Digital Culture

Make your own Battlestar

Battlestar castI got on the Galactica bandwagon well after most everyone I know…I watched the first few episodes, but never really got sucked in.

Then I got tired of everyone I know talking about it around me, so I just decided I’d catch up on the fraking thing and see what the buzz was about. I’m still not caught up (just finished Season 2) but it’s a good show. There are tons of things I have serious issues with, and I’m just not quite able to get the complete suspension of disbelief going like for Firefly or Heroes. But it’s good, solid, sci-fi TV.

One of the reasons that I decided to start watching, believe it or not, was the coolness of the show’s creators and promotional team. They just launched a Battlestar Galactica VideoMaker page that has on it clips and sound effects to use in your own Galactica videos…amazingly forward thinking of them, and a great way to garner my respect. They were also one of the very first shows to include podcasts of commentaries, which is an amazingly great way to interact with your audience, and add value to your product.

I definitely appreciate the willingness of the Network to involve the audience in new ways, and think this is one of the few ways that commercial video will survive. We are quickly moving into an entertainment era that is post-consumer, and the really interesting shows are providing alternate means of interaction beyond the passive. It’s a brave new world out there, and we’ll see who’s around in 10 years.

Library Issues

Emerald and TurnItIn

I have difficulty relating my feelings about the announcement by Emerald that they have partnered with TurnItIn (again no link love from me…for my views on TiI, feel free to look at my last post on the matter). I do not believe that a journal publisher would voluntarily show such disregard for the Intellectual Property of their authors.

The partnership with iParadigms allows Emerald to address the problems of plagiarism and copyright infringement in two ways:

  • By allowing students, tutors, researchers and editors to compare content that they are submitting, marking, editing or publishing with content previously published by Emerald through the Turnitin and iThenticate services. This will alert the enquirer to possible duplication or plagiarism, and allow them to take the appropriate action, for example revision.
  • By allowing Emerald to be proactive and check submitted work for copyright infringement against content it has previously published, plus 8.6 billion web pages, tens of millions of articles in more than 15,000 periodicals, and copyright free material.

Let’s deconstruct this press release, briefly:

  • iParadigms is described as: “developers of the Turnitin plagiarism detection product for academic institutions and the iThenticate plagiarism detection product for content publishers”
  • This agreement “reinforces Emerald’s proactive stance on plagiarism, and ensures that Emerald content continues to maintain its high standard of integrity.”
  • Malik AboRashid, Senior Director of Business Development, from iParadigms makes a statement that includes the phrase “confirms Emerald’s commitment to supporting integrity in scholarship and their position as a publisher of high quality research”
  • Emerald’s Editorial Director Rebecca Marsh’s statement includes “…help to promote integrity in academic research …” and “…guard against plagiarized and duplicated work appearing in Emerald journals…”
  • Then without warning, we get one mention of copyright: “…Allowing Emerald to be proactive and check submitted work for copyright infringement against content it has previously published…”

The amount wrong with that last bullet could be a novel, but lets start with the fact that they’re now concerned with “copyright infringement” instead of plagiarism. I thought that TurnItIn was a tool used for upholding academic integrity…what sort of “copyright infringement” might be of concern to a academic paper and publisher?

Is Emerald prepared to apply Fair Use principles to these instances? Or will the author simply be told to “fix” the work when nothing is legally wrong? Emerald also, given the above excerpt, appears as if it can’t check its own databases…do they really need TurnItIn to compare a submitted paper to their own holdings?

I, along with other academics, believe strongly that TurnItIn is profiteering off the un-compensating backs of the students. I really hope that a campus student organization at a university where TiI is used takes notice of this soon.

As noted in a comment on ACRLog, this is remarkably humorous when you consider that Emerald has been called out in the past for shady intellectual property treatments:

A librarian at Cornell University has discovered that a major scholarly-journal company, Emerald, has often published the same article in multiple journals without noting that the material had already appeared elsewhere.

“I found journals that were complete copies of one another,” says Philip M. Davis, a life-sciences librarian at Cornell.

He found that Emerald, a British company that publishes journals on management-and-information science, had republished 409 articles in 67 journals from 1989 to 2003. Mr. Davis says that he contacted the authors of the articles and found that, in some cases, Emerald had asked to republish articles, while in other cases authors could not recall whether they had been contacted.

Library Issues

TurnItIn and copyright infringement

All I can say is that it’s about time some students got upset about TurnItIn (no link love from me). I expected that it would be a university student somewhere that realized what they were doing, but nope…it was high school kids.

