Archive for August, 2005

LexisNexis Copyright Protection

Just saw this press release:
LexisNexis CopyGuard
The system appears to be a plagiarism detection tool. They’re working with iParadigms, a comany which uses terms like “intellectual property theft” and seeks to “combat the piracy of intellectual property and ensure the originality of written work.” I’m a bit skeptical. Of course, originality is a criterion for copyrightable material, but ideas can’t be copyrighted, and text has to be pretty similar for copyright trouble… but I guess the accuracy of the tool depends on how well their searching and matching software works.

iParadigms also runs, which has some issues of it’s own involving student ownership of material, privacy and other fun subjects. This service will use “four to five years of archived Web pages from iParadigms.” I wonder about this part… where are these pages coming from? Are they coming from the Internet? If the Internet Archive is having to justify what it does in regards to copyright law, how would a commercial entity do the same?

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Arg. Spam and other Karma

I was going through the administration panel, and the version of Spam Karma I was using ate some comments I really wanted to see, including one from Scrivener’s Error. My apologies to the commentors- I can’t retrieve those older comments. I’ve updated WordPress and Spam Karma, and now I can configure the settings better- and retrieve false positives in the future. I wish I could get rid of the Spam Filter altogether, but that’s just wishful thinking… I keep on receiving adbot spam. The spam and earlier experiences in INF 312 with a couple of students submitting plagiarized or copied material related to the game has really made me dislike poker for no logical reason. 😛


What is a library? Jottings

Taking a quick lunch break to consider the “essence of a library” discussion… What services do libraries provide, how are they changed online, and when is something a library or not a library?

I can think of at least a few “information institutions” that are involved with information and communities: archives, libraries, and museums. We can further subdivide these types- for example, academic libraries, school libraries, special libraries, public libraries, etc. So, first off- what are the distinctions between the broader institutions? Why do we believe they’re necessary? Do the distinctions make sense when working in a digital environment?

Focusing on libraries- what are some commonalities for these types of libraries?
-A formally organized institution that provides information-related services to a defined community
-These services are generally provided by a professional and/or paraprofessional staff. ALA differentiates between a library and other information centers based on the presence of a librarian- I’m not sure if they still do, but it would make sense to me that they do.
-Community space (noted on derivative works – I think we can consider this type of space a service, maybe?)

Do I need to further differentiate between digital libraries and other types of libraries? I haven’t before.

I’ll throw out some terms that I believe may be related to a library’s services:

Selection, Collection, Organization (Cataloging, Indexing, etc…), Presentation, Use, Distribution, Access, Service (Reference, Assistance…), Space, Transparency, Responsibility, Relevance, Authority, Authenticity, Integrity, Conservation, Preservation

Are there “core” services that every library must have?

I’ll need to come back to this when I have more time… the blog conversations are very interesting.

[Update: My wife, who unlike me does in fact work at a library, has also pointed me to the April/May/June OCLC newsletter, which addresses The Long Tail and libraries’ role in the digital economy… Here’s info from some OCLC staff on their blog…]


Google as Library Rhetoric

OK- has some responses to my comments, and responses that don’t quite address what I was talking about (probably due to my unclear writing). The message is addressing the rhetorical argument of treating Google as a library, and asks the question, “What is a library?” Now, I do have an MLIS. I have studied libraries, I value the institution and I value the professional mission- and I don’t have an incredibly good answer to that question. More in a bit.

First, though, in respect to the copyright argument- I wasn’t really talking about the court of public opinion, or rhetorical arguments. I wasn’t using the term library colloquially. I was using the term library to mean a library that fulfills the requirements of Section 108 for the purposes of the library exemptions. I don’t think Google can fulfill those requirements at this point, and I don’t think they should try unless they change the way their contract works. I wasn’t making a value judgment about the usefulness or uselessness of calling Google a library, then. I will in a bit. That’s what I meant by a “real” fair use argument- not in terms of the authenticity of the argument, but in terms of a “real” fair use argument instead of a library exemption argument.

To clarify, I think it would be more useful to look at a fair use argument than a library exemption argument.

