Author Archive

Section 108 Study Group Report Released

At 212 pages, it’s not going to be a quick read. Let’s see what happens to copyright and libraries, archives, and museums…


More on the Turnitin Suit, and Blizzard going after Glider

As usual, William Patry as some very insightful things to say regarding anything going on in the copyright world.

He mentions a few of the problems that I have with Turnitin. I don’t like requiring students to turn over their work in that manner, I despise heavily one-sided End User License Agreements, and I don’t like assuming that my students are cheaters- even when we have found some that do cheat… at any rate, it’s one of those situations where I’m not particularly sympathetic to the party I think probably should win in the copyright arena. The judge found that Turnitin’s use was fair, and I think that’s a good thing for copyright and society, even though I think it’s a bad thing for the students. (I’m also not happy with the resulting reinforcement of EULAs.)

A similar situation is in Blizzard’s case against the creators of a bot (automated) program (Glider) in their World of Warcraft game.

Once again, I’m not very sympathetic to the creators of the bot program, but I am very much opposed to Blizzard’s legal arguments. They’re attempting to use the bypassing of their Warden (anti-cheating) software as a violation of their EULA (which it very well could be) and by extension a violation of copyright (as circumventing a technological protection measure… ugh). They’re probably using copyright because that’s where the law has very strong protections and very harsh punishments, which speaks poorly for them and the law, in my opinion… At any rate, while I don’t condone cheating even in games, I am much more troubled by the implications of Blizzard’s actions. (Yes, people debate whether or not the use of the bot is cheating, and I tend to lean towards the idea that it probably is cheating.)


Turnitin Lawsuit

The results of this lawsuit are quite interesting!
The district court in Virginia found that Turnitin’s use was transformative and legal under the fair use doctrine and covered by the End User License Agreement. It also looks at issues of creativity, non-monetary incentives for creativity (ie, grades), and duress.

My blogroll has vanished under mysterious circumstances, so I’ll be updating it again soon.

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Fantasy Author Fanfiction

I just found this interesting… Steven Brust is an established fantasy author, and from what I’ve heard from those who have encountered him a genuinely nice person. I own a number of his books. His was one of the very first author Web sites I found on the Internet in the early days, and he even responded to an email I’d sent. ^_-

Joss Whedon created a really, really excellent sci-fi series called Firefly (as well as the full-length feature film that followed it, Serenity). Brust wrote a Firefly fan novel- because… well, he just had to. He licensed it under a Creative Commons license. The discussion on Boing Boing brings up all kinds of interesting questions about derivative works, acts of sharing, and acts of creation.


free the books!

Some colleagues of mine- so far Georgia Harper and Maria Gonzalez- have started a fascinating new blog, free the books, involving getting content to the public and the related copyright adventures. The subjects covered include orphan works, trying to determine what’s in the public domain and what isn’t, and UT’s partnership with Google. A bit part of the impetus behind this project is that last bit there- Google is scanning the Benson Latin American Collection, and trying to figure out what’s in the public domain is going to be a challenge. I’m really looking forward to this one!

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And so it begins…

Besides the terrible things currently going on in Congress regarding higher education and copyright, something else potentially harmful to libraries has recently occurred.

According to Carol Simpson on the Texas Library Connection mailing list, a group of video producers has recently sued a school district for using inter library loan for their videos. School districts (and regions) commonly form consortia in order to afford media services. Well, apparently while people weren’t paying as close attention to the fine print as they might, the producers allegedly changed licensing terms so that at least one group wasn’t purchasing videos- they were only *licensing* them. I haven’t found the complaint yet, but I’ll post more information when I do. The video producer group supposedly represents some major educational video producers, including PBS and Discovery.


The Public Domain is Offline

Provider of Free Public Domain Music Shuts Down –

The International Music Score Library Project was a community driven, Wiki based site that offered various scores that were in the public domain- in Canada. That’s the key, there- Canada uses Berne-required copyright term, 50 years after the death of the author. Other countries, including the U.S. and several in Europe, have longer copyright terms (life+70). Universal Edition, out of Europe, sent the Library Project a cease and desist, which it is complying with. A person who runs the site also noted that there were four composers who UE demanded be removed that had been dead for more than 70 years– but it’s possible that they were protected by some Austrian copyright law. At any rate, not having the time, energy, or resources to deal with all of the possible consequences, the site was shut down.

