November 20, 2013
I had the opportunity to chat with Elisabeth Jones at the ASIS&T conference earlier this month about the controversy over Google Books. Our conversation was on my mind when I posted that email discussion on the Google Books fair use decision, and I asked her if she would be interested in writing a follow-up. As it turns out, she was already planning on it. Her follow-up follows, and can also be found on her blog. -Rory Litwin
What we talk about when we talk about the Google Books fair use decision
[First, disclosure: I am currently affiliated with the University of Michigan Libraries, and was also so affiliated when the Google Books lawsuits were filed in 2005. I also worked in Media Relations for the UM side of the project in 2006-07. And, of course, I've spent the last several years working on a dissertation in which the Google Books Library Project is perhaps the central case (it's certainly the longest chapter). These experiences have undoubtedly shaped the views that follow. And now, disclaimer: these are my own opinions, and do not reflect the views of any of my employers, past or present. Also, I am not a lawyer, and nothing here should be construed as legal advice.]
Last Thursday, when Judge Chin handed down his decision granting Google’s motion for summary judgment in the Author’s Guild’s 8-year-old* copyright lawsuit against it, I shared the elation of many in the library, tech, and research communities who, like me, have been following the case since the beginning.
Like them, I truly believe that the ruling is a victory for libraries, for innovation, and for research. It supports and confirms Judge Baer’s earlier decision in the AG’s case against HathiTrust, and in so doing provides strong reassurance that future digitization projects – whether executed by libraries or by other private or public entities – should be able to proceed with some confidence that as long as certain boundaries are respected, such digitization will be found fair and legal.
Reading the early celebratory analyses, I initially felt I had little to say – others had summed it up so well.
However, this morning I read the chain of emails re-posted to the Library Juice Blog from the Progressive Librarians Guild discussion list and Social Responsibilities Round Table discussion list, and it made me feel like I might have something to say after all – and when Library Juice’s founder, Rory Litwin, approached me directly to see if I had any thoughts, that sealed it. And here we are.
In that chain of emails, several progressive-leaning librarians expressed a great deal of skepticism regarding the idea that the Google Books fair use decision was actually “a victory for libraries,” on a number of grounds. Most of these rationales rested on a fundamental distrust of Google as a corporation, and of its motives for getting involved in scanning books.
OK, fine. No need to trust Google. No need to like or respect their motives.
But here’s the thing: however you might feel about Google or its motives, those feelings are irrelevant to thinking about the implications of Judge Chin’s decision for libraries.
Yes, Google undoubtedly plans to make money off these scans – though as the opinion notes, not by selling the scans in question, and also not by selling advertising around them.** But does that inherently make them evil from a library perspective? Don’t libraries do business with a lot of other corporations who do much worse things to information access than Google? (I’m looking at you, Elsevier…Wiley…Springer…) And what’s more, don’t libraries pay these corporations millions of dollars per year to provide their services? Google’s library partners never paid Google a red cent for scanning their books (which is not to say it was cost-free – only that Google didn’t charge libraries for its scanning service). So why is one acceptable, and the other not?***
Of course, there are many more substantial critiques that can be made of the Google Books Library Project from a library perspective. Among the most compelling, in my view, are the privacy implications for readers using the service (which are terrifying, if you think about it) and the frankly crappy metadata, which can’t help but impede any kind of research executed using the corpus (but especially the kind of “big data” work that is so in vogue these days). These critiques also appeared in the re-posted email thread.
But these critiques, as important as they are, are no more relevant to thinking about whether or not Judge Chin’s decision was a victory for libraries than the more subjective distaste for Google described above. They don’t matter either. Not here.
Judge Chin’s decision is beneficial for libraries not because it benefits Google (though of course it does) but because of the way the law works – that is, based on precedent. This decision sets the precedent that scanning books for the purpose of indexing – even books in copyright, and even without the copyright-holder’s permission – is fair use, so long as access to the actual digital versions of those in-copyright books is limited in particular ways. Judge Baer’s decision set a very similar precedent. And those precedents are immensely valuable to libraries who wish to go forward with digitizing and broadening access to their collections, whether they choose to do so in partnership with a corporation like Google, with a nonprofit like the Internet Archive, with a collection of their institutional peers, or with nobody but their own staff.
The nature of legal precedent is such that you don’t have to like the party that wins, and you don’t have to like what it’s doing, in order for that precedent to benefit you. Heck, I seem to recall that at least half of the cases we read in Intellectual Property & Information Law centered on pornographers, hate groups, and other unsympathetic protagonists – and those sketchy characters often won, but that didn’t mean the decisions set bad precedents from the perspective of library values and ethics. Often just the reverse.
Moreover, Judge Chin’s decision also benefits some library projects more directly – especially HathiTrust. Since HathiTrust is mostly composed of Google scans, it would have suffered a significant blow if the Author’s Guild had gotten its way, since it would probably have had to stop using all the scans of in-copyright works that Google had made, both for search and retrieval and, one suspects, for providing access to the print-disabled (though, I am not a lawyer – if Chin’s ruling had conflicted with Baer’s here, I’m not sure exactly what would have happened). Judge Chin’s ruling undoubtedly has the folks involved with both HathiTrust itself and the HathiTrust Research Center breathing a massive sigh of relief.
