Category Archives: Legal Issues

Copyright change in Spain pressured by US

Here’s just one example of why the Wikileak cables are important and deserve to be released, analyzed, and that transparency in government is valuable. From BoingBoing:

Spain’s Congress is about to vote on a new and extremely harsh copyright/Internet law. It’s an open secret that the law was essentially drafted by American industry groups working with the US trade representative.

….

The first 35 of the 115 cables have been released, and they confirm the widespread suspicion: the Spanish government and the opposition party were led around by the nose by the US representatives who are the real legislative authority in Spain.

Here’s a link to an English translation of the El Pais article.

Library of Congress blocks access to Wikileaks

This is evidence of the insane world we’re currently living in…the Library of Congress, ostensibly the Library of Record for the United States, is currently blocking access on it’s staff computers as well as it’s guest wireless network to Wikileaks.

From the above story, the Library issued a statement, saying:

The Library decided to block Wikileaks because applicable law obligates federal agencies to protect classified information. Unauthorized disclosures of classified documents do not alter the documents’ classified status or automatically result in declassification of the documents.

Oh, really? Is that so?

Anyone online realizes this is a senseless act, and that anyone with any knowledge of the Internet will be able to get around this sort of filter trivially…this does absolutely nothing to protect classified information. As far as I can tell, it does nothing except make the Library of Congress look asinine. Perhaps the librarians running the LoC should take another gander at the Library Bill of Rights to remind themselves what exactly it is that they should be doing.

I hope that there is serious fallout for those who made this decision. ALA Council…here’s a discussion worth having.

Seriously, AT&T?

In preparation for ordering iPhone 4, I went about adjusting our AT&T plans this evening…the new tiered pricing actually works out for us, as Betsy rarely uses over 200Megs of data a month. As I was switching her over, I read this amazingly silly EULA from AT&T:

DataPlus 200 MB for iPhone

Terms and Conditions

DataPlus 200MB for iPhone may only be used for the following purposes: (i) internet browsing, (ii) personal email, and (iii) consumer applications. Using iPhone to access corporate email, company intranet sites, and/or other business solutions/applications is prohibited.

Bwahahahaha. Corporate email is prohibited? WTF? Talk about your unenforceable EULA’s….you can’t visit an intranet, for frak’s sake? Seriously, AT&T? Seriously?

And you wonder why people hate you.

There's an app for that – OITP Brief on Mobile

The American Library Association Office of Information Technology Policy, better known as ALA-OITP, just released their Policy Brief on Mobile Tech, There’s an App for That! Libraries and Mobile Technology: An Introduction to Public Policy Considerations. Written by Timothy Vollmer, formerly of OITP and now working for Creative Commons, it’s a great “state of the union” brief on Mobile tech, and how it effects the library world in the current and near-future time frame.

I was honored to have been an early reader on this piece, and to have been able to give feedback to Timothy as he worked it up. If you have any interest at all about the future of libraries and the mobile world, this is a must read.

Disney, Libraries, and Copyright

Anyone who is even remotely familiar with Copyright Law in the United States has probably heard of the Mickey Mouse Protection Act, passed in 1998 largely due to the lobbying power of the Disney corporation. Anyone who has children, or is just a fan of the Disney oeuvre, is likewise aware of their “Disney Vault” system, wherein Disney releases one of their animated films on DVD for a limited time, and the withdraws it from retail sale for between 7 and 10 years.

The tension between copyright, libraries, and Disney’s Vault process is one that was brought to light for me in a series of tweets this past week from Gretchen Caserotti. She was struggling to replace films in their collection due to damage, loss, etc, and discovered that there are 22 Disney films that they can’t replace now due to Disney’s Vault. I hadn’t thought about this as a result of the Vault, and my first thought when the issue came up was Section 108 of the US Copyright Code…otherwise known as the Reproduction by Libraries and Archives section.

Librarians should all be familiar with Section 107, the Fair Use provision of US Copyright law. But I’m consistently surprised how few librarians know Section 108. It gives libraries specific abilities regarding copyright, and in regards to the Disney issue, I immediately thought of this section:

h) (1) For purposes of this section, during the last 20 years of any term of copyright of a published work, a library or archives, including a nonprofit educational institution that functions as such, may reproduce, distribute, display, or perform in facsimile or digital form a copy or phonorecord of such work, or portions thereof, for purposes of preservation, scholarship, or research, if such library or archives has first determined, on the basis of a reasonable investigation, that none of the conditions set forth in subparagraphs (A), (B), and (C) of paragraph (2) apply.
(2) No reproduction, distribution, display, or performance is authorized under this subsection if —
(A) the work is subject to normal commercial exploitation;
(B) a copy or phonorecord of the work can be obtained at a reasonable price; or
(C) the copyright owner or its agent provides notice pursuant to regulations promulgated by the Register of Copyrights that either of the conditions set forth in subparagraphs (A) and (B) applies.

