Archive for August, 2007

Judging Library Students in the 50s…

How would you rate the “general apperance” and “grooming” of your library student employee?
Would you say that the student is “cheap?” “Effusive?” “Queer?” Or has a “poor background?”

Alas, I don’t have the entire provenance of this document, which I finally got around to scanning after a few years. So I don’t really know if it came from the 50s, earlier or later… ^_^ Basically, this document was found in the back of an old piece of furniture in the Perry Castaneda Library at the University of Texas at Austin about three years ago, as the furniture was being surplussed. Someone thought I’d find it amusing and so passed it on to me, and I copied it.

The document is “The University of Texas Library School Student Rating Sheet,” date unknown, intended for librarians to evaluate their student workers from the library school. No one I’ve spoken to at the iSchool or the Library recognizes it, but it is funny and disturbing. ^_^

“Consider qualities listed at left below. Put a check after each quality in the column that will best describe the student. Do not try to check any quality for which you have no basis for judgment. Then consider qualities listed at right below. Put a check at the extreme right of any quality which you think you detect in the student.”

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Looking at the DMCA’s Safe Harbor

Does it work as intended? I guess that all depends on intent and perspective.

We’re pretty sure that AT&T and other companies (the pipes) are using packet content examination to prioritize and/or degrade certain kinds of traffic (ie, a reason they’re against net neutrality), and they mention that they may perform surveillance of the network in their terms of service. We’ve had reports of Time Warner doing similar things here in Austin. Theoretically, beyond being an egregious breach of privacy (with some pretty terrible implications for important legal protections such as privilege), those actions would seem to me that they would lose their DMCA Safe Harbor protections for online service providers, as they are both inspecting content and directing the way the traffic is being handled based on what’s in those packets. I recently mentioned this to an attorney active in the area, and he waived it off- they don’t care. They’re not the ones being sued, and they’re actively working with the content industries (or in some cases they are the content industries).

On the other hand, we have Google/YouTube et al. (the servers), who are being sued, do care about the safe harbors and rely heavily on those protections. Naturally, those protections are actively being worked against by both lobbying efforts and actions in the courts, as content industries jump on lawsuits challenging their safe harbor status.

And then we have an example of where the Safe Harbor “works” but not in a way that’s particularly satisfactory: Wendy Seltzer’s NFL/YouTube posting. She posted it. The NFL sent a cease-and-desist. It got taken down. She counter-notified. It got put back up. Then *the NFL sent another cease-and-desist.* So apparently content owners can apparently just continue sending cease-and-desist forms, leading to a ridiculous cycle of adding and removing content until someone gives up or some other type of harassment or similar lawsuit begins. She counter-notified. It got put back up. *sigh*

So, do the safe harbor protections work as intended? We know that DMCA notifications are being used, sometimes properly and sometimes improperly. So do they protect legitimate interests? Sure. Do they hurt legitimate interests? Sure. Do people have an incentive to comply with the DMCA requirements? You would think so- but the network service providers don’t seem to care. Those safe harbor protections are better than nothing, and vital for some server services- but they don’t adequately protect the public interest in the use of copyrighted material.

The results of the Viacom/Google suit- if not settled- will be telling.

And now, the NFL is using property rights and contracts to severely limit news. Again, legally permissible- but certainly in poor form.

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Fantasy & Copyright News

Two separate things, for the most part- although I can see some intermingling approaching.

I’m unabashedly a fan of the fantasy genre. I read the final installment of Harry Potter the day it was released; for those of you looking for more news, Rowling has provided more details about what happens to the crew in the future in a few places. Naturally, there are a few odd contradictions in there. Prior to that, I read Victor Vinge’s Rainbow’s End- really, any librarian-type interested in SF should read it; it’s got some interesting ideas, like the “Friends of Privacy” who spread disinformation on the Net, and a few interesting takes on digitization in the library. Since then I’ve read Jim Butcher’s Dresden series and Sergio Lukyanenko’s Night Watch series (the three of the four translated into English). All in all, good times. ^_^

Well, here’s a Potter derivative work I can’t get out of my head at the moment, via Youtube, the Potter Puppet Pals and the Mysterious Ticking Noise.

Lots of things going on in the copyright front, including some backing off on the improperly pressuring universities I mentioned earlier. I’ll share a couple of things that are sticking out in my mind at the moment. First, rumor has it that individual members of Congress are being lobbied to reform the DMCA in such a way that removes some of the safe harbor provisions for OSPs. No big surprise if it’s true.

Beyond the rumor stage, the Computer and Communications Industry Association has filed a complaint with the FTC against groups including the NFL, the MLB, NBC Universal, Morgan Creek Productions, DreamWorks, Harcourt, Inc., and Penguin Group, Inc. The complaint and more information can be found at The complaint deals with one of my personal pet peeves- copyright statements that are far beyond what the copyright holder has a right to claim. For example, “no part of X may be copied without the express written permission of Y.” Or “any pictures, descriptions, or accounts of the game without the Z’s consent is prohibited.” They’re not accurate in the slightest, because of the copyright exemptions that they neglect to mention and/or are attempting to ignore. For some unexplained reason- I suppose in a misguided attempt to get “the other side” of the story- the New York Time’s coverage gets a response from one of the attorneys in the Google/Viacom suit, who claims that this move is just trying to to take away attention from that suit and that Google is looking for free use rather than fair use. The issues are separate, if related, and Google is by no means the only player here. The ol’ rumor mill again says that the content industries are not happy about it. I’m fine with that- unlike many copyright situations, I feel pretty strongly that they’re in the wrong. Of course, I’ve read more than a few of the licenses that certain members of the CCIA have out there as well, so there’s a few things they can also work on.

Speaking of licenses, the Ninth Circuit recently ruled that a company couldn’t change it’s contract without notification on it’s Web site. In a move that seems like a victory for common sense, the court stated that “[e]ven if Douglas had visited Talk America’s Web site to pay his bills, he would have had no reason to look at the contract posted there,… Parties to a contract have no obligation to check the terms on a periodic basis to learn whether they have been changed by the other side.” Now, I haven’t had a chance to read the decision yet, but it sounds promising when thinking about the ridiculous terms of use and portions of EULAs that have become so prevalent.

Eminem’s publishing group is suing Apple over offering his songs on iTunes without their consent. Apple does have consent from the Universal Music Group, which does own the recordings, but not from Eight Mile Style, which apparently owns the score and lyrics. Apple has been sued by Eminem’s representatives before, for using a song in an Apple advertisement without permission. Various news sources on the Internet have stated that the earlier case was won by Eminem, won by Apple, or settled, which I guess says something about various news sources on the Internet… but I believe it was settled.

In other interesting news, the Texas Digital Library now has a blog dedicated to scholarly communication in the networked world, the Scholar’s Space. Georgia Harper is blogging there, among others, and it already has some interesting posts about publishing, open access, and other issues.

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