So yes, I’m sticking with my view, and the ALA’s view, and the view of many others, that Judge Chin’s decision was a massive victory for libraries. Because though the case was about Google, the decision is about more than that. It’s about the rights of information users – whether corporate, public, or individual – to make use of copyrighted works in transformative ways that do not imperil the economic well-being of the copyright holders, in a world where copyright terms last far longer than they truly should. For libraries, it’s about lowering the level of tension surrounding the legal risk of digitization, and of making secondary uses of externally-digitized works. It’s about the public good. Google may be massive, but in the context of this decision, it is only a tiny piece of what matters.
*Seriously, if this lawsuit was a person, it would have just started the second grade.
**Most likely, as one of my dissertation research participants speculated, the benefit of Google Books to the Google bottom line will be indirect, through increased eyeballs and increased data-banks that help to improve the algorithm and sell advertising in other parts of the Google megasphere.
***Also worth noting: Google does not have, and has never had, a monopoly on these scans. Heck, that’s part of what the Author’s Guild was suing over – that Google was providing the scans to libraries, with few limitations on what those libraries could do with them. And hey look! The libraries almost immediately started pooling their scans (along with other scans they’d created under other projects), and made HathiTrust! It’s almost as though the Google scans are accessible through a provider within the library world, which might be more beholden to library ethics and metadata standards! Well go figure!
An interesting, overlapping discussion about the recent Google Books copyright decision took place on the Progressive Librarians Guild email discussion list and the Social Responsibilities Round Table discussion list over the past few days. I have permission from the participants to reproduce that discussion here. I used to do this frequently with the original Library Juice webzine but have done so only rarely in the past few years. This thread may see some invited comments as a follow-up.
Shouldn’t librarians’ enthusiasm about this be tempered by the understanding that Google is not the do-no-evil corporation it once represented itself as being?
We have much evidence of how the profit-making corporation is not operating strictly in the public interest, never mind in ways entirely consistent with librarians’ code of ethics. I won’t review this here, but I am sure most of you are familiar with the record. In any case, Google’s attempt to present its book project as being an attempt to create “the world’s largest library” should certainly give us pause.
Am I the only one here to wonder , given what Google does in collecting and cashing in on data about users’ browsing what they will do with the data from the book search? Am I wrong in thinking that now they will know, in addition to our other browsing activity, not only what books we are looking at but what we are reading in those books? There are other aspects of this project too which deserve more critical examination.
What do you think?
Mark C. Rosenzweig
co-editor, Progressive Librarian
Thanks Mark! Not only do I wonder about that, I also think about the fact that so many colleges and K-12 schools have embraced “Google Apps for Education,” meaning that not only does this for-profit corporation have increasingly profound access to our reading habits, but also to our documents storage and communications.
I really have to wonder where the ALA Washington Office gets the idea that “libraries” consider this a great victory. Or where they get the OK to sign on to alliances with Google in the name of the association and the profession.
The issues involved are matters of some contention among librarians , there is no consensus, but somehow the Washington Office seems to think it is “speaking with one voice” on our behalf.
We need a much more robust debate in the Association about the implications of monopolistic tendencies in corporate domination of information and, indeed, the entire human record.
Mark C. Rosenzweig
The Washington Office’s infatuation with Google has always baffled me, as is the idea that this is a ‘victory for libraries .’ A company that exists to sell advertising (a global Leopold Bloom), to cosy up to authoritarian regimes, and to peddle the personal information of millions has won a court case that will add even more to their zillions of $$s. Meanwhile, libraries limp on, underfunded and undervalued. What a victory!
I just wanted to point out that I, as a researcher and cataloger, have benefitted tremendously from the results of Google Books. I can’t imagine ever uncovering certain citations or facts had these documents never been digitized and put on the public web. I can tell you from professional experience, it is transforming the speed, accuracy, and depth of original cataloging. Does that mean that I love Google, or think that it is noble? No. But under capitalism there are some developments that serve the broader public as well as the corporation. This is one, and we should appreciate the fruit of that contradiction.
I don’t know if some of the libraryland hostility is because this was done by a corporation or if, in concept, mass digitization is a bad idea. As with the earlier furor over JSTOR, it’s important to remember that these companies do not retain exclusivity over the content. In a perfect world, such a project might have been undertaken by a consortium of universities – but that didn’t happen. And I’ll bet that references to obscure publications are driving up book sales and library usage, not curbing them. I know that I’ve bought more than one used volume because it came up in Google Books. How about you?
yours in struggle,
Thank you for another good observation. I think , as libraries, especially K-12 public school libraries and public libraries and library consortia, especially medium to small size libraries, find themselves with dwindling budgets, dwindling staff, dwindling services and dwindling stature and status, as essential capital assets for the community good, Google is increasingly looked upon as the salvation for access to information. Sadly, this happens at a time when I think our profession became much more conservative in its worldwide view of things. Yes, thankfully, there are still librarians motivated by a strong socially responsible ethic. However, I feel that number is also among the things dwindling in our societal responsiveness.
