August 17, 2018

Chris Hubbles wins 2018 Litwin Books Award for Ongoing Dissertation Research in the Philosophy of Information

Press release
Media contact:
Rory Litwin,

We are pleased to announce the winner of the 2018 Litwin Books Award for Ongoing Dissertation Research in the Philosophy of Information. We are granting this year’s award to Chris Hubbles of the University of Washington, based on his dissertation project, “No Country for Old Media.” In this work, Heaney seeks to understand the implications of preservation issues for the copyright status of audio-visual materials.

The award committee stated:

“This year’s candidates were all outstanding works of scholarship. The choice was difficult for the jurors. Competency in ethics proper is essential for our field, and we were pleased to see a number of this year’s submissions examining ethics. In the end, the committee found that Chris Hubbles’s work promises to fill an important niche in the profession. Hubble’s’s proposal takes a unique view to the issue of intellectual property theory: preservation. Focusing on the copyright and preservation histories of sound, moving images, and video games, Hubble’s work is eloquent and scholarly. The jury was impressed by the novelty of his argument, the range of literature cited, and his facility integrating historical, legal, philosophical and practice-oriented domains. Hubble’s examination of preservation and concern with material forms in relation to intellectual property is novel, and the jurors expect it will have an impact in many areas of the information field, even including datasets and data-driven research forms.”

The award consists of $1000 and a certificate suitable for framing.

Since this award is for ongoing research, other applicants who are still working on their dissertations will be eligible to enter their work next year, and we encourage them to do so.

For more information about the award, please visit

April 2, 2018

New book: Open Divide: Critical Studies on Open Access

Editors: Ulrich Herb and Joachim Schöpfel
Price: $35.00
Published: April 2018
ISBN: 978-1-63400-029-1
Printed on acid-free paper

Open access has transformed the traditional way of scientific communication. Open repositories and open access journals provide large and free access to articles, theses and dissertations, reports, working papers, proceedings and books but also to other unpublished items, multimedia files and raw data. Fifteen years after the landmark Budapest Declaration, this book invites the reader to a critical assessment of the concept and the reality of open access, with a special attention to its impact in the countries of the Global South.

The success of open access for the dissemination of scientific information cannot be denied. Yet, the growing numbers of OA journals, articles and books should not keep the scientists and librarians from a critical posture towards the reality beyond figures and statistics. Most publications on open access give the impression that there are only benefits and no alternatives to open access. It is time to abandon this blend of marketing, politics and technology-driven ideology and to return to a more scientific and critical stance.

This book brings together seventeen short critical studies of scientists and librarians from different continents, all interested in open access, most of them supporting and accompanying the open access projects and initiatives since many years, each one with the motivation to better understand (and make understood) the ongoing transformation of scientific communication. Some topics: the discursive staging of open access, mis/trusting open access, the promise of reducing digital divide, open access and the Global South, business models of open access, predatory publishing, open access as a symbolic gift.

ULRICH HERB is project manager and scientific publishing expert at Saarland University and State Library (Germany). His focus areas are electronic publishing, science communication & infrastructure, scientific publishing, scientometrics and science research. He is publishing regularly in a variety of professional bodies in the fields of Information Science and Science Research.

JOACHIM SCHÖPFEL is lecture of Library and Information Sciences at the University of Lille 3 (France), director of the French Digitization Centre for PhD theses (ANRT) and member of the GERiiCO research laboratory. He was manager of the INIST (CNRS) scientific library from 1999 to 2008. He teaches library marketing, auditing, intellectual property and information science. His research interests are scientific information and communication, especially open access, grey literature and research data.

This book is available on Amazon and through your favorite library vendors.

