Boycott threat ends Reed's support for new law

Reed Elsevier, the FTSE 100-listed publisher of academic journals, has withdrawn its support for controversial legislation in the US that would restrict free access to research papers, after thousands of academics around the world backed a campaign started by a Cambridge don to boycott its publications.

The company was facing an escalating revolt from a community that has long questioned how it can still reap more than £2bn in annual revenues from publishing academic journals in the internet era.

The so-called "Research Works Act", which is going through Congress, threatens to be as controversial in the academic community as the Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) was in the technology industry.

Reed's academic publishing division, Elsevier, had been lobbying hard for the new legislation, which would make it much harder for the US government to promote free access to academic research and protect journal publishers who can charge thousands of dollars per subscription.

The act would reverse an existing policy that mandates most federally funded drug research has to be made freely available on the web.

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