Library Issues Master's Paper

And still the Perils comments roll in…

Had a good conversation via email over the last few days with Walt Crawford, who discusses Perils briefly in his latest issue of Cites and Insights. While he had emailed me to warn me that it wasn’t all positive, I think that the points he makes are very valid (I’m becoming more aware of issues with Perils by the day). That said, I appreciate the complimentary nature of many of his comments.

And still, the spread and attention continues to amaze me. In the beginning of his comments, Walt says “Griffey publicized his paper widely.” I’m not sure how wide posting it to a blog and emailing it to one of the authors that I cited reasonably extensively (Cory Doctorow) is. From there to BoingBoing, and from there it snowballed enormously. I can’t say I’m not pleased, but I am still surprised.

Digital Culture Legal Issues Library Issues Master's Paper Personal

To everyone still coming by for Perils

Thanks for the attention, and I hope you enjoy the Perils of Strong Copyright. I’m somewhere over 1500 hits since this time last week, so I thought maybe people felt funny about jumping in in the middle of the original posts below.

If you have any feedback, I’d love to hear it. I thought it would be easier for people just reading it to leave comments here, rather than getting buried in last weeks dialogue. So feel free to let me know what you think….good or bad. Both will help when I try to work this into an article for publication in some (open access) journal.

Digital Culture Library Issues Master's Paper

Perils, take 4

This is in response to a very thoughtful comment here.

I did indeed contact Rick looking for names at the ALA, early in the writing of the paper in an attempt to gather more copyright statements. The focus of the paper changed several times in the writing, and after examining many options, the most time-expedient thing for me to do was to rely on the web statements. I was certainly not concerned about being lied to or anything of that nature. After the fact, I would guess that speaking with publishers would not have given me significantly more information about the copyright stance of the individual publications than were available on the respective webpages. I would have gotten more detailed information, perhaps, or a more nuanced understanding of the positions, but my assumption was that their position should be contained within their copyright statement. It might have been just as interesting to simply look at whether or not the journals were open…a simple deliniation of “open” or “closed” may have been enough to illustrate my position. The examination of the copyright policies was an attempt to draw further support for the paper.

To say that I had a “preordained conclusion” is partially true, of course. This paper was designed to show something. What that thing was changed several times over the writing of it, but it seems obvious that there is a disconnect between the ALA’s actions and speech. If I had started researching peer-reviewed ALA journals and found Open Access after Open Access, that would have indeed thrown a wrench in the paper. But that’s not what I found.

Do not mistake the fact that I think that the ALA has done marvelous things for information in this country. The cases mentioned in the paper are all positive, to my mind. The ALA has long been a champion of the freedom of information. That is why I was so surprised when I began looking over the actual journals.

It may be that we are of differing opinion on the burden of proof in this case. It is entirely possible that I have failed in the paper to give sufficient evidence for the claim(s) that I make, although I do believe that I am on the right track. I also believe that there is evidence that the ALA needs to examine its own journals, and that it should be “opening” its journals in the same way that it suggests that other publishers should. If this examination is the only result of this paper, then it has been a success.

As I’ve said repeatedly, I am currently working on a revision of this into an article for submission to a journal. In that article, I hope to address many of the concerns brought forward re: Perils of Strong Copyright. As a Master’s Paper, I think it was successful in what I was attempting to do: show that there is a disconnect of a type within the ALA as it pertains to Open Access of information. There are MANY disconnects within the ALA, and indeed, with any large organization. It is only when they are pointed to that they are dealt with…the hope was only that Perils be a signpost pointing towards a better future for the organization.

Digital Culture Library Issues Master's Paper Personal

Perils of Strong Copyright, take 3

In reply to Commons-blog and Rick Emrich’s thoughtful response to “Perils of Strong Copyright” I’d like to address just a couple of points.

First: I fully agree with his statement that further research would be helpful in supporting my case. Had I more time to devote fully to the paper, and had I chosen a different research strategy, I could have developed a much stronger case than currently laid out in Perils. I don’t know that I necessarily agree with “research base is insufficient to deal with the range of issues he addresses.” The range of issues is broad, but the central issue is very simple, and very clear.

The ALA seems to be saying one thing, and doing something very different.

I think that the evidence submitted shows this.

