Archive for August, 2006

ALA’s President-Elect’s blogs

Loriene Roy, ALA’s president-elect, is a faculty member here at the School of Information. I’ve been acquainted with her from some time, first as a student, later as a staff member, and now both. I didn’t really write about her during her campaign for various reasons (although I did leave a few comments here and there), but now that she’s been elected I feel freer to.

Loriene’s a pretty interesting person. Of all the faculty members here, I think she’s the person who most integrates community service in her courses, although several faculty members are starting to rival her (notable some of our recent arrivals). She’s been both complimented and criticized for that practice, but I personally believe it’s a positive thing.

Yesterday, she did something pretty interesting- she had a meeting with the some of the tech staff (including me) and talked about her plans related to the ALA presidency for the coming years. She sought our opinions about how to approach some of her ideas, particularly when they involve utilizing technology. I really appreciated that- you might be surprised at the kinds of things that we don’t get consulted about that we should be, and in this case there really are ways we can contribute that coincide with our existing projects. I’m not sure if the situation is the same in every iSchool/LIS school out there, but here all of the full-time tech staff have MLIS or equivalent degrees as well, so we do believe strongly in the success of the school and of the professions.

One thing I learned from this meeting is that she’s continuing her use of blogs- her campaign blog is now her president-elect blog, and she’s had blogs set up for the various task forces and groups that she’s creating/working with. I don’t like the navigation to find the blog listing and on the page with the blog listing (navigation text identified via rollover- well, I plan to direct the usability class her way ^_^;), but the sites have potential. Here are the blogs:

Loriene Roy’s President-Elect Blog
Workplace Wellness Blog
Circle of Literacy Blog
Supporting LIS Education through Practice

Each of those ventures seem worth following, to me.


Google, UC Agreement

It’s the day before the start of classes, so naturally things are a little crazy at the iSchool, and I expect elsewhere. However, this interesting item turned up: the University of California’s contract with Google. This should make some interesting reading along with my five chapters for my first doctoral seminar. The terms seem to have changed a bit from the earlier version we saw, including some provisions for external use of the library’s copy. I’ll take a closer look soon.


DSpace on Gentoo

I’ve put up some instructions on installing DSpace 1.4 on Gentoo Linux, along with some minor configuration instructions. I’ll be updating it with additional information throughout the Fall semester.


Game FAQs and Copyright

My housemate has gotten around to playing Kingdom Hearts, and naturally he’s been reading the FAQ to play through it. (It’s the only way he plays.) I’ve used FAQs from GameFAQs before, and being the copyright nerd that I am I always read the copyright notices. They almost always contain erroneous information, and part of the reason appears to be that the most popular copyright notices are taken from the same sources. Here are some examples of how these FAQ copyright notices are wrong or, well, kind of silly.

-“No section of the guide can be used without permission.”
Well, that’s not entirely correct, but since this term is pretty common even with attorney-authored terms it’s not surprising. There are certainly legal uses of copyright material that don’t require the author’s permission, and in fact may be contrary to the author’s wishes. That concept applies to pretty much everywhere you see “all rights reserved” and similar statements, which is why those statements tend to be misleading.
-“This includes, but is not limited to posting on your website, making links to my guide, including parts of my guide in your own, or making reference to any material contained within.”
These terms betray some pretty fundamental misunderstandings of copyright in a couple of respects. As I just mentioned, some uses may fall under copyright exemptions. More importantly, copyright law usually doesn’t cover linking. Linking is almost always legal. There are some additional complications here involving the linking to materials that circumvent copyright protection, but as generally attemptiong to disallow linking through terms like this doesn’t actually have a legal basis, and is kind of silly. And “making reference to any material contained within…” doesn’t violate any kind of copyright law whatsover. I’m referencing things found within. I’m not doing anything illegal.

Mind you, earlier versions of this notice are worse.
-“By reading this guide, you automatically agree to these terms.”
Er, no. I don’t. Sorry. I’m just reading. I haven’t agreed to anything by just reading. This appears to be an attempt to make a copyright notice a contract. It’s not. You can go the Creative Commons route and allow additional uses that would ordinarily be covered by copyright in a license, but you can’t treat a license and a contract like they’re the same thing. Most of the time.
-“Any material found used without my permission is plagiarism, and I won’t tolerate it.”
Material used is not necessarily plagiarism. When material used is plagiarism, it might not necessarily be infringing on copyright. Copyright infringement is not equal to plagiarism, although they are related terms. Copyright infringement is a legal issue, and plagiarism is a (very serious) ethical issue. When plagiarism does correspond with copyright infringement, it’s probably illegal. Otherwise, it’s unethical. While you may not tolerate it, there’s actually not a lot you can do about it besides publicly shaming the plagiarist.

The copyright notice is better, but still somewhat misleading: This may be not be reproduced under any circumstances except for personal, private use. It may not be placed on any web site or otherwise distributed publicly without advance written permission. Use of this guide on any other web site or as a part of any public display is strictly prohibited, and a violation of copyright.

Well, that’s pretty standard fare. However, I can certainly take excerpts from an FAQ in certain circumstances and publicly display them without written permission. This notice falls under the same trap as most copyright notices- it ignores exemptions such as fair use, educational exemptions, library and archives exemptions and so on.

Now, their copyright FAQ does mention fair use, which is a plus, and does provide some basic information. Their FAQ also has a great deal of information that is a bit debatable, or at least could be expanded upon. The fair use question is a good example. Their emphasis on “limited portions” is usually correct, but there are situations in which the copyright-related use of a complete work can be fair. The examples they give, though, about posting complete FAQs without permission are probably not fair uses, and those are the types of uses they’re concerned about.

The ironic part of many of these notices is that if companies attempted to behave the same way, these FAQs wouldn’t exist. FAQs obviously “refer” to content in games, and many quote game text pretty liberally.

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Vacation, Libraries, and Library Tech

Back from vacation! My wife’s family lives in Nebraska, and we had a family vacation travelling around Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming. We drove over 3,500 miles (starting from here in Austin) and saw some really great stuff that I’d never seen before, including Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse monument, the Black Hills, Deadwood, Sturgis (just before bike week), Devil’s Tower, Cheyenne Frontier Days, and a demolition derby. ^^

We ventured through several small towns, and in just about all of them the city library had a prominent position on the main street, and looked well-maintained. There was a lead story about library programs in the main paper at Lincoln, NE, and in Cheyenne we saw a library reading program commercial on television. Today we saw a Library of Congress commercial about reading… when did those start?

We’ve started a Koha installation for our IT Lab’s book collection. There are several reasons for this, beyond our book collection getting out of hand. ^_^ First, open source and free software are pretty logical choices for libraries. Code can be examined and edited, and if you have people who are comfortable with tech and experimentation then it can be a pretty low-cost alternative to other software, especially for libraries with limited resources. I’ll write more about open source later (and link to the open source and libraries websites that are outhere), but we’ve always had a pretty good commitment to it- we’ve got about 25 or so servers running Linux, including our main systems. Koha is shaping up to be a pretty interesting project. We’re not too thrilled with the interface, but if the Z39.50 add-on works then we should have relatively smooth sailling… sadly, it seems that LDAP integration with Koha is problematic, so we’re not quite sure how we’re going to sign iSchool individuals up for accounts yet.

Got the new version of DSpace up (1.4) this week, using Gentoo. I’ll be creating pages detailing some suggestions for installing DSpace with Gentoo based on my, Sam’s, and Shane’s experiences.

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