I would _LOVE_ to hear what younger, and new members of SRRT have to say, but again, sadly the number of students joining SRRT has been dwindling for quite some time, and I think that number is getting to a point where it must be addressed in the near future.
The primary reason why we should be concerned about Google? Mark said it succinctly in noting that things, “deserve more critical examination,” and one of those things needing examination is ALA’s fiscal relationships with Google. Perhaps the situation is much worse, and “everyone” feels Google has so saturated “the markets” than most ordinary people just no longer care and use it, and use, and use it. The Wal-Mart model: You have to use us, especially when we take away all your alternatives.
I’m not a “young” librarian, but if 44 years of age qualifies as youthful in any context, I’ll take it as compliment. I am a recently enrolled member of both SRRT and PLG, and I look forward to renewing my membership in these organizations for years to come.
What compelled my interest in social responsibilities and progressive librarianship was a quote by then President Maureen Sullivan who, in the March 18, 2013 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education said: ‘It’s important to remember that there is a difference between the work and role of the teaching faculty…and the work and role of librarians.’ When one recalls the fact that Ms. Sullivan at the time was doing consulting work at East Carolina University where the university administration was deciding to end tenure for librarians, her words seemed especially suspect. Many of my colleagues sent a letter to ALA headquarters demanding that Ms. Sullivan clarify her statement. In response, she updated her Facebook page to say that she supported the Joint Statement on the Status of College and University Librarians (2012). Many librarians on this list may recall that the original 1973 Joint Statement defined librarians as equal to faculty and deserving of tenure whereas the 2012 revision defers to policy set by local administrative authority. In sum, Ms. Sullivan clarified her position by endorsing a document that blurs the line between due process (tenure) and at-will employment. Our responses to this turn of events ranged from cynical acceptance to bemused disdain. Granted, we did not expect ALA to act in the role of a labor organization. Yet we did not believe that ALA would actively collude in the de-professionalization of librarianship itself, either in word or deed.
You could say that we were naïve.
In the months after this episode, I investigated the opinions and writings of other members of the ALA hierarchy, both past and present, and was bowled over by the sheer volume of corporate-style discourse that passes for critical thought among the most esteemed members of our profession. I always had the impression that the management literature in librarianship was positivist, rationalist, and prone to technological utopianism. But the scale and depth of what is termed by John Buschman and others as ‘neoliberal reason’ in librarianship is so widespread and deeply rooted that it presents an existential threat to the mission of our profession. We may be witnessing a transformation of librarianship from its traditional democratic values to a monetized, market-oriented, agile enterprise that harnesses human capital to maximize ROI in a competitive and customer-driven environment. (Say that three times fast).
And we see elements of this “belief system” at work in the unreservedly positive response to the recent Google books ruling. The ALA leadership seems to have forgotten that Google is a corporate entity, and thus may have interests beyond altruism. Moreover, as you point out, both the ALA and the public at large have embraced Google as “the salvation for access to information”. Indeed, if one reads the amicus brief filed by the Library Copyright Alliance on behalf of Google you will note that on page 4 the heading “GBS Serves the Public Interest”. What follows is a passionate infomercial asserting the essential goodness of Google’s digitization project. A project which, once the Authors Guild is assuaged, will result in the largest known searchable corpus of texts in English hosted on the privately owned servers of a corporation which bases its business model on deriving revenue from the aggregation and monetization of user data.
But if rank and file librarians cautioned the ALA leadership against their credulous assertion that a corporation can serve the public interest as well as—or even better?—than the cultural institution known as “the library”, would those leaders listen? My own personal experience, and the work of Buschman, John Budd, Ronald E. Day, Douglas Raber, Christine Pawley, and many others predict that such concerns would be blithely dismissed.
As a younger librarian (I’ve been in the profession only since 2009), I think I do have a slightly different viewpoint on this case. To me, it’s not really about Google. It’s about asserting fair use, and the parameters of fair use. It’s asserting that enabling the kind of access to texts that Google (and Hathi) are enabling is fair use, and does not violate copyright. And I think THAT is why I see this as a huge victory.
The kind of access scholars can have to our literary corpus now is amazing, and I get very excited when I think of the kind of work in the digital humanities that can happen, and about how scholarship, especially in the fields of English and Literature, will be changed.
I think this case is a positive development in a string of copyright decisions that have tended to limit the kind of access we can have to our cultural heritage. And I can’t help but feel good about that.
Here’s a short reply to Mark and Kathleen’s comments to my Google Books comment the other day.
