University of Michigan shares orphan works. Wow.

University of Michigan to start releasing orphan works.

This news is pretty incredible- most institutions are risk averse, and it’s hard to blame them. As they point out, though, not sharing this works is harmful to scholarship and learning, while sharing them probably doesn’t harm anyone. But now we get to see what happens when an institution tries this type of action, and I’m very impressed that they’ve put themselves out there like this. And although I don’t have personal knowledge of what’s going on here, I’ll bet they do have plans and policies for what happens when an author or rights holder is found.

Neil Gaiman is Awesome

Neil Gaiman writes a wonderful blog. I love most of the things that he stands for and supports- and very much amongst the things he supports and discusses are libraries.

Imagine my surprise to read that “librarians” were upset over his speaking fee (former link mysteriously moved). Basically, it seems that some people- presumably at least one anonymous librarian- were very upset by his $45,000 speaking fee at a public library. Gaiman’s response, however, is incredibly enlightening– and I certainly question why the newspaper with such a problem *didn’t just ask him or the library to explain what was going on.*

So. I was asked if I’d come and talk at Stillwater, and be paid $40,000. I said, “That’s an awful lot of money for a little library.”

“It’s not from the library. It’s from the Legacy Fund, a Minnesota tax allocation that allows the library to pay market rates to bring authors to suburban libraries who otherwise wouldn’t be able to bring them in. They have to use the money now as it won’t roll over to next year and expires next month.”

“Ah.”

And he gave the freaking money to charity. His blog post talks about the situation a bit more, but the stories and a number of the more pointed comments are just silly. I’d be amazed if people in the library community were seriously upset by his actions, and in my opinion they really shouldn’t be- Gaiman does a lot of libraries, not the least of which is writing some pretty amazing works.

Careful, Educators…

Cross-posting a post I made at the Copyright Advisory Network.

The Copyright Alliance (not to be confused with the Library Copyright Alliance) is one of, if not *the* largest promoters of strong copyright in existence. It’s membership list mainly consists of copyright and entertainment industries. I’ll occasionally look at their cited scholarship when I feel like being depressed about the state of copyright scholarship. They’ve recently created the nonprofit Copyright Alliance Education Foundation to educate K-12 educators and students about copyright.

Unsurprisingly, I have problems with the materials found on that site. It’s not all bad, but one should be very careful before using any materials “as-is.” The materials stress the importance of permission, the vagueness of fair use, and a fear of technology. Believe it or not, I started reading the document with a sense of hope- creating copyright materials for K-12 is not easy. The organization has dedicated a lot of resources to this important subject; I had at they would acknowledge some of the purposes behind copyright law and the areas that are controversial. Sadly, it was not to be. In simplifying a complex subject (and this is even for the teachers, not only for the students), the organization has made their elements a lot less useful for educators who are actually interested in getting copyright right.

My biggest gripe is that they offer a simplistic and binary view of how copyright works, in and out of the classroom. In the guide for educators, they claim that the use of copyrighted materials requires fair use (characterized as scary, vague, uncertain) or permission. My first question: how in the world can you offer a copyright guide specifically for educators without talking about educational exemptions to copyright? We have actual exemptions specifically for educators in copyright law! Their guide specifically denies such exemptions. In the FAQ, they state that there are no special privileges for educators. That statement is completely incorrect. Sections 110(1) and 110(2) offer teachers ways to use copyrighted material that are not covered by fair use. Furthermore, their coverage of fair use could use a great deal of work. They don’t appear eager to have students attempt to use fair use, and in my opinion really minimize its importance.

As I was writing this message, Tim sent a message about EFF‘s new site: http://www.teachingcopyright.org/
The EFF talked about a “balanced” copyright system. The Copyright Alliance doesn’t. The EFF site walks people through the decision making process in determining whether or not a use is fair, and discusses different situations in which a use was determined to be fair. The EFF site isn’t perfect (and I’ll write to them with a couple of suggestions), but it’s a much more appropriate and realistic introduction, in my opinion.

Would that everyone could work together. The people in the copyright industries aren’t bad people. But there really are some fundamental differences in beliefs about public good and fairness in general that have made compromise difficult (and it seems to be the public side that is willing to compromise). I’ll write about this later when revisiting the government’s Section 108 report.

I believe that copyright is useful and important. I also believe that copyright exemptions are vital to creativity and innovation. Teachers, please be aware that there are problems with the Copyright Alliance’s approach. It’s very one-sided about issues that are not one-sided. I’m not saying reject it out of hand, but be careful. Not all of the true/false statements they offer can be evaluated by a true/false statement.

Quick updates: Useful links for Google Books and the OCLC Policy Change

Many things have happened in the copyright/libraries and games/libraries world since my last post, and I’m not going to comment on them too much just yet. I did want to mention some resources I’ve found very useful when tracking some of the larger controversies.

