Archive for the ‘intellectual freedom’ Category

Monetization is key to protecting Internet freedom

May 21st, 2011

The long-term freedom of the Internet may depend, in part, on convincing the big players of the content industry to modernize their business models.

Motivated by “protecting” the content industry, the U.S. Congress is discussing proposed legislation that could be used to seize domain names and force websites (even search engines) to remove links.

Congress doesn’t yet understand that there are already safe and effective ways to counter piracy — which don’t threaten Internet freedom. “Piracy happens not because it is cheaper, but because it is more convenient,” as Arvind Narayanan reports, musing on a conversation with Congresswoman Lofgren.

What the Congresswoman was saying was this:

  1. The only way to convince Washington to drop this issue for good is to show that artists and musicians can get paid on the Internet.
  2. Currently they are not seeing any evidence of this. The Congresswoman believes that new technology needs to be developed to let artists get paid. I believe she is entirely wrong about this; see below.
  3. The arguments that have been raised by tech companies and civil liberties groups in Washington all center around free speech; there is nothing wrong with that but it is not a viable strategy in the long run because the issue is going to keep coming back.

Arvind’s response is that the technology needed is already here. That’s old news to technologists, but the technology sector needs to educate Congress, who may not have the time and skills to get this information by themselves.

The dinosaurs of the content industries need to adapt their business models. Piracy is not correlated with a decrease in sales. Piracy happens not because it is cheaper, but because it is more convenient. Businesses need to compete with piracy rather than trying to outlaw it. Artists who’ve understood this are already thriving.

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Happy Public Domain Day!

January 2nd, 2011

Today, in many countries around the world, new works become public property: January 1st every year is Public Domain Day. Material in the public domain can be used, remixed and shared freely — without violating copyright and without asking permission.

However, in the United States, not a single new work entered the public domain today. Americans must wait 8 more years: Under United States copyright law, nothing more will be added to the public domain until January 1, 2019.

Until the 1970’s the maximum copyright term was 56 years. Under that law, Americans would have been able to truly celebrate Public Domain Day:

  1. All works published in 1954 would be entering the public domain today.
  2. up to 85% of all copyrighted works from 1982 would be entering the public domain today. (Copyright Office and Duke).

Instead, only works published before 1923 are conclusively in the public domain in the U.S. today. What about post-1923 publications? It’s complicated: in the United States1.

For more information on Public Domain Day and the United States, Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain has a series of useful pages.

  1. 609 pages worth of complicated []

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Google Books settlement: a monopoly waiting to happen

October 10th, 2009

Will Google Books create a monopoly? Some1 people think2 so. Brin claims it won’t:

If Google Books is successful, others will follow. And they will have an easier path: this agreement creates a books rights registry that will encourage rights holders to come forward and will provide a convenient way for other projects to obtain permissions.

-Sergey Brin, New York Times, A Library To Last Forever

Brin is wrong: the proposed Google Books settlement will not smooth the way for other digitization projects. It creates a red carpet for Google while leaving everyone else at risk of copyright infringement.

The safe harbor provisions apply only to Google. Anyone else who wants to use one of these books would face the draconian penalties of statutory copyright infringement if it turned out the book was actually still copyrighted. Even with all this effort, one will not be able to say with certainty that a book is in the public domain. To do that would require a legislative change – and not a negotiated settlement.

– Peter Hirtle, LibraryLawBlog: The Google Book Settlement and the Public Domain.

Monopoly is not the only risk. Others include3 reader privacy, access to culture, suitability for bulk and some research users (metadata, etc.). Too bad Brin isn’t acknowledging that!

Don’t know what all the fuss is with Google Books and the proposed settlement? Wired has a good outline from April.

  1. “Several European nations, including France and Germany, have expressed concern that the proposed settlement gives Google a monopoly in content. Since the settlement was the result of a class action against Google, it applies only to Google. Other companies would not be free to digitise books under the same terms.” (bolding mine) – Nigel Kendall, Times (UK) Online, Google Book Search: why it matters []
  2. “Google’s five-year head start and its relationships with libraries and publishers give it an effective monopoly: No competitor will be able to come after it on the same scale. Nor is technology going to lower the cost of entry. Scanning will always be an expensive, labor-intensive project.” (bolding mine) – Geoffrey Nunberg, Chronicle of Higher Education, Google’s Book Search: A Disaster for Scholars (pardon the paywall) []
  3. Of course there are lots of benefits, too! []

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Somebody’s Got to Pay (for Investigative Reporting)

March 7th, 2009

Timothy Burke is my new hero. The death* of newspapers, he says, is a problem mainly because somebody’s got to pay for investigative reporting:

We don’t need newspapers to have film criticism or editorial commentary or consumer analysis of automobiles or comic strips or want ads or public records. It might be that existing online provision of those kinds of information could use serious improvement or has issues of its own. It might be that older audiences don’t know where to find some of that information, or have trouble consuming it in its online form. But there’s nothing that makes published newspapers or radio programming inherently superior at providing any of those functions, and arguably many things that make them quite inferior to the potential usefulness of online media. So throw the columnists and the reviewers and the lifestyle reporters off the newspaper liferaft.

So it comes down to independent, sustained investigation of public affairs. The argument that online media cannot provide this function comes down to money

Burke gives more details and examples, and calls for new funding models, including philanthropic and/or foundation money. He concludes that the “The end of the newspaper model of the last century doesn’t have to be the end of independent investigative reporting.”

Go read the whole thing.
*It seems like death and rebirth, to me, especially with some major newspapers reinventing themselves online. But that’s another matter.

Burke first came to my attention last year, from a talk he gave to the LC Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control at March’s meeting on the Users and Uses of Bibliographic Data. Burke represented and reflected upon the user perspective, as an academic who searches catalogs outside his area of expertise.

Via John Dupuis’s friendfeed.

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