December 15, 2015

A note on our copyright statements

When Library Juice Press or Litwin Books signs a contract with an author, the contract is typical for the publishing industry in most ways. One of the commonalities in publishing agreements is that the publisher doesn’t end up owning the copyright to the work, but they do get a temporary exclusive license to publish it. As a result, the copyright statement in the actual book can be misleading to readers who might want to republish or reuse part of the book. Our copyright statements make it clear that the author is the owner of the copyright, but it would be an error to infer from that that the author is the one who has the right to give permission to use the work. They may or may not be; that right is contingent on whatever the agreement is between the author and the publisher. That agreement is likely to be too complex to fully state on the copyright page of the book (at least in a print format). I am not sure what to do about this problem other than to make sure that authors pay attention to the contract when they sign it, so that if they are approached about reusing their work they understand what they rights situation is. I think this is an issue with copyright statements in books in general. Copyright agreements are often complex, and ownership of the copyright, as opposed to ownership (temporary or permanent, exclusive or non-exclusive) of various rights therein, is not that relevant to the question of a right to republish or reuse.

(I made a follow-up to this point on February 21st, 2016.)

May 26, 2015

Interview with Joachim Schöpfel, author of Learning from the BRICS: Open Access to Scientific Information in Emerging Countries

Joachim Schöpfel is lecturer of Library and Information Sciences at the University of Lille 3 (France), director of the French Digitization Centre for PhD theses (ANRT) and member of the GERiiCO research laboratory. He teaches on LIS topics, including intellectual property. His research interests are scientific information and communication, especially open access and grey literature. Litwin Books recently published his book, Learning from the BRICS: Open Access to Scientific Information in Emerging Countries. Joachim agreed to be interviewed here about it.

Joachim, thank you for agreeing to do this interview. I’d like to start by asking you to tell readers a bit about yourself and what got you interested in the topic of this book.

After a PhD in Psychology at the University of Hamburg (Germany), I have been working for nearly 20 years in the French public information industry before returning to academic life. As an author and information manager, I have always been interested in open access as a set of tools and services designed to facilitate scientific communication. Most of my publications are freely available on the French open repository HAL. Also, I am interested in the development of the open access movement, in France and Germany and other European countries, but also in other regions of the world. Because of their economic and demographic dynamics, the BRICS countries play a particular role in global policies, may it be security, public health, ecology, innovation, research or education. This was the reason why a couple of years ago I became interested in open access initiatives and projects in these countries.

For readers’ info, the BRICS countries are the “emerging” economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. What are some of the basic differences regarding the open access movement in those countries, versus the U.S. and Europe?

Perhaps the most important difference is that the scientific output of the BRICS countries has largely been neglected and underrepresented by the international databases and catalogs; and partly still is. Language, culture, politics – all this may explain the underrepresentation but today they want to be visible and have impact on the global landscape of scientific research.

Another difference is that they had and partly still have more problems than the U.S. or Europe to get access to the core of scientific information. Again, language plays a role but also the economics of scientific information and technical infrastructures. Open access, therefore, has another and sometimes more crucial meaning for the BRICS countries, as a vector of global dissemination of their scientific results and as a way to get access to larger amounts of information than before.

So what does the book say about the open access situation in the countries discussed? Could you tell us its scope and outline it?

The book shows that all emerging countries develop an open access policy. Yet, the diversity and differences prevail. Each country pursues its own open access strategy that fits best with its economic, financial, political and scientific situation. Each strategy is specific and different, except for Brazil and South Africa which started a bilateral collaboration for OA journal publishing on the SciELO platform. However, all countries face the same double challenge, i.e. how to increase the visibility and global impact of their scientific output, and how to improve access to scientific and technical information for their research and higher education? Open access can be an answer to both.

Can you give a few interesting examples of the differences between the open access policies in these countries?