Now, the “What is a library?” question is one that is often discussed, obviously, in this field, as is the related question “What is a librarian?” In general, I think, the broader sense of information use and uses can be used to term something a “library,” but there isn’t really a consensus. Colloquially, of course, we all consider all kinds of things libraries, including personal collections and so on. In the more traditional sense, there are many types of libraries- special, public, academic, etc. These include private libraries and for-profit libraries. Now, there are unifying aspects of “librarianship” as it pertains to librarians, although they’re not quite absolute across the different areas of the profession. They’re probably best exemplified by the American Library Association and its values. There are also information professionals who have little to do with libraries as such. For example, we offer a number of courses involving information technology, human computer interaction, accessibility and usability, and so on. Some professionals consider what they do librarianship, and some don’t. Take a look at a recent post about what Jessamyn does all day, which in a brief paragraph mentions that she doesn’t consider herself a librarian, a divide between professionals and paraprofessionals, and popular media portrayal of librarians. My perspective is probably best shown in my letter to the Texas Library Connection list. I have an MLIS, but I don’t consider myself a librarian. (Sorry, Siva. ^_-) I think that what a professional librarian does is different from what I do in my day to day activities.

No, I don’t think there is a simple “essence of a library” definition, particularly in the sense of a physical place. Some disagree. I don’t believe a library is defined by a librarian selecting materials, but I do believe there are practices that make a library a library. There’s lots of literature about the subject- I’ll see what I can dig up when I get a chance- but I don’t see an overwhelming consensus for a set definition. The commonalities, I think, the actual “essense” is best shown in shared values. Our values do tend to focus on the users, the people that use the services we work with.

In a rhetorical argument, or in the court of public opinion, yes, I think it would be useful to Google to be considered a “library,” merely because of the weight of the word and generally positive associations with the word. Even so, though, not all libraries can take advantage of copyright exemptions. For-profit libraries can’t, as an easy example. That’ s one reason I don’t think it matters- from a library exemption argument- whether or not Google is considered a library. Given Google’s recent behavior about this particular case, if the letter to Library Law is accurate, I don’t think it should be termed a library. Google’s service may be akin to a library’s service, but I don’t think calling Google a library in this case would really be beneficial or fair to libraries. Again, if the contract Google had with the universities was different, there’s a very good chance I’d back them. Generally, I really admire Google- just not in this instance.

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Google Print, fair use?

An interesting argument is occurring in the copyfight world, notably over Google Print. Copyfight has decent coverage. Siva Vaidhyanathan has a different take, apparently, then most of the posters on Copyfight. The different viewpoints are pretty interesting. Recently, there’s been some talk about treating Google Print like a library. I don’t think that will work. I commented on Copyfight:

I honestly think the discussion of Google-as-library is more of a distraction from a real fair use argument. Copyright law does not have a definition of a library (or archive) per se, but does have qualifications that a library or archive must fulfill to take advantage of library or archive exemptions. Section 108, a 1 and 2, notably:

(1) the reproduction or distribution is made without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage;

(2) the collections of the library or archives are (i) open to the public, or (ii) available not only to researchers affiliated with the library or archives or with the institution of which it is a part, but also to other persons doing research in a specialized field;

Under the current contract (which you can find a discussion of on the Library Law blog, when the FOIA’d it), I don’t think Google can meet those requirements (particularly the first). That’s why Google is not a library. If they changed the contract, maybe… but more importantly, I don’t know if Google would want to be treated as a library.

The restrictions for digital reproduction are pretty substantial, even for libraries. It’s actually a losing proposition for Google to be treated as a library, because the digital reproductions of a library are limited to the premises of the library. That’s the physical premises of the library.

I’m also a bit wary of Google Print after reading a letter about the Google Print contract on the Library Law blog.

Now, assuming that the contract with Google Print wasn’t quite as odd as it appears to be- if Google actually was acting like a library- it would still need to rely on a fair use argument to do what it plans to do.

This is what I see:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

Currently, this would weight against Google IMHO… unless they change the contract or actually act as agents of the library, which their current contract reportedly does not allow. This is the one that is in Google’s power to fix, and they probably should if they want to make a serious fair use argument.

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

Sometimes for Google, sometimes against Google.

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

Against Google, I believe.

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

This is the one that will be heavily debated, and actually does need some research performed to get a satisfactory answer. There will be arguments made for both side. I fear that strong IP proponents will win this argument, without actually considering the merits. I don’t know the answer to this, but I hate seeing something decided in that manner… this is where we need to work.

I’m sure there are better arguments to include here.

[Update] Mary Minow points out (on Copyfight) that there’s nothing to lose by being a section 108 library, you still get fair use either way. I completely agree with that correction.

