Category Archives: Legal Issues

Google Magazines

Google is now indexing AND displaying magazines in Google book Search! Here’s the blog entry where they describe it:

There’s no mention of a titles list, and there’s clearly some limitations on these (Check out Jet, for instance…they only have every 5th year of the mag). Popular Science is there in its entirety, but only 2000-Feb 2008.

But in any case…it’s an interesting development. If Google decides not to provide a titles list, is anyone interested in crowdsourcing it? Where can we dump the resulting data so that it’s harvestable?

How broken is copyright in the US?

copyright symbolHow broken is copyright in the US? So broken that if you look at two different books, both published by the same publisher (Dodd, Mead & Co.), in the same year (1940), both with copyright notices, and neither with a copyright renewal…one is currently protected by copyright, and the other is in the public domain.

An amazing article by Peter B. Hirtle entitled Copyright Renewal, Copyright Restoration, and the Difficulty of Determining Copyright Status outlines this case, and others that are equally frustrating. Fascinating stuff, and shows how truly broken intellectual property laws are in the current market, with the necessity of international reciprocation and ever-increasing ridiculous time limits. Not to mention that the very model is now shattered with the digital revolution…even without the digital, copyright needs an overhaul. With it? It needs cleansed with fire.

Pick a random book in your library that was published between 1923 and 1964, and check this chart, and see if you can tell if it’s still protected. Now multiply that by a few ten million books, and see what kind of crazy legal situation our legislatures have gotten us into.

iTunes and Libraries question

In thinking about Michael Sauers recent brilliant post on cataloging Creative Commons works, I’m considering setting up an iTunes instance on our Student network in MPOW. On that system, we could load…well, that’s the crux of this post. Long time readers of this blog know my stance on copyright, and that I keep up with the latest issues, especially vis a vis digital copyright. I could, at the very least, load CC licensed music on this system. But what else?

So, I ask you, blogosphere: What can I legally load on that iTunes instance? It would be openly shared, streamable to anyone connected to our student network…but, as anyone who has used iTunes knows, not downloadable. Can I load the majority of the library music collection on that machine? Why not? If it is legal for me as a private citizen to rip my purchased music to digital form (yes, I realize that not everyone thinks this is legal, but it is the current position held by most copyright thinkers), then why would it not be legal for “me” as a library? Once ripped, can it possibly be illegal for me to use functionality that iTunes has built into it?

Is anyone out there doing this? It would mean that every student could stream any of our music collection from any computer with iTunes as long as they were connected to our network…which would, of course, be any computer in the library (or their own computer).

Once more, oh blogosphere, I ask you: what’s wrong with this idea?

Clickthrough licensing dreck

I’m in the middle of reviewing a hosted blogging solution for K-12 called ePals…this is to determine if it needs to be/should be included in Library Blogging. I’m reading through, when I get to a click through license. Every once in a while, I love to read these things to see the insanity they think they can impose…here’s a great example. Check this out:


Unless you have a written agreement in effect with ePals which states otherwise, you may only include a link to an ePals Site on another Web site if:

(a) the link is a text-only link clearly marked “;”
(b) the link “points” to the ePals’ home page URL and not to other pages within the ePals Site; (c) the appearance, position and other aspects of the link does not damage or dilute the goodwill associated with ePals’ or In2Books’ brand name and trademarks;
(d) the appearance, position and other aspects of the link does not create the false appearance that any entity is associated with or sponsored by ePals;
(e) the link, when activated by a user, displays the Site’s full-screen that is not within a “frame” on the linking Web site; and
(f) the link will not be used in connection with or appear on a Web site that a reasonable person may consider offensive, obscene, defamatory or otherwise malicious.

ePals reserves the right to revoke its consent to the link at any time, in its sole discretion. If ePals revokes such consent, you agree to immediately remove and disable any and all links to ePals Sites.

To illustrate this insanity, if I were to, say…link directly to their Email description page, I would be in violation of this license. Or if I link directly to their Blog page…again, in violation.

Can you imagine a Web where people had to request the right to link to something?

DRM Frustration at Opera Mobile

Or maybe just Opera in general.

I own a Samsung Blackjack, and it probably comes as no surprise to anyone that Internet Explorer on it sucks. Just a horrible browser. Enter Opera Mobile, a really great little browser for mobile devices. I downloaded the trial version and gave it a month…good interface, fast, let me do everything I wanted.

So I decide I want to purchase this piece of software. It will make my life much easier, and is worth the $24.

I got to the Buy Opera page, tell them I want to buy a copy of Mobile for Smartphones, and it asks me for some info…including my “Device ID” which is evidently their method of DRM. By using a code specific to the phone, they can control whether or not I share the program by making it impossible for me to do so.

Ok, whatever. I can still move my install to another phone if I want by calling them, not perfect but I’ll deal. So how do I get the Device ID? By going to the “menu” function on the browser, on the phone.

Which doesn’t work, because the trial has expired, and all I get is an error message when I try to run it.

So…I can’t buy the software I want to use, because I tried the software to determine I wanted to use it.