The for-profit service known as Turnitin checks student work against a database of more than 22 million papers written by students around the world, as well as online sources and electronic archives of journals. School administrators said the service, which they will start using next week, is meant to deter plagiarism at a time when the Internet makes it easy to copy someone else’s words.

But some McLean High students are rebelling. Members of the new Committee for Students’ Rights said they do not cheat or condone cheating. But they object to Turnitin’s automatically adding their essays to the massive database, calling it an infringement of intellectual property rights. And they contend that the school’s action will tar students at one of Fairfax County’s academic powerhouses.

Indeed. I asked TurnItIn representatives years ago at an ALA Midwinter conference how long they thought they could maintain their business model without compensating students for increasing their databases…no suprisingly, they didn’t really respond to my question.

I have long thought that they were getting away with something in the IP arena. Yes, I’m sure they’ve covered their legal bases with click-through licenses and such, but everyone knows those are only good until challenged. I see a class action suit on the way…students who’s work was used to produce profits for TurnItIn should see some of that profit, I think.

I actually spoke up here at UTC during my last faculty plagiarism workshop against TiI. Several of the faculty knew of it, but didn’t understand how it worked or what you got from it…although there were a couple of strident defenders of it in the room, I got across my rather strong feelings on the subject. It’s just wrong, even apart from the IP issues, in the same way that strip searches at the airport are wrong…trading liberties for an illusion of security (or in the case of TurnItIn, trading trust and honestly for guilty until proven innocent) is not the sort of image that our institutes of higher education should be dealing in.

Digital Culture

Allow me to reiterate…

…how exactly fucked the media conglomerates are. To be more specific, the RIAA and the MPAA’s of the world who are still desperately attempting to control content in an age where it is beyond anyones control.

The latest brilliant idea? LaLa, a CD trading site that lets you post your wants and haves, matches you up appropriately with other LaLa subscribers, provides postage paid mailers, and lets the USPS do the swapping. It’s like P2P without the digital. The cost? $1.49 per disc that you swap, giving you the ability to trade old music for new at prices that almost rival AllofMP3. For less than $20 a month, you could have more new music than you could comfortably listen to, all DRM free and with the ability to control it as you see fit.

Just another thing that the RIAA can’t stop. Just wait until some rolls this up with some open source social software that allows small groups to do this without the need for postage. How could they respond if Facebook provided this functionality?

Digital Culture

Pirate Bay

Pirate Bay vs Hollywood

Just to recap the last week or so for The Pirate Bay, the largest bittorrent engine in the world,

They were raided by the police, evidently under pressure from the United States and the MPAA. Keep in mind, of course, that this is in Sweden. You know, one of the places that isn’t the US. Their servers (along with other sites servers, which just happened to be in the same room) are seized.

Three days later:

Pirate Bay is back up, and now operating (evidently) as a distributed site in multiple countries with redundency. Ah, the beauty of Gilmore’s Law in action.

Their own take on it:

Just some stats…
… here are some reasons why TPB is down sometimes – and how long it usually takes to fix:

Tiamo gets *very* drunk and then something crashes: 4 days

Anakata gets a really bad cold and noone is around: 7 days

The US and Swedish gov. forces the police to steal our servers: 3 days

.. yawn.

And finally, an absolutely brilliant speech from some of the people responsible for Pirate Bay, given at the Reboot conference.

The attack on Pirate Bay is an attack on that grey zone. Rather than securing their own copyrights, the movie industry are attacking an infrastructure that is needed for many kinds of independent production. They are not attacking piracy in general, as the sharing of digital files can always take its physical routes. They are attacking the very possibility to interconnect metadata of private archives. But while intellectual property will surely continue to be a battleground for major clampdowns in our society, there will always be enumerable lots of open ways.

How cool are these dudes? They have their own political party. Seriously. How much is a one way ticket to Sweden these days?

Digital Culture

Justin is famous!

Not only has everyone’s favorite Watt been featured on his local TV affiliate, but he’s right now on the front page of BoingBoing AND he’s in the most recent USA Today. There’s still time to get more parodies out there, if anyone is interested.

Un-freakin-believable, and a huge story for free speech, copyright issues, and blogging. Way to go, Justin! I can say that I knew you when… 🙂

UPDATE: And, evidently, in the New York freakin’ Times. Very nice.
Justin in the NYT