The public policy concerning open access journals is quite different between the countries. While Brazil and, to a lesser degree, South Africa, invest into a central public platform for OA journals (SciELO, SciELO-SA), the other countries and in particular China and India have another strategy, based on larger numbers of different OA servers. Another difference is the role of the public sector. Russia for instance, but also Brazil seem to consider that free access to research output is part of the social and political responsibility of the State, i.e. national or regional authorities. Open access, gold or green road, should not be controlled by commercial publishing houses. On the other hand, India and perhaps even more China foster further individual, institutional and often corporate initiatives, without clear distinction between “for profit” and “non for profit” dissemination. A third difference is related to their global strategy. While some countries focus more on regional collaborations, such as Brazil and South Africa, others (China, Russia, India) appear to seek global impact, in competition with Western countries, which means for instance, that for them the question of English content and the visibility in international initiatives are of prime importance.

The title, Learning from the BRICS, suggests that there are lessons to be learned from these countries in going forward with OA in the West. What do you think are some of the lessons to be derived for us?

One lesson is that there is no single solution or magic recipe for open access, and that a pragmatic and flexible approach fitting with local conditions seems more important than preconceived ideas about what should be done. Perhaps there is no unique or dominant model of open access. Perhaps there never will be. Perhaps, too, there is no need for a unique model, be it green or gold. Diversity may be a better option for sustainable development. Another lesson is the need for a strong commitment to open access shared by scientific and political authorities in order to increase the impact of the countries’ research output and the availability of scientific information. With the words of one of the book’s authors, Abel Packer from SciELO (Brazil): “National research policies that favour open access is the main factor to advance open access”. Yet, as our book shows, this commitment must also be shared by the local and domain-specific research communities in order to transform national policy into a success story. This is the third lesson: learning from each other does not only mean learning from failures, mistakes and dead-ends but more so and above all, learning from success. More than the understanding of problems and challenges, perhaps the real message of our book is the importance of success stories. The development of open access depends on the promotion of successful initiatives, such as SciELO in Latin America. Expect success, focus on it, and coordinate scientific and political efforts in favour of open science.

Thank for this interview, Joachim. Your insights are very much appreciated, by me and I’m sure by our readers. Litwin Books is privileged to have published this title.

Thanks to Litwin Books for support and interest!

May 5, 2015

Learning from the BRICS: Open Access to Scientific Information in Emerging Countries

Learning from the BRICS: Open Access to Scientific Information in Emerging Countries

Editor: Joachim Schöpfel
Price: $35.00
Published: May 2015
ISBN: 978-1-936117-84-0
Printed on acid-free paper

The market for scientific and technical information (STI) has been dominated by publishers from the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands. This book takes a look at the interesting developments in publishing coming from the countries with emerging economies known as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), which comprise 40% of the world’s population and whose GDPs comprise 18% percent of the world’s economy. Each of these countries has a unique economic system as well as differing systems of academic higher education and research. As a result, they have each developed different models of academic publishing for the dissemination of their research results, many of which are based on principles of open access.

This book closes a gap in the literature of academic publishing by examining the strategies employed in STI publishing in these countries. As a growing part of the international STI market, they will impact the ways in which information is produced and made available in the future. The models examined here can serve as alternative options for information delivery in developed countries, and may serve as more sustainable models for emerging economies in Africa and Latin America.

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa all developed their own way to open access, based on specific blends of green and gold road, public investment and private initiatives. What they have in common, is their commitment to research as a driver of economic and societal development and to open science as a way to enhance quality, impact and access to scientific information. Open access is not an end in itself but a means to better science.

Twelve established information professionals and scientists from seven countries contribute to this book and help the reader to understand the open access situation in the emerging countries. How are they doing what they are doing, and why? Where are the bottlenecks, and what are the challenges? What can be learned? Each chapter is introduced by “Facts & Figures,” a section with basic data about each country, on its economic performance, research and development, scientific output and open access publishing.

Brazil: The first chapter presents the open access journal platform ScieELO, the most important open access server for scientific journals worldwide, with an impact well beyond Brazil.

Russia: Chapter two provides a general overview on institutional initiatives for free dissemination of public research on the Internet, especially in the field of grey literature, in a society with strong traditions of public interest prevailing on private intellectual property.