I kept asking myself during the planning portion of the paper, and then through the research and into the writeup: “How far should I go in gathering information?” I made a conscious effort to rely on publically available information that the ALA provides, and NOT to contact members of the publishing industry. The statements that the ALA has made in regards to Open Access publications were public statements. Why is giving the copyright information the same level of focus a negative? I would expect there to be some measure of agreement between the information available to authors on the websites noted in Perils and the Open Access statements that the ALA has made. I found little to none of this agreement in the publically available information. That is what interested me initially, and thus what I focused on.

I was very surprised at the speed with which Perils was distributed. I was expecting to show it to a few people, gain some feedback, and revise it into something new. However, I am very proud of the fact that the vast majority of the feedback has been and continues to be positive. I am extraordinarily pleased that people are discussing this topic, and hope to play a role in these discussions.

In a reply on Commons blog, Eli Edwards suggests “a virtual symposium/defense of the paper for people to share opinions and ideas” on the topic. I hope that this happens, and I hope that the discussion continues long after the week or so that this stays on the radar. I would be happy to take part in something of this sort, if anyone out there is interested.

Digital Culture Legal Issues Library Issues Master's Paper

Perils of Strong Copyright, continued

The last 24 hours have been quite interesting! The feedback has been roaring in…99% positive, with a few corrections and questions sent my way. One gentleman from Canada pointed out my misuse of the term “schizophrenic” on page 8, which I appreciate. I was looking for something more along the lines of “hypocritically” and may have unintentionally misused the term.

I did receive one response from someone associated with the ALA, specifically Knowledge Quest (KQWeb, to be precise). Laura Pearle, the associate editor of KQWeb said:

“I read with interest your comments about Open Access and ALA. As Associate Editor for KQWeb, I am aware of their policies and it appears to me that you have misrepresented the ALA’s position. In your appendix you have copies of the two copyright agreements ALA offers. One does assign to ALA all rights. The other, however, only assigns limited rights (that of first publication) and the rest remain with the author. It is the author’s choice, not ALA’s, which agreement is signed….

…You might want to re-read the agreements and rework your thesis on the basis of that rereading. ”

I must say that I do not believe that I have misrepresented the ALA’s position (indeed, I think I have described that they don’t currently know their position, since they say one thing, and behave differently). As far as Knowledge Quest specifically, perhaps I was confused by the following passage on the “Instructions for Authors” portion of the KQ website , where it states:


A manuscript published in the journal is subject to copyright by the American Library Association for the American Association of School Librarians. Additional information about copyright policies is available from the ALA Office of Rights and Permission.”

That seemed a reasonably clear statement. If there is the opportunity for authors to retain copyright, perhaps this statement should be altered to reflect that.

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.

Library Issues

Library Salary Database

So the ALA has launched a Librarian Salary Database, which collects (according to the email press release):

The Library Salary Database includes aggregated data from 10,631 actual salaries for six librarian positions in 1053 public and academic libraries.

The site itself, however, says:

The Library Salary Database has current aggregated salary data for 68 library positions from more than 35,000 individual salaries of actual employees in academic and public libraries in the United States.

So which is it? 6 positions, or 68? I’m certainly not paying to find out! Jenifer kindly clarifies in the comments…

As unclear as the actual sources may be, no one disputes that the data they are aggregating is collected from their own constituents. Who else is reporting this, if not ALA members. So the ALA is collecting the info, and then selling it back to us. For an annual rate of $150!!!!!

This is yet another of the absolutely insane things that come out of ALA. I might understand charging outside interests for the information, but this should be free for members. Then again, I think that the ALA should be operating in a far more open and free manner than it has for years (some of you might remember my Master’s Paper, which, flawed as I admit portions are, spoke strongly against the locking up of ALA content)

I’ve not talked at length about my individual issues with the organization yet, but if I could be a LITA member without being an ALA member, you can bet I’d go there. ALA as a whole is overgrown and needs a good weeding.

Now that I think about it, sets of facts really aren’t copyrightable. Anyone out there with the ability to scrape this database and produce a free version? I’ll pony up the $30 for a months access if it frees the data behind the scenes.

I missed my blogiversary!

