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August 29, 2006

Free the Gov't Info round-up

Free Government Information is such a wonderful site that even when I do have/make time to post, I no longer feel compelled to post about gov docs. But these three little items either amuse, horrify or please me greatly (and maybe all three).

From BoingBoing:

A. Using trademark law to inhibit criticism of a product or company is not uncommon. But I haven't heard of the federal government attempting to do so ... until now:

I recently received a letter from the Department of Homeland Security at work asking us to change the graphics on our website ReallyReady.org. They believe we have infringed on their “intellectual property” because we used logos and graphics that were similar to those used on their site. (That was part of the point we were making) Their complaint was specifically that we were using the grey word “ready” with a green checkmark over it.

And unlike copyright, trademark protection is theoretically unlimited in duration.

ReallyReady, a project of the Federation of American Scientists, is here. For a comparison, here is DHS's site.

BoingBoing again:

B. Some guy is holding held USGS maps hostage. Really. Take a look at the ransom note. If the drop-off goes well, the documents will be released to the Internet Archive. (And as of now ... they've been "liberated".) Which moves government information from the "free as in speech" analogy to the "free as in beer" one. I haven't looked at one of those USGS CDs in a while ... are there any copyright or licensing notices on them? If not ... how come no one tried doing this before?

Q: Are the maps in any danger?

A: The maps are comfortable. I have them tied up and blindfolded, but they are fed regularly and given several bathroom breaks a day. I have no intention of harming the maps. Just meet the ransom, and no maps get hurt.

Do I see our own Jessamyn West numbered among the Liberators?

C. The contract between Google and UC for UC's libraries to contribute to the Google Book Search (are they still calling it that) is available to the public. Hooray for public institutions and FOIA requirements! Karen Coyle has a detailed review of the contract at her blog.

August 28, 2006

Putting words in Lawrence Lessig's mouth

I went to see Larry Lessig earlier this month, and while I should hesitate to re-contextualize his remarks too recklessly, I am not.

While he never referred to libraries in the talk, the gist of his remarks lead me to say this:

Lawrence Lessig believes in Library 2.0. Well, certain aspects of Library 2.0. Actually, his thing is bigger than Library 2.0 -- his focus was on participatory culture and how the Internet contributes to and inhibits that culture.

Raw notes are below.

Stanford Breakfast Briefing
Lawrence Lessig - Stanford Law School

Free Culture

John Philip Sousa opposed victrolas - thought it would ruin participatory culture

read-write culture vs. read-only (i.e. passive) culture - buying and consuming

Was Sousa right?

Creation and distributed of cultural products increasingly concentrated

Internet allows for recreation of read-write culture and the continuation of the read-only culture
mere consumption vs comsumption + creation + sharing

AMV - anime music videos
Political mash-ups
Religion-disco lipsynch videos

New literacy of the 21st century

Values of RW culture: democratic, social, educational
Also, can create more economic value - huge potential for economic growth compared to RO

(c) law supports RO Internet but it hasn't always provided control by content owners
Ex. books
Uses were mostly unregulated by the law: to read it, give it, sell it, sleep on it
3 layers of rights: free rights/uses, regulated uses/rights, fair uses (things that could be regulated, but are not due to other/conflicting values)
Focus on commercial uses, not personal uses
Change in technology has changed the equation - in the digital realm, working with

Law conflicts with/rejects the RW Internet
Permission is required for everything but is not
(c) currently requires permission and threatens to smother/over-burden RW culture

The problem is not copyright law, but a particular architecture of (c) law

We're in a war to protect the business models of companies that we know, while oblivious to new business models

How to fix - recognize the dissonance and update/reform the law
3 steps:
* Be opposed against "piracy" - it's not about free music
* Find a way to change the law - problem: "IP McCarthyism" (i.e. - people who advocate for reform risk being called "Commies" or "pirates")
* Promote private reform - ex.: Creative Commons (comes with 3 layers: human-readable license, lawyer-readable license, machine-readable RDF)