Somehow, this seems appropriate again:


In Rainbows is LAME

no really its up to you

Not only is Radiohead releasing their newest album at whatever price their fans are willing to pay, and not only is the digital release completely DRM free and 160kbps MP3, but it looks like it was ripped to MP3 using LAME 3.93. An exploration of the MP3’s in a text editor reveals:

Radiohead uses Lame

They need to upgrade…LAME is up to 3.97 now.

Looking at the header and footer of the files in both a text and hex editor doesn’t show any tracking numbers or codes tying the songs to a particular download. It really does look like these are regular old MP3s.

Thanks, Radiohead, for showing the recording industry how business should be done these days.

Technophobia or payola?

Welcome to the gang from Digg! I think the site is finally stable now (thanks Blake). Thanks for stopping by…

In an article today on CNet, the Register of Copyright of the US, Marybeth Peters (who, let me remind you, is an Associate Librarian for Copyright Services for the Library of Congress) admitted that she was a:

…self-proclaimed “Luddite,” who confessed she doesn’t even have a computer at home. “In hindsight, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.”


I’m sorry, but I thought that just said that the person responsible for administering Copyright law in the US doesn’t own a computer.



She goes on to say things like:

Peters indicated she was less thrilled, however, about a portion of the DMCA that generally lets hosting companies off the hook for legal liability, as long as they don’t turn a blind eye to copyright infringement and remove infringing material when notified. That’s one of the major arguments Google is attempting to wield in fighting high-profile copyright lawsuits, including one brought by Viacom, against its YouTube subsidiary.

“Shouldn’t you have to filter? Shouldn’t you have to take reasonable steps to make sure illegal stuff that went up comes down?” she said. She added, without elaborating further, “I think there are some issues.”

No, you shouldn’t, Marybeth. Filtering means that we are placing the responsibility of policing onto the providers of the service, and not on the people ultimately responsible for the infringement. It also means that we move farther from Net Neutrality, because there is a slippery slope from “monitor everything” to “oh, since you CAN monitor everything, prioritize something”.

Is there anyone at all in the actual copyright process that understand that the law is broken beyond repair right now, and that the digital world really does change the rules? Or is it just that all of our media laws are now being written and propped up by corporate interests instead of being written for the good of the people?

I has been censored!

censoredIt was brought to my attention today that this very blog has been added to the Websense brand of censorware, and is blocked for reasons unknown. For those that aren’t in the know, Websense is used by libraries, schools, and oppressive regimes and governments to prevent certain types of speech from being accessed by their users.

Needless to say, they aren’t on my christmas card list.

I’m currently being blocked as a “Social Networking” site, which, as I am the only user, would make the term “social” a very loose one. “Networking” too, I suppose.

So: take a second, and hit their suggestion form to tell them how stupid it is to block me. If anyone knows of someone laboring under the yoke of an organization that gives this company money, here’s a proxy that bypasses their filters. Please share.

Keeping you safe from the terrorists, Part 2

BoingBoing reported today that the US Treasury Department has begun circulating a 250 page list of names of people who MIGHT BE related in some way to terrorism. Not that they are, or have been convicted, or charged with a crime or any of the things that due process might bring. Just a list of thousands of names (1955 names of individuals, by my count, but many more businesses) that, according to BoingBoing:

If your name could conceivably be bent to fit that list, get ready to spend a long, hard time convincing some terrified bureaucrat that you’re not actually Saddam Hussein’s deposed lieutenant, snuck into America to buy a Toyota.

As the Washington Post describes:

Yet anyone who does business with a person or group on the list risks penalties of up to $10 million and 10 to 30 years in prison, a powerful incentive for businesses to comply. The law’s scope is so broad and guidance so limited that some businesses would rather deny a transaction than risk criminal penalties, the report finds.

“The law is ridiculous,” said Tom Hudson, a lawyer in Hanover, Md., who advises car dealers to use the list to avoid penalties. “It prohibits anyone from doing business with anyone who’s on the list. It does not have a minimum dollar amount. . . . The local deli, if it sells a sandwich to someone whose name appears on the list, has violated the law.”

Bruce Schneier, as always, chimes in with some reason:

This is the same problem as the no-fly list, only in a larger context. And it’s no way to combat terrorism. Thankfully, many businesses don’t know to check this list and people whose names are similar to suspected terrorists’ can still lead mostly normal lives. But the trend here is not good.

Thankfully, the Treasury has put the list (dubbed in typical government jargon-talk as the Specially Designated Nationals list) online in multiple formats. So I grabbed it, and started looking. The list of individual names seemed odd to me as I started reading them, so I decided to do what I always do when I want to visualize a text list…off to TagCrowd!

created at

This cloud is just the top 100 names of individuals from the SDN list…take the names, do a frequency count, rank the top 100, and size them according to number of times they appear.

So what do we notice here? The first thing I noticed was the overwhelming number of Spanish/Hispanic/Latino names, as compared to, oh….Iraqi. You know, the people with whom we are at war.

Anyone have any guesses as to why there are so many Hispanic names listed? After initially being boggled and outraged at the way the list is being used, now I’m just confused by the contents of it.