Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large
ISSN 1534-0937
Libraries · Policy · Technology · Media


Selection from Cites & Insights 6, Number 6: Spring 2006


Following Up and Feedback

It’s been too long since I’ve run feedback. My apologies for these delayed items. First, there’s a typical goof, one I corrected in a blog post but not here: The proper URL for Marylaine Block’s “Information literacy: Food for thought” is marylaine.com/exlibris/ xlib271.html. Thanks to Bob Duncan, first to point this out.

Dan Cornwall on video on demand

Your note on the "Akimbo Video on Demand Player" made think that if you had readers who REALLY didn't have enough video content should try the educational video-on-demand programs from the Annenberg Foundation's learner.org. No way that I know of to pipe it to your TV set, but the streaming video is pretty steady most days.

My favorite program is one done by an old UCLA professor of mine:

The Western Tradition (www.learner.org/resources/series58.html)

Seems like an easy way to save $200, and the hapless viewer might learn something.

No comment required!

Dan Cornwall on Google Book Search

I'm still working my way through the Jan 2006 issue, but I wanted to thank you for your commentary on Vaidhyanathan, particularly for the remark that fair use will go away without being defended. I have to admit that I was swayed by the argument that perhaps Google's case wasn't the one to use and that a ruling against Google would be disastrous for us all. In addition to Vaidhyanathan's article I've read several comments from otherwise rational authors who've gone berserk on the idea of Google using book excerpts but are ok with Google indexing their web pages. I'd hate for the Supreme Court decide against GBS and say "words are words"—search engines should be opt-in as well!

Having said that, I think you make the better argument that we need to defend fair use sometime and it can't hurt having a deep pockets company doing the defending.

Now that I'm a published coauthor, I've got no objection to having our book (www.worldcatlibraries.org/wcpa/isbn/ 1573563870) scanned into GBS. Can't speak for Greenwood or my coauthors.

Steven Bell on ACRLog

This letter’s really delayed: I received it December 20, 2005!

Thank you for mentioning ACRLog. We are off to a pretty good start, averaging about 2200 visits a day. We are certainly trying to take on the issues and readings that academic librarians should be paying some attention to—and challenging them to think about it. I think you'll agree that Barbara Fister is one heck of a blogger. I am really glad she agreed to join our blogging team.

It's true the name and URL differ, but we thought it would be useful to conform to the standard being used by ALA blogs for the domain name—which is the division abbreviation followed by “blog”—hence acrlblog.org, litablog.org, etc. But ACRLblog seemed too mundane a name (although what the ACRL leadership decided on wasn't too far off). My number one choice for the name of the blog was “A Passion for Academic Librarianship” but that got shot down—too long I guess.

My reply at the time (in part): “Yes, Barbara Fister is sensational. Feel free to pass that remark along.” That continues to be true, and ACRLog continues to be a strong blog.

Joshua Stratton on copyright and what authors deserve

Way back in May 2005, in a ©3 Perspective, I cited a comment by Josh Stratton on a post by Lawrence Lessig. Stratton said, “I don’t think that authors deserve anything” and “I’d prefer to relax the laws” rather than using Creative Commons. I commented: “I’m not sure Stratton is a full ‘you wrote it, it’s mine’ anti-copyright advocate, but he’s close.” I also noted that, if possible, I disagreed even more with him than with the RIAA.

Stratton responded on January 26, 2006. Here’s the response, in full:

I would not characterize myself as being anti-copyright. As a both an artist and a copyright lawyer, I'm pretty fond of copyright and of working in the field. What I advocate is reforming the law. It is not difficult for me to be in favor of reasonable copyright and to be dismissive of authors, because I view copyright as a wholly utilitarian body of law, intended to best serve the public.

This explains why I do not think that authors deserve anything. I think that copyright should be offered to authors as a means of causing them to create and publish works. That is, I am interested in their works, and am willing to exploit them through the means of copyright. That they do not deserve anything does not preclude a quid pro quo. However, while having any particular work created benefits the public, granting a copyright on that work harms the public. Operating on utilitarian principles, it is important to get the most benefit for the least detriment. I believe copyright law can be reformed to more closely approach this optimal point.

