market power to effectively implement such prices and if legislators are unwilling to subject such inappropriate behavior to legal controls, the only way left open to science will be to take matters into their own hands.

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