As a cow-orker pointed out, I missed celebrating my blogiversary! On Feb 10, this thing has been around for 3 years. Over the course of those years, this is the third software system I’ve used (started in Blogger, moved to Radio Userland, then to WordPress). Since Feb 10, 2003:

Seems really odd to have that many years behind me since I started this. Even more odd? It looks like people actually read it. 🙂 This year, I’ve averaged 161 people per day hitting my RSS feed, and 1100 or so Sessions per day. Raw hits are over 6000 a day, which blows my mind, and has to be hugely because of spambots and such. The rest of the stats are equally interesting, though:


So thanks to everyone who reads, subscribes or just wanders by occasionally. I do this mostly for me, but I certainly appreciate the fact that others think it’s worth their time.

Library Issues


Really great article examining the trade-offs for Open Access by T. Scott Plutchak, the editor of the JMLA. The opening paragraph is a great illustration of the sorts of surprising audiences you get when you open up your content.

Between June of 2004 and May of 2005, the number of unique users accessing the Journal of the Medical Library Association (JMLA) and its predecessor, the Bulletin of the Medical Library Association (BMLA), on the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Central (PMC) system averaged just over 20,000 per month. When I first saw these numbers on the PMC administration site, I was astonished. The members of the Medical Library Association (MLA) itself (who we might presume are the main audience of the JMLA) number only about 4,500, and the print run of the journal is generally in the neighborhood of 5,000 copies. It seemed likely to me that the number of unique readers in any given month would be just some fraction of that core audience.

I find the article really refreshing, especially since I somewhat unfairly critiqued the JMLA in my Master’s Paper for not going Open Access. While I know my little diatribe didn’t have an effect on it, it’s refreshing to see Mr. Plutchak singing the praises of OA anyway. We had a bit of a discussion after the publication of my Master’s Paper, and he was very kind in pointing out areas where I had possibly mis-represented the JMLA and its stances. I was grateful at the time, and remain so.

Very nice article…I’d love to see more and more of this cost/benefit analysis going on. I’ve been saying for years now that the benefits of OA far outweigh the doom-and-gloom that publishers sometimes espouse.

Digital Culture Library Issues

MP3’s, audiobooks, and libraries

So I got an email yesterday from Shel, asking me my thoughts on ripping audiobooks from a library:

..I was wondering the other day though – I checked out a Jimmy Buffet audio CD from the library and ripped it to listen to my iPod. I then, honestly, felt guilty. Like I was somehow cheating the library or something – or more accurately, using the library inappropriately when the library had always been my friend. Have the Powers That Be just not thought about all the media sitting on library shelves, there for the taking/ripping/copying? Have libraries somehow slipped through the cracks? Just curious on your take on the situation.

She also pointed towards a BoingBoing post, originally from Neil Gaiman’s blog where a reader asks for Neil’s take on the copying of audiobooks from a library to an iPod or other MP3 player. His response:

What a wonderful ethical question. I feel almost rabbinical pondering it. No, I don’t believe you’ve broken any law. If you’d checked out the MP3 CD from your library you’d be expected to put it onto your iPod, after all. There’s a weird sort of ethical fogginess, in that I suspect that part of the idea of libraries is that when you’re done with something you return it, and of course once you have your MP3 on your computer and iPod you can keep it forever. But I think this is just one of those places where changes in technology move faster than the rules.

If you’re listening to it, and you’ve got an iPod or suchlike MP3 player, you’re almost definitely going to listen to it on your iPod. That’s how things are, and it’s a good thing (it’s why I got Harper Collins to release American Gods and Anansi Boys on MP3 CD, after all).

Probably wisest not to pull it off your iPod and give it to other people, though. Let them at least take it out of the library themselves.

I’m so happy to see an author who at least understands the perception of his readers…of course we’ll copy the files to our portable devices. My take on it? Well…it’s not to hard to figure out that I’m a copyright liberal. I feel like the consolidation of the media companies and their lobbying power in Congress has created a copyright situation that is completely out of control. And I do think that copying audiobooks that you have checked out of a library to a portable media device (MP3 player, mini disc, etc) counts as fair use. It’s format shifting. I can’t currently get a lot of audiobooks in a purely digital format (ie..downloadable), and I certainly can’t check them out of a library that way! There have been some experiments with digital audio books in libraries, but I don’t think they are widespread, nor do I think they are going to crop up across the country.