There is also the section that allows for:

(c) The right of reproduction under this section applies to three copies or phonorecords of a published work duplicated solely for the purpose of replacement of a copy or phonorecord that is damaged, deteriorating, lost, or stolen, or if the existing format in which the work is stored has become obsolete, if —
(1) the library or archives has, after a reasonable effort, determined that an unused replacement cannot be obtained at a fair price; and
(2) any such copy or phonorecord that is reproduced in digital format is not made available to the public in that format outside the premises of the library or archives in lawful possession of such copy.

This section isn’t as useful, as (c)(2) prevents the circulation of copied DVDs, although it does appear to allow for patrons to view the DVD inside the library. And section (h) is limited to works in the last 20 years of their copyright term. The original Mickey Mouse cartoon, Steamboat Willie, was published in 1928, and Wikipedia reports that it should fall into the public domain in 2023. This would mean that, roughly, Disney media published between 1928 and 1935 would be subject to this rule. That range does not, unfortunately, cover any Disney films, as Snow White was released in 1937, and was the first major motion picture put out by Disney. But it would mean that in just 2 more years, in 2012, that Snow White _should_ fall into this category.

So, copyright nerds and librarians: is it legal for libraries to back up their DVD purchases, in a situation where it is a known fact that they will not be able to re-purchase them when they are needed? Here’s a situation where a legal copy of a DVD is owned, it is damaged or stolen, and the legal owner wants to buy a replacement…but can’t. Shouldn’t it be legal for a library to do this? Does Fair Use (section 107) give a library the right to make a copy in this situation?

Shut up and get out of the way

Google, on the Book Settlement, from arstechnica:

“Approval of the settlement will open the virtual doors to the greatest library in history, without costing authors a dime they now receive or are likely to receive if the settlement is not approved,” Google’s filing reads. “Nor does anyone seriously dispute, though few objectors admit, that to deny the settlement will keep those library doors locked while inviting costly, fragmented litigation that could clog dockets around the country for years.”

Or, in other words: Shut up, and get out of the way.

Copyright Clearance Center = FAIL

Sometimes, it’s just nice to laugh at industries that are desperately attempting to hang on to their relevancy in a changing world. Exhibit A for today is the Copyright Clearance Center, and their interesting attempt to educate users about copyright via their Copyright Basics video. Let’s examine the ways in which CCC fails at modern web usage.

First: here’s the opening screen of the video

cccfail

I think that’s enough said, yes? Among the nearly-unreadable text is the prohibition to “distribute copies of the Program to persons outside your company, or post copies of the Program on any public website (including any video sharing or social networking site).”  Yep, that’s the CCC…all about education. Wouldn’t want those non-paying people to easily get your content that explains why they should pay for your content. 

Second: To get a copy of the video to use internally, on a non-public server that is limited to only your employees, you have to fill out a form on this page. Or, you know, just look at the page source:

cccpagesource

Where the FLV file is handily linked for anyone who might want to use it. 

If ever there was a direct example of how the modern web breaks copyright, the CCC just gave it to us. The answer, of course, isn’t to ignore the de facto standards for the distribution of video on the web, to limit the ability to share and distribute content, and to generally treat people who want to use your content like criminals. The way to make yourself valuable and heard is to share what you make as widely as you possibly can…something that the CCC can’t bring itself to do.  It’s really hard to participate in the modern conversation when your very business model is tied to archaic and irrelevant legalese.

Ebooks, copyright, and the University of Virginia

I’m in the middle of writing a book about Mobile Technologies and Libraries, and am researching libraries providing mobile-specific services of all sorts. I came across the University of Virginia’s Ebook Library, and decided to take a look at what they are offering. It’s a very old ebook collection, with the original Etext division starting in 1992. Here’s the part that made me scratch my head…it’s in their Access and Conditions of Use:

While many of these items are made publicly-accessible, they are not all public domain — the vast majority of the images, and a number of the texts, including all of those from the University of Virginia Special Collections Department, are copyrighted to the University of Virginia Library, for example, and a number of other texts are still copyrighted to their original print publishers and made available here with permission.

I have no qualms with the texts that are copyrighted by their original publishers, and that UVA got permission to use. My eyebrows raise at the bit about “including all those from the University of Virginia Special Collections Department, are copyrighted to the University of Virginia Library…”

Really?

