Monday, August 30, 2010

RIP for the print OED?

From today's Inside Higher Education :

'Oxford English Dictionary' May Soon Be Online Only

Oxford University Press officials said this weekend that they may never again publish a full print edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, the Associated Press reported. While officials said that sufficient demand could prompt a change of heart, they predicted that would not be the case. Online subscribers not only have convenience of use, but get updates on new words every three months. Nigel Portwood, chief executive of Oxford University Press, told The Sunday Times that he didn't think the next edition would be printed. "The print dictionary market is just disappearing, it is falling away by tens of percent a year," he said.

This is certainly not a huge surprise. As a lover of books and a student of history, I am saddened by this just a little. The original OED (and its successors) was a monumental labor to create, and the story of its creation, related in a fascinating book by Simon Winchester entitled The Meaning of Everything (Lake Land owns this as a book on CD, BTW - no, the irony is not lost on me) left me with a sense of gratitude to the thousands of people who worked for many, many year to create such a work. As a librarian, I am somewhat ambiguous; the online version is certainly more accessible and allows for use that would be difficult, if not impossible, to recreate in the printed version. As much as I appreciate having the text in hand, it is very, very difficult to argue that future development should NOT be focused on the online edition.

Some would argue that this is the fate for all printed works, and I will continue to take exception with that. While technology has improved greatly for e-book readers (and will continue to do so), it is still true that most people surveyed do NOT prefer to read large amounts of text in electronic format. This, too, may change, but not as rapidly as some would like to believe.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Important Copyright Development over the Summer

An important copyright ruling related to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act and education occurred over the summer, in case you hadn't seen it:

Librarian of Congress Announces DMCA Section 1201 Rules for Exemptions Regarding Circumvention of Access-Control Technologies


OK, I admit to being a bit of a copyright wonk. But this is an important development in that it addresses the regular review of materials that can be exempted form the DMCA's draconian regulation concerning potential violations of the "circumvention of access-control technologies". While the TEACH Act does give back some of the old fair use protections that the old copyright law used to follow, these restrictions from the DMCA still trumped thos rights, and could result in serious fines being levied on users who chose to bypass those controls to utilize materials in a way that the copyright holder might not be most fond of.

NOTE: I do NOT condone the theft of intellectual property, particularly where someone is trying to make a profit from it - anyone who does is a short-sighted idiot. But I believe that there needs to be balance in the application of such rules and restrictions with the rights of those people who may wish to make use of copyrighted materials, particularly in the educational setting.

NOTE: An important caveat to add to this post, from a professional colleague who also works with copyright:

"More importantly, this exemption to the DMCA’s anti-circumvention rules really has nothing to do with the dispute between UCLA and AIME or with other projects to stream entire digital videos for teaching, in spite of what IHE suggests.  While such projects may or may not be justifiable, this exemption does nothing at all to change or define the boundaries of fair use; it merely carves out a portion of those uses, which the Registrar calls “classic fair use,” for which circumvention is now permitted."