I’m not going to get into a big thing here. I’m not saying “What’s the problem” or that those who are critical of Google Books have no grounds to complain (although I was not that shocked by Nunberg’s article; cataloging is one of those professions where you pretty much get what you pay for, and since this cost libraries nothing I’m not surprised that there’s crappy metadata.) Corporate-driven incursions into library practices should always be inspected for lice. As I learned when Nicholson Baker wrote Double Fold and evoked a firestorm of libraryland protest, this is a profession that has trouble dealing with criticism. As with microfilming and newspaper disposal decades ago, new errors were made at high levels with Google Books.
But the notion that Google has cornered the market on our intellectual heritage neglects the huge amount of material that fell outside of their scope. Underground newspapers? Brochures? Political posters? That’s up to us.
What’s missing here is, what are the alternatives? How can we support non-profit, public access ventures that do this better? There are several, and I consider the giant online poster archive I’m building through the Oakland Museum of California as being one. There are others.
And to Kathleen’s point, we need to reinforce better pedagogy and research practices. Bad metadata in Google Books? Expect that. Use it as a starting point, not the end. If you want to beat up on low hanging fruit, take a whack at Wikipedia. Research and scholarship are ever evolving.
The genie’s out of the bottle, we can’t put it back.
Google is interested in redefining the infosphere in its own image and for its own purposes. The sheer size, power and influence which Google has achieved make it , not one of many tools, but the framer and decider of the form and content of bibliographic –and, moreover, informational– reality. It is not , as Lincoln would have it, a genie out of the bottle, ready to do our bidding if we but know how to wish wisely and ask properly. Nor is it something we can just ignore as we cultivate our own little islands of bibliographic quality.
To take just one aspect of the problem, Google Books , in its rush to complete Google’s domination of the infosphere, is recklessly creating a bibliographic muddle whose junk bibliographic information is crowding out the results of the scrupulous efforts librarians have made over centuries to bring bibliographic order and rationality to the textual universe. Google is creating pseudo-editions of already published works, replete with false attributions and incorrect meta-data, rife with countless uncorrected scanning errors which obscure and distort the meaning of texts –all of which mistakes, note well, becoming part of the permanent bibliographic record – illegible, scrambled and illegitimate bibliographic garbage polluting the information pool because of Google’s disregard for, nay, contempt for, bibligraphic integrity.
As for the judgment of the court in the recent case of the Authors’ Guild v Google, we can argue, of course, about the correctness of its interpretation of “fair use”. But I am struck by the insensitivity of the library community to the case of authors and their publishers. Google, in any case is not interested in the “fair”part of “fair use”: it will force the law to conform to its projects’ demands because it can, because it has the power, and it is doing it, not in the public interest, but in the corporate interest of Google.
The colonization of the infosphere and the cannibalizing of the bibliographic record, these are the hallmarks of Googlization. What can we do about it as librarians? Lincoln Cushing suggests there is precious little we can do. We should just make th ebest of it. Well, we can at least ask our Association to not make common cause with Google in legal cases! The so-called “fair use” case of Google is questionable enough for ALA not to have felt compelled to side with Google against authors and publishers rights. That it did so only expresses to me a craven and pathetic hope that siding with the giant is going to somehow prevent the giant from eating us up and spitting us out.
Mark C. Rosenzweig
The bibliographic inconsistency of the database and its quality are indeed unfortunate, as is the fact that it is controlled by Google and not the institutions that own the material: some materials I needed for my history thesis required multiple searches for different issues of the same periodical. Once I did find them, because Google owned the digital copies, the universities that provided the print copies couldn’t give me even temporary access to the digital copies, so I had to go where paper was kept anyway.
However, IMO the missed opportunities go back farther than this court case. Had the large research institutions implemented the project themselves and retained control, its development would have been slower, but the quality problems Mark mentions would not have developed. Had the profession been able to embrace and integrate information technologies to such an extent that we merged rather than separated completely from the technicians, network admins and coders, we’d be on the cutting edge rather than the trailing.
Given the state of the project and our profession, perhaps as Lincoln’s message implies, the best we can do at this point is make good use of it. Metadata, anyone?
Another thing we can do is continue to explain the intricacies of fair use: people always want simple answers, even though there aren’t any.
We’ve also had some success advocating for privacy–we can and should keep doing that, as the unprecedented access of this monolith to our reading, recreation, research, writing and other communications makes that effort increasingly vital.
October 10, 2013
Eric Hellman, founder of Unglue.it, has a note in the current issue of the New York Law School Review titled, “The eBook Copyright Page is Broken.” It is a quick read, and what I have to say is in response to it, so please read it in order to understand what I am commenting on.
Hellman is active in the area of eBook publishing, exploring new economic models for their distribution, and very interested in how eBooks are changing the conditions of what we call publishing. I support his general project and agree in general terms that the technological foundation of eBooks has implications for the way the book trade works. However, I think that in his note on eBook copyright pages, what Hellman has done is simply to notice the way that copyright pages are broken in general, in terms of print books as well as eBooks.