I had my suspicions here…it’s not like the UVA Special Collections Department are writing books, right? After look around, I found this text: Po’ Sandy by Charles W. Chestnutt. Published in 1888 in the Atlantic Monthly in New York, it is clearly in the public domain in the United States. But there it is, in the front matter:

Copyright 1999, by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia

Looking around just a bit, it looks like this shows up on all sorts of texts that UVA digitized. My favorite is The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, completed in 1788 by Franklin but the particular version republished by UVA was published in 1909 by P. F. Collier & Son Company in New York. Also, without any doubt, in the Public Domain in the US. It also has the note:

Copyright 1999, by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia

What gives UVA the right to claim copyright on these texts? They couldn’t have legally digitized them if they weren’t in the Public Domain at the time of their digitization, and changing the form of something doesn’t give you the right to claim a copyright, especially on the bits that make the work up. Even stranger, they aren’t just claiming copyright, but including a EULA!

By their use of these ebooks, texts and images, users agree to follow these conditions of use:

  • These ebooks, texts and images may not be used for any commercial purpose without permission from the Electronic Text Center.
  • These ebooks, texts and images may not be re-published in print or electronic form without permission from the Electronic Text Center. However, educators are welcome to print out items and hand them to their students.
  • Users are not permitted to download our ebooks, texts, and images in order to mount them on their own servers for public use or for use by a set of subscribers. Individuals and institutions can, of course, make a link to the copies at UVa, subject to our conditions of use.

Really? Is UVA asserting rights here that they just do not have? Not permitted to republish? Only if there is a copyright concern…which I think that UVA is asserting incorrectly here. It’s possible that there is some piece of copyright law that they are leaning on for these claims, but on the face of it, this seems like over reaching. Can anyone explain to me how they could possible have legitimate copyright claims on things that they didn’t create and are beyond the time limit for copyright protection in the US?

Hackintosh




hackintosh

Originally uploaded by griffey.

This is the “About This Mac” screen from what is not an Apple product at all. After seeing the sale that Dell was having a few weeks ago, and getting my first royalty check from my book, I decided to splurge a bit and grab a Dell Mini 9. I had a copy of OS X 10.5.6 that I got when I bought the Mac Box Set a few months ago when upgrading my iLife and iWork, so I was covered on the legal copy of OS X.

After that, it was a reasonable simple matter. I’ll throw together a separate post with the directions I followed. What I mainly wanted to note here was how incredibly well the Mini 9 runs OS X. Seriously solid, and with NO hesitation. It’s kind of mind-blowing.

ALA and YouTube followup

My post from last week on the ALA presidential debates and YouTube seems to have struck a cord with some librarians, and I’m somewhat pleased with the results. At the same time, I definitely am guilty of what Karen Schneider says: “…he spent too long explaining how ALA isn’t “getting it” and not enough time talking about what’s right about this project.” This is completely the case. I did pick on the details of the announcement, without clearly saying “BRAVO!” to the ALA and more specifically (again, as Karen pointed out) to the Jim Rettig presidential task force that is continuing to do good things for the ALA. I do think that this is absolutely where the ALA needs to be going. But just because they picked the right destination doesn’t mean that I can’t critique their driving skills. 🙂

With that said, I’m overjoyed that the ALA changed the rules to allow for non-member question submission! Thank you, thank you, thank you to whomever took that forward to the powers-that-be, and to all the non-members who might want some clarity on what the ALA is good for: here’s your chance to ask the presidential candidates your questions. Don’t waste the opportunity.

The other part of my suggestion, that anonymous submissions be allowed, wasn’t changed in the submission policies. Karen even says, in her post:

Besides, what would an “anonymous” YouTube film look like? Hand puppets? Mr. Bill? (”Budgets slashed, oooooooooh noooooo!”) Anyone who really had a burning question they couldn’t ask themselves could always find a friend willing to do it. I’ve fronted questions for people in all kinds of situations.

True that people could always find someone to front their question, but why should that be necessary? There are a million ways to do an anonymous question….not all videos have to be talking heads. A voice over a video of book stacks would work just fine, and creating a sock-puppet YouTube account is, needless to say, a trivial matter. Again, I ask: If these videos are being screened before being responded to (which they are) then why does identity matter?

I’ll admit this is a particular obsession of mine, but anonymous speech is important and necessary for the freedom of speech to be a real thing. Any time that I see the capacity for anonymous speech being held back for no particular reason that I can discern, I’m predisposed to push for it.