-Walt Crawford’s March 2009 Cites & Insights has a wonderful summary of various perspectives on the Google Books settlement.  I’d add Scrivener’s Error for an additional useful perspective from an author’s attorney. ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy also has a Google Book Settlement blog.
-The Code4Lib Wiki’s OCLC Policy Change article  has been very valuable when trying to keep up with that controversy.

I’ve been hired by ALA to write articles related to copyright for their Web site, so I’ll be working on that for a bit.  The articles will be available under a Creative Commons license, and I’ll probably make them available here as well. The Copyright Advisory Network group got together in DC this past December, and we’ve been working on developing resources on the revamped librarycopyright.net site since then (and we will continue to do so). In the near future I’m going to address a few issues related to some problems institutions have come across in their digitization projects and also when not to use a Creative Commons license (hint: when you don’t own the copyright in the material). Before that, though, expect a post on the Amazon controversy from the perspective of a Kindle 2 owner (as well as one who’s a bit frustrated with the Kindle 2 experience right now…)

Today’s slightly-off-my-normal-track link was to the Mont Blanc trademark infringement lawsuit against a person who was selling altered pens. Alas, the legal  documents have been removed from the places they were publicly available and are only accessible through Pacer at the moment. I’m not a fountain pen user- as a lefty with poor hand writing in general, my penmenship with a fountain pen is a pretty scary thing- but Holly is a dedicated collector, and I’ve been following this situation with some interest.

Library Game Nights & Copyright

GamePolitics is asking whether game nights at churches and libraries violate copyright:
http://www.gamepolitics.com/2008/06/02/do-library-amp-church-game-nights-violate-eula

Interesting discussion. Should there be licensing for that type of activity? I don’t know- I’d worry that game publishers would try to treat it as a revenue stream in such a manner unavailable to other types of media. But those EULAs… If there was simple, easy to get, and inexpensive manner to go about getting those types of permission (and I’m talking on a library budget, here)…
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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.

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.”

Gorman on Copyright

Michael Gorman’s recent Brittanica link-bait attack on users of the Internet mentions copyright. It disturbs me that a former president of the American Library Association would offer both such a simplistic view and one not backed up by research- especially since this article complains of that very issue.

There is today a concerted and multifront assault on copyright spurred by monied interests and the desire of consumers to use digital technology to get something for nothing. This assault has created a mindset that sees the notion of intellectual property as a barrier to progress rather than what it is—an affirmation of the singularity of the human intellect and personality. Because few people like to admit to being motivated by greed and self-interest, these assaults on intellectual property are often couched in high-minded digital jargon and/or weasel words.

First, the suggestion that the concept of intellectual property has been used as a barrier to progress goes far, far beyond the straw man argument that he presents, as he makes the intellectually dishonest conclusion that the “assault on copyright” is the work of those who trade files. We have well-reasoned, published (and therefore presumably at least moderately more acceptable to Gorman) works by Lawrence Lessig, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Kembrew McLeod, and others who strongly argue for copyright reform, and many are critical of the property metaphor. Furthermore, the Romantic view of the genius of the Author has been a subject of much debate in academia for decades. Additionally, copyright law in the United States is not solely based on this view of authorship, but on the utility of offering creators that limited monopoly for the ultimate benefit of the public. I could go on, but I’ll spare people the relatively common arguments against the narrow view that Gorman presented. It is possible to respect the author and advocate copyright reform.

Now, I’m fairly certain that Gorman has at least heard those arguments, since many of those views are actually reflective of the policies of the American Library Association. (Recall that I am an American Library Association Copyright Scholar.) The work of libraries and the research that Gorman holds in high esteem benefit from not holding his view. I am adisturbed that I fail to see research backing his arguments in his texts. I am more disturbed that Gorman’s beliefs will be forever associated with the views of the ALA.

Google Book Search offering WorldCat information

Wired is reporting that Google Book Search is providing a link to WorldCat, to find the book at your local library. As Jessamyn at librarian.net once noted, WorldCat isn’t perfect, but it’s a good project that OCLC seems to be committed to improving. It will be interesting to see if this helps people find materials.

Ninth Circuit on Kahle v. Gonzales

C. Petite of Scriveners Error reported yesterday that the Ninth Circuit has declined to rehear Kahle v. Gonzales en banc. (Kahle v. Gonzales is the case the challenges the constitutionality of changing the copyright system from an opt-in system to an opt-out system.) I disagree with Petite a little bit; I don’t believe that fair use as it exists adequately addresses First Amendment concerns. (Of course, he stated that the First Amendment problem is a settled matter of law, which is really not the same thing.) At any rate, I think Seth Finkelstein was correct in his response on Lessig’s blog when the case was first decided: the court views procedural aspects of copyright as Congress’s bailiwick, and thus treats Kahle like the Eldred case.