What’s up? and Harry Potter Left Behind

So, I’ve been wrapping up my first class in years (what a strange experience to be graded again!) and getting ready for the two conferences I’m going to this month. (Talking about librarians and copyright at one, attending one on electronic records). I’ll be posting more regularly once again soon.

So, here’s a story to warm the cockles of your heart. In “Parent putting Harry to the test” from LISNews, a parent who hasn’t read any of the Harry Potter books (too long) wants to remove it from the shelves because of all the evil magic and replace it with the Left Behind series. Wow. How do you even begin talking to a person with those views? Again, I’ll say- if a parent doens’t want their children to read the book, tell their children not to read the book. Don’t tell other people’s children what they can and can’t read.

Librarian Job Prospects?

According to this job prospects list from Money magazine, Librarians are pretty low on the list for best jobs in America in terms of salary and job prospects over the next ten years, falling just under economists and tax collectors. Interestingly, library clerical workers rank much higher on the list- lower salary, but higher chance of finding a job (and presumably lower stress or other factors the magazine looked at). Of course, I have no idea how valid this list is…

CIS: Weaving threads

Siva Vaidhyanathan has published Critical Information Studies: A Bibliographic Manfesto in the journal Cultural Studies, also available on that link through his website. He’s also posted some reactions and a description of that journal issue about Critical Information Studies, which includes some really interesting people. The journal includes articles by Kembrew McLeod, who famously trademarked Freedom of Expression (TM). (I had a copy of that trademark hanging outside my office for the better part of a year.)

This looks like a really great inter-disciplinary framework. It’s also exactly the kind of thing I’m studying- I’m familar with a lot of the resources in that bibliography. This is really a great concept. I look forward to reading and hopefully, contributing to this area in the future.

I’d add Peter Hirtle to the bibliography, too. ^_^

LISNews.org | Oklahoma House Votes 60-33 to Segregate Books

LISNews.org | Oklahoma House Votes 60-33 to Segregate Books

In a disturbing story from LIS News, the Oklahoma House has passed a bill that will require Oklahoma libraries to segregate books with “homosexual” and “sexually explicit” content from the children’s and young adult collections. A PDF version of the bill is available from Tulsa Library. It’s rather simplistic, and does not leave room for things like, say, redeeming social value. It is almost a cliche at this point to note that a bill such as this could mean that the Bible should be segregated to an adult’s only section. (Song of Solomon, anyone?)
It is completely ironic that one of the biggest proponents is stating that “libraries and librarians should not be usurping the role of parents,” because that’s the very reason that librarians do not tell children what they can and cannot read. Apparently this legislator believes that the government should be the ones to usurp the role of parents.

Legislator Sally Kern gets my vote for should-really-know-better because of her remarkably uninformed statement, “The American Library Association is out to sexualize our children.” I have a feeling I know what group she’s been listening to.

ALA isn’t out to sexualize anyone. The conflict lies in a number of places, including how the argument is defined. There are certainly materials which are illegal (obscenity, child pornography, and so on) and should not be available at a public library. Materials also exist which may be controversial or may be inappropriate for children (such as pornography), but it’s up to the parents of those children to determine what is or is not appropriate for their children, and not others’ children. One person’s pornography is another person’s art. Neither the library nor the state should be the ones to make that determination, in my opinion. The library is there to provide information, not restrict ideas. This is an important concept that should not be so easily dismissed.

It’s easy to fall into “freedom of speech” and “won’t someone think of the children” pleas, but we need to look deeper than that. This is an excellent article about inappropriate books and censorship when dealing with children.

A librarian must have neutrality when selecting and providing access to materials. Part of that neutrality means that they must offer materials even if they might personally object to or disagree with the content. Does this mean that they cannot take part in arguing for or against various issues? The neutrality of the librarian is something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit recently. I’ll write more about this when I have it better articulated.

Google, Google, Google

Joining in the discussion about Google and Libraries at Madisonian.net.

Here’s the text of my comment. To summarize, I like Google, I like libraries, I use them both, and they’re not mutually exclusive. I think people should be very wary of the idea that Google is a replacement for libraries instead of another avenue to use in information seeking.

Again- I’m not a librarian, but I am pro-librarian. To answer your last question, I don’t think so.

I don’t believe that you need to stop Google to save librarians, because I don’t believe that Google serves as a replacement for libraries. I believe that even if all information in the world was available digitally, there would still be a place for librarians. I’m not anti-Google, either- I use Google constantly. I also use libraries, though. ^_^ In my day to day activities, I use Google more than the library. Really, it depends on what I’m doing.

(more…)

Policing Porn Is Not Part of Job Description

Policing Porn Is Not Part of Job Description

In this story, we learn that homeland security is not the library police. Hmm… if they want to help the community by working with libraries, how about going after overdue books? ^_^

Just another Google post

Posted this as a comment on another blog.