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Orphan Works

I am a fan of the legal blog, Scrivener’s Error. I don’t entirely agree with everything the author believes, but I like the author because he provides a voice that is often lacking: the perspective of an author advocate, and because unlike a lot of other bloggers he explains why he thinks the way he does in a very coherent and logical manner.

Here’s one of the I disagree with somwhat, on Orphan Works.

Let’s look at the first situation. “One of the most common excuses offered for the ‘need’ to allow unlimited republication of orphans is to avoid losing material from the public record. There’s a word for institutions that do this kind of thing routinely: Library (or, I suppose, Museum). Preservation is not linked to redistribution.”

Here’s one of those cases where I completely disagree, and something I do actually know a little bit about. 😛 There are exemptions for libraries and archives to make copies for preservation purposes. However, knowing when one can make these copies isn’t as simple as one might think. One, preservationists and conservators are undervalued and underutilized. Two, librarians and archivists in many cases don’t have the expertise necessary to preserve items or to determine the legal aspects necessary to begin the preservation process. Three, libraries and archives and museums don’t have the resources to preserve a great deal. Four, and here’s the kicker: copyright law is such a pain in the butt, that due to the limited resources of libraries librarians often won’t act to preserve something unless it’s in the public domain or the library has explicit permission to reproduce it. There are lots of reasons for this behavior. They don’t even want the risk of a lawsuit. More importantly, if they are going to be using their limited resources, they’re going to be using their limited resources for materials that more people can use rather then something they can make a preservation copy of, but not many can access.

He states that “admittedly, some kinds of media are subject to loss if not preserved; film, in particular, is proving far less robust than paper.” No kidding. In general, newer paper lasts far shorter than older paper because of the way paper is created now. And when we move digital media, the situation is actually worse, not better. Microfilm is far more stable than CD or DVD information, but the laws on the copying of digital information are even more stringent than copying their analog equivalents.

At any rate, I’m planning my dissertation, and I believe it will be about the effects of copyright law on the missions and behaviors of cultural institutions such as libraries and museums. It’s possible that research will show that I’m wrong in my assumptions- but all anecdotal evidence I’ve gathered so far certainly points to the library exemption not being sufficient for items to disappear from the public record. Now, the ability to copy also does not guarantee that a work will be preserved, but it certainly makes it more likely that it will be.

His second “fallacy” (and I’m using the quotes there for a reason :P) appears to be an over simplistic explanation of economic arguments against the current length of term of copyright, although he states that it isn’t over simplistic in his footnotes. 😉 The way the argument is set up seems, to me, to be a straw man. I would like to see the original argument that he’s quoting, because I have heard similar arguments that aren’t nearly as flawed as the way it’s presented in the blog entry, and he says that the transcripts will be available, so I’ll be looking for ’em.

The first underlying assumption he appears to make, I think, is that if a work has economic value to an author at any point in time then that is an argument for it to be protected by copyright (although he could just be arguing against the extremes presented by the logic he’s presenting). That area is certainly where people disagree- the copyright term. At what point is the benefit to the author outweighed by the public good?


Bootlegs, Sacrifices

This past weekend Holly noticed that there was a flea market between Manor and Austin. She’d never been to a flea market before, so she wanted to take a look. Getting in and out was a pain, but there were a few interesting things there. I saw a store that sold video bootlegs, that were very authentic looking. If I hadn’t known how much the actual DVDs sold for, and that many of them were not sold in the US, I wouldn’t have known they were bootlegs. There were lots of anime and martial arts or SF Japanese videos- including Casshern and Azumi, which aren’t out in the US. They had copyright notices and everything. Very weird. The most surreal item I saw was in the last store we stepped in, in the toy section. There were action figures all in a single package. The package contained the father from the Incredibles, Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, a Power Ranger, and the Incredible Hulk, with some Ninja Turtles box art thrown in. C’mon, Marvel and DC in one package? 😛

Now that Fall is coming, we’re going to start having more time pressures. ^^; Alas, when my WoW account lapses this month, I’m not going to renew the subscription…

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Gearing up for the Fall

We’ve got lots to do for INF 312, including trying to figure out if we’re switching servers. I suspect we’re not at this point. One of the things that I am going to do is change the copyright module… it’s going to be one of the core modules this semester. ^_^


Click moment?

Blog-a-thon tag:

In honor of it’s fifteenth anniversary, EFF has a blog-a-thon going on where they’re asking people to write about their “click moment-” that moment where you first started to stand up for digital rights in some way.

