Digital Culture Legal Issues Library Issues Master's Paper Personal

The Perils of Strong Copyright

CC chart

For all the talk that the American Library Association does in regards to Open Access and freely available information, here’s the truth of the matter. A chart showing how a few ALA publications compare to Creative Commons licenses. For a full explanation, read the paper. Chapters 4 and 5 and the Conclusion have the real evidence in them. HTML version forthcoming.

Master's Paper Personal

It is done.

Amazingly and beyond all hope, I’m done. It’s been okay’d all the way around, and I’m meeting Paul in the morning to get the final signatures. Final tally is 81 pages, including the Appendix, Bibliography, and everything else.

PDF copy up on the web very soon, as well as an HTML as quickly as I can manage it.

Master's Paper Personal

Going to bed now.

Another night of the Master’s Paper. Bibliography = check. Abstract = check. Subject headings = check. All formatting = check. All that’s missing is that seal of approval from Paul, which hopefully comes this weekend.

Master's Paper Progress

Master's Paper Personal

It’s you know where your sanity is?

Statistics for Master's paper - 3am, 03/29/04

Master's Paper Personal

Master’s Paper update

  • 31 pages
  • writing the conclusion
  • found lots of damning evidence on the ALA website about their copyright policies
  • pretty happy with the way its going
  • just like in 28 days later, the end is very fucking nigh
Master's Paper Personal


Just passed 25 pages on the paper…going well. Hoping to get through this section this weekend and get it to Paul.

Master's Paper

Stephen Wolfram, and more ranting about Access v. Openness

So today, Stephen Wolfram put his book A New Kind of Science online, accessible to whomever.


It is in an atrocious format (terrible “one page image at a time” thing). It’s horribly difficult to read in this format, and can’t be taken with you on a device (downloaded to a laptop, thrown on a PDA) with any ease. In addition, the Online Terms of Use would choke a horse. Here are some outtakes:

“The terms, conditions and notices below (“Terms of Use”) govern your use of this Site. Your use of this Site constitutes your agreement to these Terms of Use. If you do not agree with these Terms of Use, please do not use this site. Wolfram reserves the right to change, modify, add, or remove portions of these Terms of Use at any time. It is recommended that you refer to these Terms of Use on a regular basis.”

Gee, thanks Stephen…you’re allowed to change the rules in the middle of the game, if you wish.

“Visitors are encouraged to peruse this Site, but must recognize that its content is protected by international copyright, trademark and other intellectual property laws and may not be mirrored, redistributed, printed, publicly performed or displayed, reproduced in bulk, or archived without advance written permission.”

Then later in the page, you find this:

“Personal use is not restricted. Restrictions apply only to material you wish to present publicly or use commercially.”

Umm….one of these things is not like the other…can I mirror the site for personal use? Can I print it for myself?

I suppose in one sense, it’s nice that this is available electronically at all. But how much nicer is Cory Doctorow’s newest book “Eastern Standard Tribe.” It’s available in no fewer than 15 different formats, downloadable, changeable, and licensed under the Creative Commons License.

This, to me, is the difference between “Open Access” and what I’m calling “Open Information.” One gives you what they want, the others gives you the ability to make what you want. There’s a huge difference in the two.

For a particularly bizarre example, check out Cut’n’Paste”n”Rock’n’Roll a site which takes the text of Cory’s two books (Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and Eastern Standard Tribe), Alice in Wonderland, and the BBC new feed, and allows you to “mix” them as you might mix music. Very, very cool, and not possible with overtly restrictive IP controls.

Master's Paper

Master’s Paper rambling…

Here’s a brief response to a post on the commons-blog from the ALA. Originally left as a comment, but I’m linking via trackback as well to try and generate some conversation.
One of the things I’m discussing in my Master’s Paper (soon to be openly available near you) is the lack of a “brand identity” to the open access movement. It is similar to the Free Software/Open Source debates between Stallman and Raymond. I think Raymond is very correct in his assertion that language matters, especially when it comes to convincing others of your opinions.

I, for one, really dislike the label “Open Access” since that seems limiting. Every public webpage is technically “Open Access”…I’m more interested in the Open Source idea of the value of the ability to muck around with information of all sorts. Simple access seems almost a trivial right in the increasingly digital era.

Right now I’m leaning towards “Open Information” as a label for the overarching movement. I’d love to hear other suggestions, though.

Master's Paper

Further thoughts on Intellectual Property

Current intellectual property law is making, it seems to me now, what philsophers might call a category mistake, and here in libraries we might simply call misclassification. This sort of thing happens all the time in the history of science…it appears as if something should be classified one way, either because of explanatory power or just raw appearance. Lower organisms were thought to arise via abiogenesis, the sun moves around the earth, diseases are caused by an imbalance of humours in the body. It also happens in law…legal history is full of examples where classifications turned out to be simply wrong (primarily when it comes to women and minorities).

The reason that I make the science link is that often it is technology that allows the category error to be rectified. The microscope allowed abiogenesis to be proven false, the telescope to show that the shifting of the stars couldn’t be explained by the Earth being the center of the universe.

Broadband and ubiquitous computing, combined with the digital supply chain, will force a reexamination of copyright in much the same way that Pasteur forced a reexamination of the theory of disease. Before broadband and affordable personal computers, the supply chain of intellectual property had analog pieces…books, VHS tapes, the film at a theater. By the “digitization” of the supply chain, I mean that the chain via which media and other intellectual property is distributed is “broken” of its analog history…there is a step in which the property becomes digital, at which point our current tools (high speed networks and personal computers) tell us that what was once “property” cannot really be considered that way anymore. It’s like a microscope focusing for the first time on the eggs of the larva in leaf litter…the mystery of life is taken away from the inorganic, and moved into the realm of the biological. Computers are telling us that “intellectual property” may need this same shift to occur, that we need to take the focus off of “property” and find another label more fitting the object.

Master's Paper

Interesting thought for the day

I’m in the middle of reading a book that I rescued from ALA Midwinter titled The New Humanists, and came across the most lovely description of what computer science should be…I haven’t tracked down the exactly quote yet, so no attribution, but I wanted to get this blogged before I forgot it. The sentiment was, essentially, that we should come to realize that much like cosmology is the study of the cosmos and uses tools like optical and radio telescopes, computer science should realize that the study of computers should use computers as tools, and study the interaction and supervenient properties that emerge within computer networks. Computer = tool. Network = interesting. Properties of complex communication networks = most interesting.