Followed the link from Sivacracy. I don’t 100% agree with everything Siva writes, but I still think he’d be a good guy to go to lunch with. 😛 He really does know a LOT of librarians and talks to them regularly. He isn’t particularly friendly with the publisher perspective, either, though.

Personally, I’m torn on the subject of Google’s digitization project. I’m not a librarian, but I’ve got my MLIS, I work at a library school, and I’m a doctoral student there as well (studying, among other things, copyright and its effects on the missions of cultural institutions). I’m also one of the ALA copyright scholars. I can say with complete certainty that the librarians that are members of the copyright scholar group and ALA’s own copyright committee, representing librarians from around the country, are not completely behind Google’s actions in this case. We’ve been pretty divided, actually. In that setting, I actually usually defend Google in that I believe their use should be fair- but I also think that there are downsides to the Google project as well. I’m glad that Siva at the very least brings some of these issues to our attention. I don’t completely agree with his fair use analysis, although I am familiar with the Tasini, MP3.com, and Arriba cases.

From a copyright perspective, I think it would be great if Google’s use was considered fair use. I agree with part of your statement. Digitiziation is not an either/or proposition. If Google’s use is fair- well, that would just make it all the easier for other groups, including libraries, to take similar actions. Just because Google is doing it does not mean that libraries, or other interested parties, can’t also digitize. Google does have the resources to take action now, and most libraries certainly do not, but I don’t think that immediacy is necessarily a positive thing in this particular situation. It kind of depends on the end result, doesn’t it? Digitization for digitization’s sake isn’t necessarily good.

That being said, I don’t think that what Google is doing is not necessarily good for libraries and information users. In the short term, I think it is. I agree that visibility is a good thing; my gut reaction to the project, when I first heard about Google Print a couple of years ago, was very positive. I think the ability to keyword search for particular books is great. I started having my doubts when I read the contract that Google worked out with the universities. I don’t know that it’s particularly good for users in those systems. I also think that “the choice is ‘Google digitizes everything’ or ‘libraries digitize less than 1%'” is just as much a false dichotomy as Google digitizes everything or libraries digitize everything. There are many ways that libraries or other institutions can participate, and there are better ways for Google or other for-profit institutions and libraries to work together. The contracts could be much better for the university libraries than the existing one with Google, I think. The libraries can’t do some things that would really make this project worthwhile, I believe, due to Google’s control of the digitized forms. I find this ironic, given that libraries that meet copyright law requirements actually do have more leeway to work with copyrighted materials than Google does.

The benefits I see in this project are the general benefits of digitization- additional gains of use such as searching and indexing, and the potential of increased access to material. I agree with Cory Doctorow that it would be in the publisher’s best interest to work with Google. I don’t necessarily know that it’s in the users’ overall best interest. DRM and proprietary formats are problematic. I don’t automatically believe that big corporations are a bad thing, but I do believe that big corporations do not necessarily have the public’s best interests paramount. Nor do all libraries, either, but most public libraries do tend to have missions and mandates that reflect the public interest, while corporations tend not to. (I hope to be studying the missions and laws related to cultural institutions more when I start my dissertation.) When serving the public interest might harm a corporation financially, they may be very well obligated to act against the public interest. Libraries, museums, and archives often have legal mandates to act for the public, and are I think the public’s best advocates in these situations over the long term. On a somewhat related note, I don’t know how Google’s cataloging is- and I do not believe that keyword searches are a replacement for good cataloging, which is increasingly a view that I disturbingly find cropping up.

I read Sivacracy and Madisonian.net pretty regularly. I don’t particularly agree with either one about this particular case all of the time, but I really respect what they have to say. I’ve been quoted on both of them briefly (“not a librarian after all” from Sivacracy, and Madisonian’s misunderstanding of my argument about making a fair use argument rather than a library exemption argument, which was my fault). The Google issue has been very interesting- it’s the first time that people I read and agree with regularly actually disagree with one another in some pretty strong terms.(On a complete side note, if you’re looking for a blog representing what I think is the author’s perspective, Scrivener’s Error is also an excellent one!) I’m glad that they’re engaged in the conversations that they are engaged in, though.

Geez. So overall, I think Google’s use should be fair, but that libraries still have a responsibility to digitize as well, and are probably better stewards of information than Google is.

Wow, this got long, sorry!

Original message on Not Liz.

Problems in the permanent retention of electronic records

…is the name of the first class I’m taking as a doctoral student. There are several issues here, all of them worth writing about here or in a “real” publication. ^_^; It’s keeping me busy, particularly examing the software issues associated with automating crawling, saving, and archiving websites and having to worry about archival standards of authenticity. (Future subjects: how digital archives and records management differ, authenticity and integrity of electronic archives, determining the authenticity of an archived dynamic web site, intellectual property issues in absolutely everything).

