The annual banned books week roundup for 2013

salinger's 60 years later, banned in the US

For some reason last year I didn’t do my annual roundup of Banned Books Week websites. Here is a link to the source of the image above which is from the New Yorker’s article about the JD Salinger-evocative book 60 Years Later, Coming Through the Rye which is illegal to sell in the US. You can find more news articles about that situation at the author’s small Wikipedia page. You can look at past posts on this topic by checking out the bannedbooksweek tag here or here is a list of the annual posts: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. I skipped 2005 and 2012.

As usual, you get a neat real-time look at what’s going on by following the Twitter hashtag. Do NOT look at the bbw twitter hashtag as I mistakenly did last night. As usual there are two “main” sites the ALA site at ala.org/bbooks and the bannedbooksweek.org site which is really nice looking this year. The BannedBooksWeek Twitter account is still moribund which is a damned shame. The Virtual Read Out doesn’t seem to have any new videos this year… yet?

Please remember if you are a librarian who has a book that is challenged, report it to the ALA so they can keep track of it.

Here is the list of organizations who are co-sponsors. Let’s look at their websites.

The language of the censor is the language of the tyrant, the absolutist, the one with no vision. It is the antithesis of art because it assumes that there is only one perspective, one reality, and that anything that fails to rhyme with it is a sin against nature. But the real sin against nature is to suffocate personal truths and experiences with wobbly doctrine and to disguise it as morally just. Art— particularly literature—exists to show us there are as many worlds as there are people. Each of these worlds come with its own laws. These laws vary from person to person, but if there is one that they have in common it is to share your truth. We owe it to our humanity and our short time among other humans to respect the truths that are shared with us. – Nick Burd

Websites are working and the word is getting out. I was pleased with this year’s collections of content. What I’m concerned about, as per usual, are challenges and censorship that don’t even reach the physical items on the library shelves. What about this Salinger book? Worldcat shows 40 copies of it, a handful of which are in the US, and the reviews of it haven’t been so great anyhow. But the idea that the book wasn’t obtained and removed, it was never obtained in the first place (as we see with so much born-digital content that we can’t even get in lendable format) opens a door to all new ways that libraries can not get books. The old challenges (dirty cowboy? really? do not google that) remain and new ones appear.

on public domain and “public domain”

There has been a lot of great writing about copyright and access to our cultural and intellectual history in the weeks since Aaron Swartz’s death. I have been retreading some of my old favorite haunts to see if there was stuff I didn’t know about the status of access to online information especially in the public domain (pre-1923 in the US) era.

I talk like a broken record about how I think the best thing that libraries can do, academic libraries in particular, is to make sure that their public domain content is as freely accessible as possible. This is an affirmative decision that Cornell University made in 2009 and I think it was the right decision at the right time and that more libraries should do this. Some backstory on this.

So, if I wanted to share an image from a book that Cornell has made available, I have to check the guidelines link above and then I can link to the image, you can go see it and then you can link to the image and do whatever you want with it, including sell it. This is public domain. The time and money that went into making a digital copy of this image have been borne by the Internet Archive and Cornell University. The rights page on the item itself (which I can download in a variety of formats) is clear and easy to understand.

Compare and contrast JSTOR. Now let me be clear, I am aware that JSTOR is a (non-profit) business and Cornell is a university and I am not saying that JSTOR should just make all of their public domain things free for everyone (though that would be nice), I am just outlining the differences as I see them in accessing content there. I had heard that there were a lot of journals on JSTOR that were freely available even to unaffiliated people like myself. I decided to go looking for them. I found two different programs, the Register and Read program (where registered users can access a certain number of JSTOR documents for free) and the Early Journal Content program. There’s no front door, that I saw, to the EJC program you have to search JSTOR first and then limit your search to “only content I can access” Not super-intuitive, but okay. And I’m not trying to be a pill, but doing a search on the about.jstor.org site for “public domain” gets you zero results though the same is true when searching for “early journal content” and also for “librarian.” Actually, I get the same results when I search their site for JSTOR. Something is broken, I have written them an email. [update: they fixed it!]