Free distribution of content - may create/increase a market for traditional sales
ex.: Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
South Africa HSRC (Human Science Research Council)

Divergence between pop culture and science/university culture - the latter is built on the sharing of knowledge and is fighting for openness

CC is not a solution, it's a step

This is basically an age of prohibition -- corrosive effect on the rule of law

The law should not be reformed today - the next generation will have their own understanding of culture that (c) law needs to take into account

Books and writing are becoming the modern version of Latin in churches, while the vulgar/vernacular is video & music

We have 400 years of norms regarding text and democratization of same, while we have maybe 4 years of norms regarding video

One of my highlights of London


It's an actual access card to go to the reading rooms of the British Library. If I had been carrying a utility bill with me, then the card would have been good for a year, but since I'm not in the habit of doing so (perhaps I should), the card was only good for that day.

Which was sufficient. And simply not enough. I could have spent my entire time in London in the British Library and an additional week aside, and it would not have been enough time.

It was glorious and cool and I had tea and saw several groaning shelves of Mansell in the Humanities room.
I also hung out in the Business and IP Centre, which was styled as a small-business and entrepeneurial laboratory. I asked if there was any material on fair use, and the librarian directed me to the legal section (in the Social Science room).

I need to find a way to go back ... any ideas?

August 26, 2006

Munich Libraries

While I was in Munich, I visited 2 libraries. One was part of the Deutsches Museum – perhaps the oldest scientific/technical museum in the Europe. As befits the Museum, the library is devoted to scientific and technical content, in German and English. And it’s open to anyone. However, the guy behind the desk was dubious when I asked if I could visit the library – he kept trying to point me in the direction of the actual museum, across the courtyard.

It was quiet, straightforward and lacking in fascination – not that it didn’t keep me from being fascinated by the library. I actually took pictures, but I ended up dealing them after a while ...

More fascinating was the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek – the state library. It, too, is open to all. There were lockers for people to use, as well as a cloak room (garderobe), but their use were mandatory – no backpacks/briefcases or overcoats were allowed in the reading rooms. Columns, high ceilings ... it was pretty fancy ... and very busy. Being a state library, the focus of the library is on German readers, so there was not much displayed/available in English (it's as though they don't expect tourists or something). The library is located Ludwig Maximilian Universitat, so there was a lot of college students. There was a special exhibit of illuminated and older illustrated books – some religious (hymnals and the like) and others with a geographic/cartographic theme.

But what really caught my eye was the technology – I think I saw some sort of card/barcode or radio tag reader. An older man was walking out of the library with a stack of books – he stopped at a small keypad device, fished out his wallet, waved it around, and then puttered out. I thought about staying to watch what other people did, but I didn’t want to be accused of stalking in a language in which I AM not fluent …

The library had a major reproduction/reprographics area on the first floor, but there weren’t photocopies in or near the reading rooms. Instead, there were – scanners. Book scanners. I was so gob-smacked, I took a couple of photos. It looked as though a library card or copy card was needed to operate the scanner, so I didn’t try it out. What made the scanners even more fascinating (there’s that word again) was something I learned in my European IP class: in German libraries, while users can access digital material (PDFs, music files, etc.), they cannot save or download any of that material onto their own media (if I’m wrong or that explanation is too simplistic, feel free to leave a comment and school me).

There was also something that caught my ear: both libraries were silent. Within the reading rooms, it was deathly quiet. People generally didn’t speak above a whisper – the one exception was when I could easily hear a conversation happening in the men’s room in the general reading room. Ah, acoustics.

But the biggest culture shock: even the libraries in Germany sell beer. In bottles, not on tape, but hey ...

August 16, 2006

The Onion and DDC

I wonder if this really ever happens:

DUBLIN, OH—Members of the OCLC Online Computer Library Center’s Editorial Policy Committee, which oversees the Dewey Decimal System library classification system, were no closer Monday to assigning a definitive call number to the recently published Jim Belushi book Real Men Don’t Apologize.