I am a publisher of print books that have e-versions in most cases, and I sign contracts with authors, contributors, translators, illustrators, designers, and other publishers, contracts that involve the trading of rights under copyright. So, I am familiar with some of the complexities behind copyright and its role in book publishing.
Hellman enumerates seven ways in which he says eBook copyright pages are broken. In almost each case, as I was reading I said to myself, “Well this applies equally to print books, and publishers know this, but the copyright page is not intended to communicate the full picture of rights ownership behind a book.”
Let me address each of Hellman’s discovered problems with eBook copyright pages.
1) “Since there currently are not any copyright formalities, the copyright symbol means nothing. The work is subject to copyright with or without the copyright symbol.”
This rather obviously applies to print as well as eBooks.
2) “The work may also not be subject to copyright, for example, if Eric S. Hellman is a government employee, a robot, or a non-creative compiler of factual information. In these cases there is no copyright even if there is a copyright symbol present. There is no legal duty for a publisher to put a copyright symbol only on a copyrightable work. How is the ebook user supposed to know the true copyright status of a digital work?”
This states that a copyright can be falsely indicated when a work cannot be copyrighted, and also that the copyright status of a work is not required to be stated. I understand this to mean mainly that copyright does not rest on a copyright page, and that is worth pointing out, but again, it is rather obviously true of print books as well as eBooks. (Not all of my points will be quite this obvious.)
3) “Eric S. Hellman” is an uncommon name. But suppose the author is named “John Smith.” What use, then, is the copyright statement? It does not specify which Eric S. Hellman or which John Smith is the author.
This again applies obviously to print books, but furthermore, it is a complaint that can be answered in general terms. The copyright page gives some indication of rights ownership even though it doesn’t not paint the full picture or give a lot of specificity. In terms of identifying the true author, if the author is the copyright holder, normally a person would use other available information to figure out which “John Smith” is indicated. If the copyright page has CIP information from the Library of Congress, then the LoC’s name authority information will be included in the cataloging (normally indicated by a year of birth). Sometimes, finding the identity of the rights holder could take additional work. But it doesn’t follow that the copyright statement, incomplete as it may be, is without value. At a minimum, it indicates whether the author or the publisher owns the copyright (even if, in terms of control of rights, it may provide misleading information given stipulations in a contract about transfers of rights limited to a certain number of years, etc.) So Hellman’s observation is of one of quite a few ways in which the copyright page of a book, regardless of format, leaves something to be desired as a complete statement regarding rights holders. I don’t think this means that the copyright page is “broken,” however; it simply relates to the fact that the copyright page is not intended to be a full statement of rights.
4) “The asserted name of the copyright holder can’t be relied on because text in a digital file can be altered without a trace. It’s simple to take a digital copy of Merchants of Culture and change its asserted copyright holder to “John Smith,” then redistribute it. This is a negligible problem in the print world.
This one is clearly about eBooks and not print books, as Hellman points out specifically in this case. However, what he is pointing out is not merely a problem for the copyright page. It is also a problem for the actual copyright status of an eBook. If an eBook is altered and redistributed, the alterations likely represent a copyrightable creative contribution that is not reflected in the copyright statement. Or is it? Why should we presume that if the book is altered the copyright statement is not also altered? Not to alter the copyright statement would simply mean not finishing the book responsibly and creating a product into which false information has been introduced. This means that the copyright page in this sense is only broken when someone breaks it. And this is only if we accept Hellman’s assumption that we should look at the copyright page as something that is intended to paint the full picture of the copyright status of a book.
5) “The asserted date of publication may be unrelated to the date of the underlying copyright. For purposes of copyright (for example, when a work is produced as a work-for-hire), re-publication of a book does not change the copyright expiration date of the underlying text.”
This is true of print books as well, and it may come as a surprise to some that it can be a problem with first editions of print books, given the time that it takes to bring a work to publication once it is complete. Aside from the fact that normally only the year is given on the copyright page of a book (as opposed to the date, and, why not, the time), it is often the case that a work that is completed in one year does not reach publication until the next. There is, unfortunately, no agreement as to whether the date given on the copyright page represents the date of completion of the work (the copyright date) or the date of publication. Sometimes the copyright page will be clear as to whether one or the other is indicated. At Litwin Books, we like to be specific and state both the year of copyright and the year of publication when the two are different, but most publishers do not do this. And it is something that is not generally considered in the book world. For example, the rules for a book award may state in one place that the book needs to have been published the previous year and in another that it needs to have been copyrighted in the previous year, or where, in considering books for an award, stated copyright dates are taken as evidence of publication dates or vice versa. Unlike some of the other problems with copyright pages that Hellman notes, this one affects people who don’t even have a need to know information about who owns the rights. But it would be mistaken to think that it is a problem that effects eBooks specifically.
6) “There is no specification of the work being copyrighted. In print there’s not much ambiguity, but digital books are composite objects (text and graphics are always separate entities in a digital book file) and are frequently distributed in pieces. Some ebooks even have front matter distributed as a pdf file completely separate from the chapters. In other cases, an ebook may be displayed on a website that has a separate set of copyright statements.”