So I go to JSTOR and do a similar search, looking for only “content I can access” and pick up the first thing that’s pre-1923 which is an article about Aboriginal fire making from American Anthropologist in 1890. I click through and agree to the Terms of Service which is almost 9000 words long. Only the last 260 words really apply to EJC. Basically I’ve agreed to use it non-commercially (librarian.net accepts no advertising, I an in the clear) and not scrape their content with bots or other devices. I’ve also seemingly acquiesced to credit them and to use the stable URL, though that doesn’t let me deep-link to the page with the image on it, so I’ve crossed my fingers and deep-linked anyhow. I’m still not sure what I would do, contact JSTOR I guess, if I wanted to use this document in a for-profit project. Being curious, I poked around to see if I could find this public domain document elsewhere and sure enough, I could.

At that point, I quit looking. I found a copy that was free to use. This, however, meant that I had to be good at searching, quite persistent and not willing to take “Maybe” as an answer to “Can I use this content?” I know that when I was writing my book my publishers would not have taken maybe for an answer, they were not even that thrilled to take Wikimedia Commons’ public domain assertions.

As librarians, I feel we have to be prepared to find content that is freely usable for our patrons, not just content that is mostly freely usable or content where people are unlikely to come after you. As much as I’m personally okay being a test case for some sort of “Yeah I didn’t read all 9000 words on the JSTOR terms and conditions, please feel free to take me to jail” case, realistically that will not happen. Realistically the real threat of jail is scary and terrible and expensive. Realistically people bend and decide it’s not so bad because they think it’s the best they can do. I think we can probably do better than that.

Making it Happen – Iowa City Public Library licenses local music for patrons

File this one under “why I still read press releases even though 95% of them are junk” Got a nice email from John Hiett of Iowa City Public Library letting me know about their local music project which is launching today. Hiett explains: “We’re offering local cardholders free, DRM-less downloads of records by local musicians. We’ve leased the rights for a two year period at $100 per record. We launch this beast June 8 at music.icpl.org. We have over 30 albums locked down, but the list is growing and we expect to top out at around 50. This includes most of the best known Iowa City bands over the last couple decades.”

I thought this was a pretty cool sounding project and one that I’m surprised more libraries haven’t already been doing for years. I emailed John back to ask him a few questions about it.

1. You say in your FAQ that you think this is a replicable model for other libraries. What would you suggest for other libraries who want to try something like this?

You’d need a budget, some web expertise and some authentication software to keep it local, none of which should be too much of a barrier. Feel free to adopt our contract, available at http://music.icpl.org/music_licensing_agreement.pdf

Just get bands signed up, collect W-9 forms for tax purposes, rip the disc, scan the cover, post, and let people know.

2. What was the most challenging part of this project?

Apparently, nobody starts a band to fill out paperwork. While musicians almost unanimously responded enthusiastically to our initial pitch, getting them to actually sign the contract often took quite a bit of follow-up. I tried not to beg, but in a few cases . . .

Having a good team makes a big difference. When I took this idea to our director, Susan Craig, I asked for enough money to lease 20 albums at $50 each. She said to get 50 and offer $100. Our webmaster James Clark’s work recalls that old Arthur C. Clarke quote, ” Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Mara Cole’s artwork moves me in ways that commercial art shouldn’t. Other people have coordinated publicity, kept track of the financial details, and done original cataloging.

The challenging part may be yet to come. If we don’t generate some threshold of downloads, it’s only been a fun experiment. Also, I’m already hearing from musicians who want to be included, tho the money’s gone for now. Letting them down gently might be hard.

3. What inspired you to decide to do the legwork on a project like this instead of going with one of the off-the-shelf music options?

I was watching Dave Zollo play late one night (definitely a Talent Deserving Wider Recognition) and wondered why we sent all our music money out of town, when he was as good as anyone we bought (and he uses our library). I may have had a few at that point, but emailed myself. The more I thought about it, the more I saw how it could work. Plus, it gave me a chance to meet some cool people.

James Joyce in Ireland: Is for the librarians the same as by the librarians?

Interesting backstory about the timing of the National Library of Ireland’s decision to publish rare James Joyce manuscripts online. Controversial Joyce scholar, Danis Rose is claiming that EU copyright gives one “economic rights” if they are the first to publish public domain materials and is publishing these manuscripts via a US publishing house called House of Breathings. And maybe all libraries with digitized online manuscripts have these sort of warnings, but this collection seems more heavily warned than most, see below.

