MPAA and software copyright

From Boing Boing, MPAA Rips Off Freeware Author. Cory Doctorow writes about someone at the MPAA making them hypocrites by not following software licensing terms. They used the coder’s free blogging tools, but didn’t link back to the author’s site or leave the lines giving him credit, as the terms and conditions required. Doctorow makes some very good observations.

Copyright law is hard. It used to only govern relations between giant industrial players. Copyright didn’t regulate reading an interesting tidbit from the newspaper for a friend. It didn’t regulate watching movies. But now, sharing a newspaper article with a friend (by blogging it) involves copying, and so triggers copyright. Now watching a movie (by downloading it) involves copying, so it triggers copyright. The rules that are supposed to be interpreted by lawyers at Fortune 100 companies now apply to every single kid working on a project for her class’s website.

This is like having to file with the SEC every time you loan a buddy $5 for lunch.

One would hope that the MPAA as an organization would learn from this experience.

University professor asked to stop using Tor.

From a story found on Slashdot about a professor at Bowling Green who got a visit from a networking and the police for using Tor, a Web anonymizing application. There are some very interesting implications involving academic freedom and privacy.

I was appalled when, the U.S.’s site for academics and others to apply for Federal grants, implemented and mandated the use of a Windows-only client. Who thought that was a good idea? Who checked for possible problems before mandating it?

It was painful last year, and it hasn’t greatly improved this year. At least now they’re acknowledging that there are problems with that approach, sort of. They’re providing a Citrix server for Mac and Unix users to connect to in order to start a Windows session to apply for grants. However, it’s slow and has been described to me as a nightmare to go through. It only allows a limited number of connections, and you have to save very often or you could get knocked off and lose all of your data. They’re switching to Adobe forms by April 2007 in order to support Mac and Unix users as well. (Still not ideal in my mind, but a great deal better than what is currently available.)

They are also touting IBM’s early release of a Mac version of Workplace. IBM has created and is providing this early relase (read: buggy), but it doesn’t support large documents (> 40 MB, which you’d better believe we have in grants), it’s not accessible at all and we’re warned of crashes and loss of data. Right now we’re checking out a Windows laptopto our faculty because of all of the problems associated with applying for grants on the platforms that some of our professors actually prefer. This situation is ridiculous.

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.

Informatics buffaloed, Recording Confusion

LISNews is reporting that the School of Informatics at Buffalo is being dissolved. The school was only seven years old, and was apparently the merger of various departments including LIS and Communications. It’s kind of hard to say why exactly the school is being shuffled to other departments- there’s a new president, some of the existing faculty may have not been happy with the direction of the school, and so on. Some faculty are understandably upset by this unexpected news. I’m not certain if this means anything for schools of Informatics or Information, except perhaps some faculty members will be looking to relocate.

The Daily Texan recently provided an editorial on open records at UT, involving the now-being-formed University College. Wait, now it’s the Baccalaureate College. The end of the article notes that not all emails were provided- only the emails sent to the entir committee involved with the formation of the college were handed over, in print form. Records at UT are interesting. There’s a records retention office, but it’s located out of the accounting department. The fully-funded position of a University Archivist no longer exists. Some records-related issues (like SSN remediation) are handled by Information Technology staff (that does include me at the school level). The state records retention laws are not really sufficient to deal with universities, especially given the complexities that universities have involving the intellectual property of faculty members and the ways that public universities in Texas are funded. It’s difficult to say what qualifies as a record based on existing state law. The state officials think the law is all-encompassing, and other officials seem to disagree with that interpretation. Electronic records add complexity to the issue, given the lack of electronic records infrastructure. The state hasn’t really come up with solutions, either. Part of the problem is that people are treating electronic records as a new problem that will be solved by the swooping in of some easy to use and affordable technology. That’s not going to happen. Several of the current problems involving electronic records have nothing to do with technology at all.

So, the net won’t be neutral…

That the vote was mostly along party lines is probably telling somehow. I see being charged more for bandwidth I’ve already paid for.