India: Along with a detailed description of the open access movement in India, the third chapter informs about awareness and acceptance of institutional repositories and open access journals among the Indian scientific communities.
China: The author presents the results of a recent survey on the development of open access journals in China. This is interesting insofar as only very few titles are known and indexed outside of China.

South Africa: The last chapter shows how open access can increase its impact and also protect local content, and how it can build on African cultural traditions and values of Ubuntu, i.e. relatedness, sharing and generosity.

Each chapter tells a story, and each story is different. A virtual roundtable concludes the book, with a focus on shared values and engagement in the international community of open access and open science. This book provides an important overview of publishing trends in BRICS nations and will be of interest to anyone concerned with the future of academic publishing, including librarians, higher education researchers, and publishers. It also provides insights regarding copyright issues, the economics of publishing and STI, and international affairs.

Joachim Schöpfel is lecturer of Library and Information Sciences at the University of Lille 3 (France), director of the French Digitization Centre for PhD theses (ANRT) and member of the GERiiCO research laboratory. He was manager of the INIST (CNRS) scientific library from 1999 to 2008. He teaches library marketing, auditing, intellectual property and information science. His research interests are scientific information and communication, especially open access and grey literature.

Available from Amazon or your favorite library vendor.

October 6, 2014

Copyright bedfellows of the Left

Here’s something to think about if you have sympathy for Copyleft perspectives or are simply anti-copyright.

Lots of people use Creative Commons licenses to give blanket permission for people to use their work for non-commercial purposes. (One example is the anonymously-owned Extinction Symbol, which aims to be like the famous Peace Symbol but with the goal of promoting awareness of the current mass extinction event). I think it is important to keep in mind that this is not the same thing as disavowing copyright and declaring that the work is in the public domain. By disallowing certain uses of the work this type of license retains the rights in copyright that allow the creator of a work to control its use. I think this presents a dilemma for anti-capitalists, who might want to have their cake and eat it too, in the sense that they might want to oppose copyright as a capitalist structure while at the same time wanting to employ it to prevent commercialization. Personally, I think this means that copyright is not all bad, that it is a good thing to have a legal structure that gives creators control over their work. There might be plenty that is wrong with the copyright regime, but at its root it is something that I like. That is conceivably not the only way out of the dilemma, however.

June 19, 2014

Piracy: Leakages from Modernity

Piracy: Leakages from Modernity

Editors: Martin Fredriksson and James Arvanitakis
Price: $40.00
Published: July 2014
ISBN: 978-1-936117-59-8
Printed on acid-free paper

Available on Amazon

“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 the assertion of this book 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, 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.

Table of Contents

List of Acronyms

Martin Fredriksson and James Arvanitakis

Part I – Ontology

The Pirate Imaginary and the Potential of the Authorial Pirate
James Meese

To Name a Thief: Constructing the Deviant Pirate
Virginia Crisp

“You Can’t Change Our Ancestors Without Our Permission”: Cultural Perspectives on Biopiracy
Daniel F. Robinson, Danielle Drozdzewski and Louise Kiddell

Piratical Community and the Digital Age: The Structural Racialization of Piracy in European Law and Culture
Sonja Schillings

Part II – Politics

Modernity, Law and the Violence of Piracy, Property and the State
Sean Johnson Andrews

‘Pirates’ in EU’s (Semi)Peripheries: A Comparative Case Study on the Perceptions of Poles and Greeks on Digital File-sharing
Yiannis Mylonas

The IPR GPR: The Emergence of a Global Prohibition Regime to Regulate Intellectual Property Infringement
Lucas Logan

BitTorrent: Stealing or Sharing Culture? A Discussion of the Pirate Bay Case and the Documentaries ‘Steal this Film’ I & II
Ekin Gündüz Özdemírcí

The Internet Between Politics and the Political: The Birth of the Pirate Party
Mariacristina Sciannamblo