That’s a toughie. First, I have to ask myself, have I stood up? I mean, sure, I have EFF Bumper Stickers (Fair Use has a Posse, MP3 is Not a Crime) on my office door, but that isn’t exactly “standing up.” “Squatting,” maybe. That’s just an ugly metaphor, though, and we’ll avoid that, thanks. I volunteered at the EFF-Austin booth at SXSW a couple of years ago, and thanks to me, well, Holly (my wife) showed up and tidied the whole thing up and got a bunch of people to sign up for the mailing list. Er. Hard to take credit for that one, really.

Digital rights are important to me, though. Partly because (you can blame my parents for this) I was just about raised in the digital world. I was part of a BBS community before I left elementary school (St. Joseph’s, the other driving force in warping my psyche. Go Mustangs.). And those guys, those grown-ups, were serious about their software. They were serious about tinkering. They were serious about sharing. My friends and I, we were serious about games. We would crush any Ferrengi near the Stardock! But some of that… serious stuff… rubbed off on us, too.

I went to college, and for some reason, “questions” kept on appearing. Yes, in college. And not just in class, either. I met up with a group of people who wanted to watch these animated shows from Japan. They were awesome. But there were questions… what did we have the right to do? Were fansubs all right? Was showing these shows to groups okay? What was going on? I worked in computer labs- what software could we share? Could we install programs (*cough* games *cough*) on more than one computer? And the World Wide Web started gaining in popularity- could I scan and use pictures? Could other people use my pictures? Can fans post their writings about their favorite shows? Etc. Etc. And, of course, I played on MUDs. Ah, the MUDs…but I digress.

Then I went to grad school… UT Austin’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science. And if there are subjects that librarians and other information professionals are concerned about, it’s people and people’s rights. I grew up learning about intellectual freedom (Mom was a librarian), and then I had the chance so study about the subject, and learn about other important values… About privacy, about public access to information, about freedom of expression, fair use, government information, censorship, open access, intellectual property… all of these issues came up. Relating the digital to the rights wasn’t a stretch. The virtual world is still the real world. I spent a lot of my time studying about the digital world and how our rights might be affected in this area. And after graduation- well, I still study those subjects.

So- my click moment. Not too long ago, after a long diatribe about certain unsavory practices, Holly asked me “Why do you care about copyright so much? Copyright copyright copyright.” (I’m paraphrasing.) I told her, ‘Well, I have copyright, you have your fountain pens…” but I realized that the question really was worth answering. Why did I care about copyright? Why did I care about any of these things? And if I really did care so much, was there anything I could do about it? Click moment.

This may sound overly simplistic, but I care about these things- these rights- because they’re important. They’re important offline and they’re important online. I run into issues and situations involving these rights online *constantly*, in just about every part of my life. At school, I used to work with the guys who developed the P2P application at (RIP). At work, I read software licenses, and see that some companies are trying to restrict what we should be able to do with software, while others are advocating sharing software code. I see that digital preservation decisions are made based on whether people can find the copyright owners. The games I play come under legal scrutiny because the characters people create might resemble someone else’s creation. The list goes on and on and on- and our rights are involved with all of them. I discovered that *gasp* I have values. I value openness. I value transparency. I value information freedoms. And I had the opportunity to learn about these things, and maybe tell others about these things and why they’re so important.

So, the hard part- what could I do? Well… I think I can be a voice. Sure, a small voice, probably a bit repetitive- but it’s a start. I joined the American Library Association and the Texas Library Association, because they tend to care about the things that I care about. I decided to join the EFF for the same reason. And now that I teach, I try to educate students about copyright and open source software and get them to think about online communities and everything that makes the Internet work, technological and social.

I had the chance to interview Wendy Seltzer of the EFF last year. She described EFF’s mission as “working to make sure that we bring the rights that we have in the offline world with us online.” I like that idea. I also want to ensure that the changes that people implement in the online world don’t cost us our rights offline. The digital world and the offline world aren’t all that different, when it comes down to it. Our rights and our values are important no matter where we are.

So, all in all… I still take my games seriously. (Though I probably couldn’t get into either the PVP or PA WoW guilds.) But I think we have responsibilities. I think that if we have the opportunity to add our voice to the chorus, the opportunity to make a difference, no matter how small, we should try. These rights are important enough to care about, so they’re important enough to do something about.