Hellman is correct to point out that when a print book is pulled apart and no new copyright information is provided about the separate parts of the book, a new problem is introduced. However, there is a related problem that existed already, which is that the simple copyright page never represented the complex status of rights regarding the different parts of a print book. A preface may be a work for hire owned completely by a publisher, and illustrations may be owned by the illustrator (or another publisher) and used under license. That complex state of affairs regarding the rights behind a book is standard, but I have never heard of a publisher attempting to represent it fully on the copyright page of a book (or what would have to be a copyright section if they were to attempt to represent all of the information concerning rights). If a new problem is introduced with eBooks in this regard, it is in the fact that new discrete digital objects are sometimes produced that have no copyright information attached to them.
7) “If the digital book is legally on your ebook reader, then, somehow, the rights holder has granted you some rights, perhaps under the terms of an explicit license or with the license implicit in its availability on a website. Either way, “all rights” have not been reserved. Licenses are not needed for printed books, but they may be needed for ebooks.”
The license agreements between publishers and consumers of information in electronic form are the big area, in my opinion, where the situation regarding the book trade has changed, and which librarians especially need to pay attention to. Where “all rights reserved” appears on a copyright page, presumably it has been placed there prior to a license agreement. Also, we can presume that it refers not really to “all rights” but to “all rights that we own” (since, for example, it is never taken to be denial of first sale doctrine). I think Eric is correct that in an eBook environment, this statement has to be modified in order to most correct, and further I think it is an easy modification to make. It could simply be amended to say, “All rights reserved where not covered by license agreement,” or words to that affect. However, it could also be argued that the statement is intended to apply to the content prior to a license, which is the same as the situation with print books. Publishers grant licenses all the time that allow specific parties, usually other publishers, to make limited use of content controlled by that publisher (e.g. a chapter in a book where the publisher still controls the rights). In that sense, “All rights reserved” indicates that a license is required for a transfer of rights. We often don’t know where such licenses are already in effect. But that is a somewhat technical point, and I will agree that Hellman has identified an issue here.
I think that my main point–that the issues Hellman has raised regarding copyright pages apply to print books as well–is fairly obvious. So, I wonder why these issues seem salient regarding eBooks and not so much to print books? I think the reason is that eBooks are forcing us to pay focused attention to issues of rights that have become unstable and have entered into play in new ways with digital content, and that this focus has inspired Hellman to turn a critical eye to traditional copyright pages. Perhaps we need complete statements of the rights situation surrounding works in a way that we didn’t before eBooks. If that is the case, then I could agree with Hellman that the eBook copyright page is broken, but only in the sense that it does not address a new set of needs. Perhaps Hellman assumes that but doesn’t state it directly. In any case, I think it would not be an entirely correct assumption, because print books and eBooks don’t exist in separate legal spheres, and copyright issues that have recently become salient affect print books today in ways that they didn’t previously, even if the change is related to e-publishing.
June 19, 2013
This great response to an illegitimate takedown notice is going around on Facebook. It’s funny because of how it shows just how unjust these robo-generated takedown notices can be, but it also reveals a problem that deserves serious discussion. These kind of takedown notices go out by the thousands, and not many people who receive them have access to a pro-bono attorney who can respond in this way. As far as I am aware, there is no system of monitoring and penalties for companies that abuse the law by intimidating people with baseless legal threats like this. I would love it if someone with more knowledge of the relevant law and the relevant aspects of the legal system would take this up, and comment here informatively, if not actually try to do something about this problem.
November 14, 2012
An article by Josh Wallert went up on Nov. 8 at the Design Observer Group’s Places: Forum of Design for the Public Realm, titled, “State of the Commons: Wikipedia, Flickr, and the Public Domain. It’s a good, though brief, read on the state of the public commons for visual documentation. Excerpt:
For better and worse, public-making in the early 21st-century has been consigned to private actors: to activists, urban interventionists, community organizations and — here’s the really strange thing — online corporations. The body politic has retreated to nominally public spaces controlled by Google, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, which now constitute a vital but imperfect substitute for the town square. Jonathan Massey and Brett Snyder draw an analogy between these online spaces and the privately-owned public space of Zuccotti Park, the nerve center for Occupy Wall Street, and indeed online tools have been used effectively to support direct actions and participatory democracies around the world. Still, the closest most Americans get to the messy social activity of cooperative farm planning is the exchange of digital carrots in Farmville.
More at The Design Observer Group
November 1, 2012
Late Night Library One for the Books Campaign
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
A PLEDGE CAMPAIGN SUPPORTING INDEPENDENT BOOKSELLERS AND PUBLISHERS
PORTLAND, OR, October 22, 2012—Responding to the US Department of Justice vs. Apple case set to go to trial in June of 2013, Late Night Library has announced the One for the Books! campaign in support of independent booksellers and independent publishers.
One for the Books! is a pledge drive not requiring a monetary pledge. It offers four levels of participation:
Late Night Reader: Anyone who pledges to purchase books from independent booksellers and independent publishers.