There are many issues brought up by this situation. One of the most worrying is that the most restrictive copyright law in the world can potentially become the de facto copyright law of the Internet, particularly for those with few resources.

The site owner has offered to allow an association of music libraries or similar organizations the opportunity to continue the site in some form, if they can- I hope someone takes that challenge.

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Why the new “user generated content” copyright principles fail

Oh, they don’t fail for the companies, who are seeking to protect themselves as service providers, give copyright holders greater control over content and access to user information, and create a bigger market for content identification technology- but they fail as a matter of public policy in this strange run-around of the DMCA.

1) The copyright holder is not the arbiter of how the copyrighted work is used.

2) No technological protection measure can determine fair use. Although the guidelines suggest copyright holders “accommodate” fair use, NO AUTOMATIC PROTECTION CAN DO SO (*especially* the “block first” approach advocated by these guidelines)- and neither the copyright holder nor the service provider are necessarily in the best position to determine what is or is not a fair use.

3) The guidelines do not “encourage creativity.” They seem to be implying that requiring people create wholly original creative fosters more creativity than the creation of works based on other works… which is not necessarily true.

4) “Reasonable” only appears in actions between copyright holders and owners
, not users.

5) The guidelines fail at “protecting user privacy.” Translation: Respect the law, but give the copyright holders as much information as they can legally get.

I was somewhat hopeful that something interesting would come out of this group on the initial announcement, but the guidelines are more of the same. There were apparently no user/consumer groups involved in the preparation of these principles, and it shows.


Video Games and Art

There’s been a great deal of talk about video games and art recently, and here’s the latest salvo-
I find it interesting that they’re talking about insiders and outsiders.

To paraphrase a Washington Post slogan from the days of my brief stint there in the early ’90s, if he doesn’t get it, he doesn’t get it. Please understand, we don’t mean this in a pejorative way. We’re simply saying, as we’ve said before, that we “see” videogames with our hands, so asking a complete novice to play BioShock rather than, say, Wii Sports is like asking a four-year-old who’s got a so-so grasp of “Fun With Dick and Jane” to skip the funny pages and go straight for “Ulysses,” “Lolita” or “The Bluest Eye.” Or asking someone who’s got some half-remembered high school Spanish to read “One Hundred Years of Solitude” in its original tongue. It’s a fool’s errand.

Some of the people who don’t understand games- and especially the ones that don’t believe games are art- will read that and say “it’s just not art.” But this is exactly the same kind of conversation I’ve read about modern art, or appreciating museums, or whether movies and television shows are art, and so on. Which makes me think they’re art…

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Volunteering at UT’s Videogame Archive Fundraiser

I promised I’d write more about the Center for American History’s Videogame Archive Fund-Raiser, so I’ll do that now. I’ll also be writing about archives, digital archives, and video games and archives over the next few weeks. There’s a lot to think about. ^_^ I was a gamer long before I came to the iSchool- pretty much before I hit the double digits- so I’m pretty excited about the creation of this particular archive, and not just because it brings so many of my interests (digital archives, games, copyright, etc.) together. ^_^

On September 4th, UT held a fundraiser for a new Videogame Archive out of the Center for American History. I was thrilled when the archive was announced. At the very least, it demonstrates one thing: people think that video games are important. For the gaming community such a statement is obvious, but for others… Recently, a doctoral student at the iSchool did their dissertation on community building in the MMORPG, City of Heroes. It was accepted, but there were certainly a few sideways glances. At any rate, the creation of the archive is a positive step in recognizing how video games affect society. I decided to volunteer to help out.

The afternoon started a bit bleak- after several days of sun, the clouds returned to continue our unusually mild summer. Ordinarily I’d be happy about that, but I knew that a great deal of the fundraiser was going to be outdoors. I got there a couple of hours early- not to catch an early glimpse of Garriott and his place, as my coworkers suggested :P- but to help set up. As it turns out, I drove in just behind Brenda Gunn, one of the archivists at the Center who’s been heavily involved in this archives’ creation.

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