Given the right sort of copyright law—one in which protections are likely quite reduced from where they are now both in terms of length and breadth—I would of course staunchly support the system. I would also keep a close eye on it, so that it only improves and is not abused. And I would keep an open mind, in case a radical new idea came along that better achieved the goals of a utilitarian copyright system.\

Being against copyright only makes sense to me where the public would be best served without it. That is, where the benefit of having works created due to the incentive of copyright is always less than the detriment of even the slightest copyright protection. I see such a scenario as very unrealistic at best and thus I am not against copyright.

I imagine that most people against copyright hold that opinion because they're so disgusted with the entire system that they cannot see how it could be changed to provide them a net benefit, or because they have not considered how a small harm now could yield a great benefit later. Fix the system sufficiently, and I think that you'd see less agitation for abolishing copyright.

Anyway, I hope this has revealed what my position actually is. I hope also that I can move up in your estimation from below the RIAA. I'm happy to discuss it with you further, if you like.

To understand the letter, I had to go back to the post (more than a year ago!) and the 63 comments attached to it. Rereading the flow, I see Stratton has a point: While I didn’t exactly quote him out of context, I failed to provide enough of the flow of discussion. Stratton was responding to Rob Rickner’s statement that creators DESERVE and have EARNED a right to control because of their hard work (Rickner’s emphasis). I agree that “hard work” is not, in and of itself, justification for the kind of copyright protection currently in place—indeed, if I do the hard work of collecting phone numbers and putting them in alphabetic order by the subscriber’s last name, I neither deserve nor receive copyright protection at all. Stratton’s probably more utilitarian than I am, but I was wrong to lump him with the anti-copyright cadre or disagree with him more than RIAA. My apologies.

Jessamyn West on Creative Commons “NC”

West posted “Copyright, licensing, the government and you” at librarian.net on February 1, noting “What NC means to me,” generally agreeing with my philosophy, and mentioning three times when the “NC” designation on the blog has come into play:

Ø    The New York Times Magazine reprinted a text version of her “Five technically legal signs for your library,” with changes and incorrect credit. She wrote a pointed email (noting the site license); the magazine published a “heavily edited response” in the next issue.

Ø    A Wikipedia editor wanted to use one of those signs to illustrate the article on West; she agreed, but needed to remove the BY-NC license, because Wikipedia operates under Free Content rules. That’s not a problem; nothing in a Creative Commons license prevents the holder from granting further rights.

Ø    TechSoup wanted to reprint a West piece from WebJunction and asked for a CC license—and West’s holding of a CC license “made it a little easier to have the content presented the way I wanted it to be presented.”

There’s more to the post, worth reading on its own.

Steven Backs on Library 2.0

I’ve received some nice informal feedback on the special issue (along with a touch of indirect testiness, to be sure). Here’s one—with a bit of it redacted because I believe things have changed:

Your work on Library 2.0 strikes me as particularly needed at this point. It seems to me that this topic will gain some legs, but I hope that it will also gain a little more depth as well. For instance, a colleague and I were just discussing the notion that libraries are losing young patrons because we are failing to remain relevant in a "post Google" world. Both of us were able to recall that there is a well-known pattern among teens; they use the library as kids because their parent's take them there, then they leave us until they have their own kids, starting the cycle over again.

[One Library 2.0 person] seems to not be aware of that, or at least [he or she] does not acknowledge it, yet [he or she] stakes an awful lot on the claim that the traditional library is to blame for the lack of interest and that only Library 2.0 can win the kids back. Maybe [he or she's] on to something, but the body of work needs to gather a little depth and needs involvement from others who can examine it against the larger context. You have done us a world of good by doing so and I applaud the effort. Thank you for doing the work.

While I believe the comment that begins the second paragraph has some truth to it, I’m also seeing recent statements by the person named that suggest a recognition that traditional libraries aren’t necessarily failing (although there’s little question that libraries can and should do more). As it happens, I admire the recent writing from the person in question, so I’m taking the editorial prerogative of hiding the name.

Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large, Volume 6, Number 6, Whole Issue 76, ISSN 1534-0937, a journal of libraries, policy, technology and media, is written and produced by Walt Crawford, a senior analyst at RLG.

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