Late Night Author: Published authors of any genre who on their website includes links to independent retailers or IndieBound rather than retailers engaged in predatory pricing.
Late Night Publisher: Independent publishers who do not feature links to corporate retailers who predatory price on their official websites.
Late Night Brick & Mortar: Independently-owned physical bookstores supporting independent publishers by offering multiple independent titles on their bookshelves and providing a pick-up or delivery service for community-based readers.
To participate in One for the Books! is simple. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and Late Night Library will add your name or business to the appropriate pledge level. We will publish the results on our website in April.
LATE NIGHT LIBRARY is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting talented writers early in their careers. To make a donation to Late Night Library, please visit www.latenightlibrary.org and click Give. All donations will be applied directly to program services.
October 13, 2012
I have interviewed Rachel Bridgewater about her class, Exploring Fair Use, which she will be teaching for Library Juice Academy next month. Rachel talks about her background and what participants will get out of the four-week class. I enjoyed interviewing Rachel and hope you enjoy reading the interview.
September 10, 2012
This is a couple of months old now but has just reached my attention. It is a statement from IFLA, cosigned by some of its member associations, including ALA and ARL, raising alarm about a new multi-lateral trade agreement that establishes new intellectual property rules that bypass essential balancing user rights such as Fair Use. The agreement is called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). Please read the IFLA statement for a good explanation of what is happening in this area.
February 24, 2012
A low-paid outsourced content screener in Morocco has apparently leaked the “Abuse Standards” guidelines that are in effect at Facebook. Gawker.com published the next update to those standards shortly after releasing the originally-leaked document (these were versions 6.1 and 6.2).
Without commenting on the appropriateness of the rules as we now know them, I want to ask whether Facebook has become, to a certain extent, perhaps like Google, a public infrastructure, given its ubiquity and people’s reliance on it. If it is to a degree a venue of the public sphere, shouldn’t the public have a role in determining these policies?
February 23, 2012
Excerpted from Barney Rosset’s obituary:
By Elaine Woo, Los Angeles Times
February 23, 2012
Barney Rosset, the renegade founder of Grove Press who fought groundbreaking legal battles against censorship and introduced American readers to such provocative writers as Harold Pinter, Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco and Jean Genet, died Tuesday in New York City. He was 89.
His daughter, Tansey Rosset, said he died after undergoing surgery to replace a heart valve.
In 1951 Rosset bought tiny Grove Press, named after the Greenwich Village street where it was located, and turned it into one of the most influential publishing companies of its time. It championed the writings of a political and literary vanguard that included Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Tom Stoppard, Octavio Paz, Marguerite Duras, Che Guevara and Malcolm X.
February 17, 2012
An illuminating article in the Chronicle of Higher Education this week: “The ‘Undue Weight’ of Truth on Wikipedia,” by historian Timothy Messer-Kruse. It illustrates a problem with the protocol in place on Wikipedia that operate to attempt to ensure objectivity. This problem is one that academics who work on Wikipedia articles are likely to run into, because it tends to prevent new knowledge from making it into an article. Apologies if this article requires subscription access; most university libraries subscribe and should let you in from home using a proxy server if you are affiliated with the institution.
January 27, 2012
As we’ve been reminded again recently, in case we somehow forgot, the “facts” of news reporting are not actually neutral. Just plain data is part of a political context, too. For example, New York City counts homeless people, in an annual pavement-pounding overnight effort. But the city – despite its technocratic, data-driven mayor – has never counted homes without people. Why not?
Yesterday I went to the official release of “Banking on Vacancy: Homelessness and Real Estate Speculation,” a report based on a study conducted by Picture the Homeless (PTH) here in NYC. The results demonstrate that there is more than enough space for everyone living in the city to have a roof over their heads. And the fact that the hard data proving this deceptively simple point had to come from a grassroots group illuminates the resistance that the powerful have towards information that might challenge them.
I’ve long liked PTH because, first of all, they’re a membership organization that’s founded and led by currently and formerly homeless people – i.e. the people most affected by what the group exists to fight. There’s a small staff, but the members are directly involved in all organizational activities. Furthermore, they use a combination of more traditional channels (legislative proposals, legal reform) and direct action (demonstrations, banner drops, building occupations) in their work. And sometimes they do both at the same time. At a pre-release event in the fall, a PTH member summed up their attitude to bureaucratic static on the question of whether the city would ever sponsor a citywide vacant housing count: “We’re going to do it, whether you like it or not!”
City officials had told PTH that NYC has a 2% vacancy rate, which turned out to be calculated by whether a building had been occupied two years prior. So if a building has been empty of residents for three or more years – because of, say, a landlord who can make a good profit off a street-level business’s rent alone without the hassle of tenants in the apartments above – it’s not considered “vacant.” PTH was also told repeatedly that a city-sponsored vacant housing count would be complicated and prohibitively expensive, in the millions of dollars. (In the end, around $150,000 was spent to count a third of the city in a third of a year.)