Copyright issues are also keeping me busy. I may address a conference in South Texas in May. I need to work on ALA’s library copyright website. I’ll be addressing a few classes here this semester. There are some very interesting copyright issues that I’ll need to look at right away. The iSchool is currently working on a project for the Harry Ransom Center, currently in possession of some 1950s interviews of some very famous people by another famous person. I don’t know how much I can write about this publicly yet, so I’ll hold off. However, the copyright implications are really fascinating. There are several contracts involved, some of them pre-Internet. There are contractual materials that have been lost in various disasters. The original company that owned the interviews does not exist. The assumed owner has licensed HRC to do various things with the records. People at our school will be digitizing the materials, creating trascripts and digitizing already created transcripts, and creating derivative works that allow searching, indexing, and so on of the transcript+video.And then the plan is to put at least some of these materials online… staggering. ^_^

In other news, the fact that “libraries” and “archives” are not legally defined in US Law comes up so often that the Section 508 Group formed by the Library of Congress to address the problems in 508 will be having roundtable discussions involving the issue, as well as a variety of subjects involving digital copyright.

Some thoughts on Sony DRM

I was amazed to see a message from a librarian who was applauding Sony’s DRM moves. This librarian believed that Sony had the right to limit copying as much as it wanted (an opinion), and that the problems with Sony DRM would just affect all those pirates out there. This was my response.

I’m sure most of us can agree that widescale copyright infringement is a problem, and is wrong as well as being illegal. However, the Sony situation is about something completely different- and I’d have concerns with the technology solutions described [in the message, the librarian advocated a small number of copies allowed, then the disk stopped working].

In this particular situation, Sony isn’t “sticking it” to people who are infringing copyright. They are “sticking it” to *anyone who puts one of the “protected” CDs in their computer.* Not just people who copy, but anyone at all. The rootkit opened up vulnerabilities to any Windows-based PCs of completely innocent consumers, leaving them vulernable to attackers, viruses, worms, and other online threats. That’s what the lawsuits are about.

Additionally, the protection measures are pretty consumer unfriendly anyway. No technology exists that is good enough to determine whether or not a use is infringing.

Sony could create a system to copy something only three times, but that completely ignores legitimate uses of copying. While “violating copyright” isn’t a right, there are legitimate and legal reasons for copying. Copying your CDs to our iPods (ie, space shifting), is an established and legal practice. Copying a software CD for backup is also allowed. Copying excerpts that are a fair use- for example, for purposes of scholarship, cricitism, education, and so on- may be completely fair. Not only are these uses fair and legal, but they are also very important. Technology can’t make that distinction. Sony’s “protection” mechanisms can’t make those distinctions. And these uses aren’t violating copyrights. They are exemptions to the exclusive rights that copyright holders have, and they are necessary uses.

Another big copyright exemption is the doctrine of first sale- the one that lets libraries lend out books and other materials. Many technological protection measures stop that, also.

It’s always good to go back to the Constitutional basis for copyright in the U.S. when looking at these types of situations. Copyright exists “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;” -U.S. CONST., art. I, § 8, cl. 8.

I can’t say that Sony’s actions represented progress in any sense of the word. Education would be a better option… but that’s my opinion.

Library Copyright Network, Literary Patents, Maximalist Administration

I’ve returned from DC from the ALA copyright scholar program… there will be some big changes at the Library Copyright web site soon, and I think it will be a more useful resource soon. I got to meet a group of great people, all interested in copyright, and the ALA Washington Office staff, who were very cool.

Scrivener’s Error has some very interesting analysis the “plot patent” proposed by a very strange person. There’s some discussion on Groklaw as well, including a reply from the creator of this patent. Ugh.

According to news.com, the US Department of Justice is pushing for stronger copyright laws and really appears to have completely ignored the public interest entirely (perhaps “sold out the public,” but I’d have to learn more than is in the article) in it’s rush to create new types of copyright law and create greater penalties. What is considering “attempting to infringe?” The penalties are already ridiculous, and I view this move with a great deal of suspicion. It’s certainly not a positive development for the public. I doubt it’s a positive development for the industries that are supporting it, either. Many of the artists they represent are already testing the bounds of the existing law, and I suspect there will be more artists who are at cross purposes with their publishers and representative groups as time passes and the law leans more towards a maximalist society. This type of move serves to stifle creativity, and whatever deterrence to piracy (and their definition of piracy and others’ definitions of piracy are certainly different) is certainly not worth the outrageous harm they are proposing to the Constitutional basis for copyright law, promoting the progress of science and useful arts…