Cultural Resistance or Corporate Assistance: Disenchanting the Anti-Capitalist Myth of Digital Piracy
You Jie

Part III – Practices

The Justification of Piracy: Differences in Conceptualization and Argumentation Between Active Uploaders and Other File-sharers
Jonas Andersson and Stefan Larsson

Set the Fox to Watch the Geese: Voluntary IP Regimes in Piratical File-sharing Communities
Balázs Bodó

Pirate Economies and the Production of Smooth Spaces
Pavlos Hatzopoulos and Nelli Kambouri

The Collaborative Production of Amateur Subtitles for Pirated TV shows in Brazil
Vanessa Mendes Moreira De Sa

After Piracy: Reflections of Industrial Designers in Taiwan on Sustainable Innovation
Yi-Chieh Jessica Lin

Piracy is Normal, Piracy is Boring: Systemic Disruption as Everyday Life
Francesca da Rimini and Jonathan Marshall

An Epilogue – Privacy is Theft: On Anonymous Experiences, Infrastructural Politics and Accidental Encounters
Ned Rossiter and Soenke Zehle

Author biographies

May 26, 2014

Dalton and Thatcher commentary – “There is a need for a critical data studies”

Craig Dalton and Jim Thatcher’s provocative piece “What does a critical data studies look like, and why do we care? Seven points for a critical approach to ‘big data’” begins like this:

As the public discourse around data turns from hubristic claims to existing, empirical results, it’s become nearly as easy to bash ‘big data’ as to hype it (Carr 2014; Marcus and Davis 2014; Harford 2014; Podesta 2014). Geographers are intimately involved with this recent rise of data. Most digital information now contains some spatial component (Hahmann and Burghardt 2013) and geographers are contributing tools (Haklay and Weber 2008), maps (Zook and Poorthius 2014), and methods (Tsou et al. 2014) to the rising tide of quantification. Critiques of ‘big data’ thus far offer keen insight and acerbic wit, but remain piecemeal and disconnected. ‘Big data’s’ successes or failures as a tool are judged (K.N.C. 2014), or it is examined from a specific perspective, such as its role in surveillance (Crampton et al. 2014). Recently, voices in critical geography have raised the call for a systemic approach to data criticisms, a critical data studies (Dalton and Thatcher 2014; Graham 2014; Kitchin 2014). This post presents seven key provocations we see as drivers of a comprehensive critique of the new regimes of data, ‘big’ or not. We focus on why a critical approach is needed, what it may offer, and some idea of what it could look like.

Read the rest in Society and Space, a journal of critical geography.

February 14, 2014

Interview with Gretchen McCord

Gretchen McCord is an attorney-consultant and educator in the areas of copyright law, privacy law, and legal issues related to social media. Her practice specializes in assisting libraries, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations in transitioning into the ever-changing digital world. She was an academic librarian prior to becoming an attorney, and served as the President of the Texas Library Association. Gretchen is teaching her first class for Library Juice Academy next month, titled Fair Use In Depth. She has agreed to do an interview for the Library Juice Academy blog to give people a better idea of what this course will cover and whether it might be right for them.

November 20, 2013

Elisabeth Jones’ Comments on the Google Books Fair Use Decision

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

Elisabeth Jones

[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!

Email discussion on the recent Google Books copyright decision

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

Dear Mark

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!

Michael Gorman

Library colleagues:

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,

Lincoln Cushing

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.
Fred Stoss

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.


Michael Matthews

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. 

Laura Krier

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.

Lincoln Cushing

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

Comment’s on Eric Hellman’s note on eBook Copyright Pages

Eric Hellman, founder of, 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

Great Response to an Illegitimate Takedown Notice

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

State of the Commons: Wikipedia, Flickr, and the Public Domain

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

Late Night Library One for the Books Campaign



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 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 and click Give. All donations will be applied directly to program services.