“What do they expect us to do, go to the library?” a wrap-up of the SOPAstrike

Congress, it's no longer okay to not know how the internet works.

I was surprised by how much activity there was yesterday over SOPA/PIPA.

If you’ve been following along you’ll know that SOPA/PIPA are the House and Senate versions of a bill that has been proposed in order to manage the fact that there are a lot of websites that basically help you get copyrighted content for free. I’ve spoken previously about my opposition to this legislation and I made my site “go dark” thanks to a WordPress plugin, to register my displeasure. On MetaFilter we made an interstitial clickthrough page so that everyone coming to the site would see it and would be encouraged to contact their representatives if in the US, or other actions for non-US people. And I knew other sites were doing it, most notably Reddit, but I was surprised personally at just how big it got how quickly.

And by the time I called Patrick Leahy, the guy who was actually responsible for drafting PIPA, and his Montpelier office said they were having technical difficulties and to please call the Burlington office, I knew something was up. And I spoke to a staffer who clearly thought I was some sort of “Hey the internet sent me” person, telling me “It’s not like Google says it is” and seemed surprised though maybe not pleased when I went into the details of what my objections to the law were. And I used the internet like usual, except things weren’t usual. Wikipedia was dark (read this link for some laughs). Reddit was dark. BoingBoing was dark. Cheezeburger network and Craigslist had clickthroughs. Google did a custom logo. In fact I found it a little tough to predict which sites might go dark. The Syracuse iSchool had a very well done page. ALA hadn’t done anything in the morning but thanks to a little nudging, had a message of support up in the afternoon. The protest made the news. Here’s a quick roundup of some screenshots I made, in case you missed some or all of them. And, to bring this full circle, here’s Jon Stewart talking about how this sort of thing just might drive people back to the library.

Ultimately what is interesting to me is what happened. Several legislators changed their votes (check yours here). It was interesting seeing these roll in over Twitter before turning into more official sounding statements later in the day. At last count twenty senators announced opposition to the bill this week. Check this graphic. That, to me, is sort of a big deal.

Pirating for Dummies – torrenting easy-ish to block, but does it solve any real problem?

I think one of the many many things that is exacerbated by the digital divide is the gap in understanding about digital content. That is, the difference between what digital content is innately, what it becomes when it becomes a transactional item (i.e. with checkoutability), and what aspects of both of these “states of being” are created by whom.

So, it’s one thing to say “We have ebooks!” and quite another to represent the “ecosystem” of ebooks (to quote a recent talk I heard from a representative of the American Publishers’ Association) as being analogous to the one that paper books inhabit. This is just a long lead-up to linking to this article about bittorenting and using it to access copyrighted works and what you might find there. The author, Jeff Duntemann, is a friend of a friend and wrote a piece looking at which Dummies books are actually available on The Pirate Bay in the light of Wiley filing a copyright lawsuit against people pirating their books using Bittorent. For people familiar with the world of underground ebooking, this will be nothing new. For people who aren’t quite sure exactly how people get and/or redistribute digital content, this post should be helpful for you. Duntemann notes that the bulk of ebook swapping likely isn’t even taking place on big public torrent tracking sites like The Pirate Bay because ebook files are smaller and can be distributed in any number of different ways. He notes:

Video rules the torrent world because video is big, and the BitTorrent protocol is the most effective way to get video downloaded quickly. Small files like ebooks are elsewhere, unless they’re gathered into massive collections the size of Blu-Ray rips. Ebook piracy seems to be a minor issue today because ebook piracy is mostly invisible. It’s out there, and for all that I’ve pondered the problem, I return to the conclusion that the problem has no solution other than to sell the goods easily and cheaply, and to stop teaching people to be pirates by making the media experience complicated with DRM.

In the meantime, I’m considering purchasing this book for my local library. I think we as librarians need to understand these systems if we’re going to be working within and around them.