“Banking on Vacancy” came out of a collaboration between PTH and Hunter College’s Center for Community Planning & Development (HCCCPD). The philosophy of the campaign was illustrated by Hunter professor Peter Kwong at yesterday’s event when he talked about “activist scholarship,” where the questions being addressed in the university come from the needs of the community, and engagement with those questions is a joint effort between the academics and the community members. Other speakers ranged from the Manhattan borough president and City Councilmembers to a PTH member who passionately reminded attendees that the work is not just about issuing a report (“Take back the land! Take back the buildings!”).
The bulk of the vacant housing census took place over a widely-publicized series of weekends in summer 2011. PTH members and allies (including your correspondent) convened in churches, community centers, and public library branches and then went out to identify vacant buildings and lots in neighborhoods spanning selected Community Board districts in all five boroughs. The report explains the full data collection process – the numerous Freedom of Information Law requests to almost a dozen city agencies that mostly got ignored or netted ineffective information (as one section is titled, “City Data Is a Useless Mess”), the almost 300 volunteers with varying levels of experience, the evolution of paper housing count surveys to Excel files to OASIS to PLUTO and other data utilities.
I’m writing about all this for Library Juice not because I think that everyone is interested in the vagaries of NYC housing policy (though if you’re a local, I hope you are!). The point is that community-driven data collection is important – it’s part of organizing, the process itself reflects and reinforces the values of the community, and it’s possibly the only way that a needed change can be kicked into gear.
“Numbers are power,” said HCCCPD’s Tom Angotti. But it’s not just the data, of course, which can end up sitting on a shelf. Like PTH member Willie Baptist said: “You’re going to have to get up and do something about it.”
November 8, 2011
Call for Chapters
Piracy: Leakages From Modernity
Edited by Martin Fredriksson (Linköping University) and James Arvanitakis (University of Western Sydney)
Published by Litwin Books
We are inviting proposals for chapters for an anthology on Piracy planned to be published by the end of 2012.
‘Piracy’ is a concept that seems everywhere in the contemporary world. From the big screen with the dashing ‘Jack Sparrow’, to the dangers off the coast of Somalia; from the claims by the Motion Picture Association of America that piracy funds terrorism, to the political impact of pirate parties in countries like Sweden and Germany. While the spread of piracy provokes responses from the shipping and copyright industries, the reverse is also true: for every new development in capitalist technologies, some sort of ‘piracy’ moment emerges.
This is maybe most obvious in the current ideologisation of Internet piracy where the rapid spread of so called Pirate Parties is developing into a kind of global political movement. While the pirates of Somalia seem a long way removed from Internet pirates illegally downloading the latest music hit or, it is our assertion that such developments indicate a complex interplay between capital flows and relations, late modernity, property rights and spaces of contestation. That is, piracy seems to emerge at specific nodes in capitalist relations that create both blockages and leaks between different social actors.
These various aspects of piracy form the focus for this book, preliminary entitled Piracy: Leakages from Modernity. It is meant to be a collection of texts that takes a broad perspective on piracy and attempts to capture the multidimensional impacts of piracy on capitalist society today. The book is edited by James Arvanitakis at the University of Western Sydney and Martin Fredriksson at Linköping University, Sweden, and published by Litwin Books, USA. It is open for recently unpublished articles from all academic disciplines and we particularly welcome contributions by young and emerging scholars.
If you want to contribute to this book please send an abstract of no more than 1000 words to Martin Fredriksson (martin.fredriksson [at] liu.se) or James Arvanitakis (j.arvanitakis [at] uws.edu.au). Deadline for abstracts is December 1, 2011.
University of Western Sydney
September 30, 2011
We have often pointed out here that privacy in Facebook is not primarily a matter of controlling what you share with your friends, as Facebook likes to say it is, but what data Facebook has about you that it can sell or otherwise make available to its business partners.
Here is a great link that was just sent my way, to an inventory of all of that data, Facebook’s Data Pool. It is possible to gather this information in Europe, because in the EU they have a wonderful law that requires companies to disclose to citizens what information they have about them.
There is not too much that is surprising in what they have found by doing this, but it is interesting to see the way the data is organized and how it looks from the Facebook side.
Serious case of law envy here.
September 13, 2011
Caroline Nappo sent a link to this New York Times story to the Library History Round Table email list:
What’s a Presidential Library to Do?
SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — When Republicans gathered at the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum here for the presidential debate last week, the backdrop was an overhauled exhibition on the Reagan presidency, done under the watchful eye of Nancy Reagan. It is intended, in part, to be a more complete depiction of the Reagan presidency, replacing one that many had seen as a bit too worshipful and airbrushed.
But another exhibition that just opened at yet another presidential museum not far away — the Watergate installation at the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda — has offered a stark challenge to the Reagan tribute here, exposing both the different ways that these two museums have chosen to remember their subjects and the different positions that the two former presidents hold in the nation’s and the Republican Party’s memory.