Wednesday, March 23, 2011

UPDATE: Google Books Settlement

A Federal judge in New York state has rejected the Google Books settlement. You can find summaries just about anywhere, but the ALA Washington Office has maintained a nice site that includes a history of the issues surrounding the GBS here. Or you can read another version courtesy of CNET.

Very few people - myself included - think that it would be a bad thing to make materials that are "orphaned" more readily available to scholars and the world at large. But IMO (and apparently that of Judge Chin), handing those rights over to a private company is essentially handing the content over to someone and saying "Here you go. Now how much do you want to charge me to let me look at it?"

Hmmm. Not being very objective, am I? Oh, well - I calls 'em like I sees 'em...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Is What Was Free Always Free?

In copyright law (at least the American iteration of it, since there is no such thing as an international copyright law), when a work goes into the public domain, then it is supposed to be freely usable. There is a goodly long period of protection for such works, so it is not a case of someone publishing a book today and having it pass into the public domain in 10 years (unless, of course, you are Google, and get the decide what the law means to suit yourself...)

But there is a challenge to that concept, which the Supreme Court has agreed to hear this fall. Here's the story, courtesy of the Chronicle of Higher education's Wired Campus blog:

Library Rights Are at Stake in New Supreme Court Copyright Case

This is not a "The Sky Is Falling" kind of issue for most people. But if you are a library who is trying to make old scholarship available from sources outside of America, a decision to restore copyrights to foreign items that have been in the public domain in the U.S. could have very serious implications for libraries, performers, and the general public.

A good quote from the petition for cert: "“If Congress is free to restore material from the public domain at will,” the petition for review argued, “then the public’s federal right to copy and to use public domain material this Court has recognized may evaporate at any time.”

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

WOO HOO! Our 15 minutes of fame...

Our Library System (Lincoln Trail Libraries System) has been doing features on member libraries now for about 18 months. When they approached us the first time, we had just moved out of the building for the renovation work, which didn't exactly seem like a time for us to want to show off (except to show how to shoehorn services into spaces never meant to house them), so we took a pass.

But last week, it was time for our close up (be sure to watch the video, too)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Libraries: Friends or Foes?

An article from today's Inside Higher Education on the relationship between libraries, publishers, and books - particularly e-books.

An interesting read. The article contains a link to a blog posting from Karen Schneider which can be found here that specifically addresses the issue of publishers dictating use to libraries. Again, very interesting stuff.

Certainly, there are parts of the publishing industry that considers libraries as bad for business - specifically, the business of making money from individuals. I don't get this at all. While there are some people out there who will buy anything written by their favorite author, I believe they are a minority compared to the people want to try a book out first, then decide whether they want to keep it permanently. Not surprisingly, a number of those people go to libraries, whether they be public or academic, in order to find those "try it out first" materials. In some cases, people will like something so much that they will go ahead and buy a copy, whether electronically or in print. In others, they decide to spend their money on something else - maybe another book, maybe something entirely different.

So while we may discourage some purchasing (more properly, we give someone the choice as to whether or not to purchase), we probably actually encourage others to purchase who might not have otherwise. That leaves out the folks who would not purchase under any circumstances. It also ignores the fact that libraries are often buying 1 - or 2, or 5, or 10 - copies (in the case of some larger public libraries) of some books to begin with.

So who exactly are we the enemies of? I don't think we are really anyone's enemies, except viewed through one particular prism. Am I missing something?