The uncomfortable problem of orphans – MLibrary’s approach

Orphan works are works that are in-copyright but do not have a contactable copyright holder. They’re tricky and annoying as far as reuse goes because while technically they’re not re-usable without permission, how do you get permission? People have discussed this problem at length, but The University of Michigan’s Copyright office — the people who are working on the copyright review management system — are trying to do something about it. They launched a project to try to track down and identify the rights holders of orphan works created between 1923-1963 in the HathiTrust Digital Library. In doing so, they hope to get a general idea of the scope of the problem and at the same time develop best practices for identifying orphan works. They might also help HT make more of their content available as its copyright status is determined.

Australian librarians and their copyright dance – puttin’ on the writs

Video of staff from the National Library of Australia performing at their 2010 Christmas party. Fun! [thanks iain!]

Copyright is killing sound archiving and fair use isn’t doing so well either


Fair Use poster image by Timothy Vollmer

The Library of Congress just released its 181 page report “The State of Recorded Sound Preservation in the United States: A National Legacy at Risk in the Digital Age” talking about the challenges of digitally archiving sound recording. BoingBoing gives a nice summary “[T]he copyright laws that the recording industry demanded are so onerous that libraries inevitably have to choose whether to be law-breakers or whether to abandon their duty to preserve and archive audio.” More analysis from OSNews.

And if anyone’s wondering where I’ve been this week, the answer is “Mired in getting copyright permissions for the intellectual property in my book. Thanks for asking.” I have a pretty firm grasp of Fair Use and have been trying to follow the guidelines for Fair Use in Media Literacy Education. I signed a book contract that specifically says that I am responsible for assuring that my materials are being used with permission. Despite this, my publisher (who I am quite fond of otherwise) is risk-averse and wants to make sure I have permission anyhow. Permission that I assert that I don’t need for small screenshots of, say, Google search results or an ALA nested menu.

This gets even more confusing when some of the organizations involved claim that I need permission when I don’t. Since Fair Use, like the Americans with Disabilities Act, is mostly something that gets hammered out through litigation there is no strict set of guidelines as to what Fair Use is. So, big companies with a lot to lose err on the side of compliance with other big companies’ requests, requests that may be extralegal. So Google can’t legally tell you to only use the public domain offerings from Google Books (which they admit) but they make a polite request, a polite request that sounds a lot like a terms of service.

So right now I’m waiting to hear back from Facebook after filling out a form on their website asking for permission to use a screenshot. They say it will take 1-2 weeks. I am confident that my screenshot is fair use. My editor also thinks it is fair use. However they’re not willing to risk it. And so we wait.

stupid rules and when to break them: Netflix

I am a big fan of mild civil disobedience when it comes to some of the rules we have to deal with when operating a public library. There’s often a balance between being full protectors of copyright and providing optimal access to patrons. Some of the hoops we have to jump through can seem ridiculous and I am in favor of trying to push the envelope in many directions. That said, it’s been really interesting to me watching the general debate on libraries using Netflix to supplement their collection. I think it started with this Tame the Web guest post and the Chronicle of Higher Ed article. Then it moved to analysis by Read Write Web and then over to big media site Fast Company with the smallest of blurbs.

It was picked up by a ton of library bloggers. I was fond of Meredith’s “what were they thinking” post which has some interesting comments, most notably the comments by a few librarians that they contacted Netflix directly about their intended use and got either explicit or tacit approval.

Since Netflix does not have a way to amend the agreement in writing prior to starting the service, we contacted them through their published channels and explained our intentions for our service. We indicated which parts of the ToS we thought we would be violating (”personal use”). We indicated that we would stop our service as soon as we heard from them that they would not abide by our intention in using their service.

Further down there’s a comment from someone who may be (or have been) a Netflix employee saying that the Netflix official policy is that this is a Terms of Service violation but that the actual policy is “basically a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy. We were told if asked about the idea of a library lending Netflix discs to tell the caller that it was against the terms of use and they should contact their legal department.”

The big issue is that Netflix is responsible to their main customers, the studios, so need to be keeping up appearances. So, that’s curious. Strict rule abiders don’t use Netflix, rule benders sometimes do. I see this again as a repeat of libraries testing the waters with Kindle lending. Officially against the rules. Okayed specifically by the business from time to time. Still railed against by other people. How do you decide which side of the line to come down on?