EFF takes on Google Books privacy issues

Normally I’m not much of a joiner, but… “EFF is gathering a group of authors (or their heirs or assigns) who are concerned about the Google Book Search settlement and its effect on the privacy and anonymity of readers. This page provides basic information for authors and publishers who are considering whether to join our group.”

You can join too, if you’d like.

Privacy Revolution – not quite live-blogging

I enjoyed the panel presentation. Jenny Levine and Kate Sheehan were both there blogging along with me. It was fun to keep an eye on twitter/chat/email and still pay enough attention to manage to ask a few questions and just learn things. Here is a slightly edited version of what I was writing during the event. My apologies of the lateness of this post. As I was heading home my own local library where I am a sometimes employee was dealing with their own privacy and law enforcement issue. Tough stuff. Click through for details, didn’t want to put this all on the front page. (more…)

Revolting Librarians Redux fundraiser ends tomorrow

Thanks to everyone who has played along and bid on the four copies of Revolting Librarians Redux that KR and I have on ebay as a fundraiser for the EFF. The auction closes tomorrow and has already raised $80+ which may be a drop in the bucket but I’ll be happy to send them a nice thank you note from the librarians for all the work they’ve done and continue to do. update: thanks everyone, the books got a bunch of bids and went for $21/each. $84 to the EFF!

PATRIOT Watch: “but for the gag” US government declines to pursue gag order appeal

The US Government has abandoned its pursuit of an appeal to a struck-down gag order against the Connecticut librarian who had received a demand for library records by the FBI. In short, the gag order is lifted and this is good news.

The case, Doe vs Gonzales, concerned a librarian who was served with a National Security Letter (NSL). The librarian [identified as George Christian in other newspapers], who appears to already have been an outspoken advocate of intellectual freedom, objected to the gag order [biggish pdf, a few screenshots here] disallowing him from speaking to his own library, the CT Library Assocation or the American Library Association about this issue. He argues that the gag order prevented him from creating effective policies should such a thing happen again, and prevented him from educating other libraries about the existence and specifics of NSLs.

Google print, a card catalog for the future?

Why EFF thinks Google Print Library is going to win the lawsuit brought by the Author’s Guild. The AG in turn has their own talking points about the case. Read the longer copyright analysis of the Google Print project if you’re really curious.

Laura Crossett wins!

If you read the EFF blog you’ve probably been keeping up with their Blog for Freedom where people have been writing on their blogs about their first experiences with standing up for their digital rights. What I didn’t know was that it was a contest of sorts. Today I learn that contest was won by …. a librarian. Rad Refster and library student Laura Crossett who runs lis.dom won Best Overall post for this entry. Nice going Laura! I hope they send you the pajamas.

one more privacy concern: printers?

EFF’s blog has a post about a new way libraries could accidentally infringe on patron privacy. Some common color laser printers have the ability to encode uniquiely identifying and traceable information into pages they print. If you care enough about patron privacy to not reveal if a patron has a library card, would you care enough to not reveal that they have used your computers/printers?

According to experts, several printer companies quietly encode the serial number and the manufacturing code of their color laser printers and color copiers on every document those machines produce. Governments, including the United States, already use the hidden markings to track counterfeiters.

Peter Crean, a senior research fellow at Xerox, says his company’s laser printers, copiers and multifunction workstations, such as its WorkCentre Pro series, put the “serial number of each machine coded in little yellow dots” in every printout. The millimeter-sized dots appear about every inch on a page, nestled within the printed words and margins.

ALA wins lawsuit over broadcast flag

Big big news. The American Library Association, Electronic Frontier Foundation and friends just won their joint challenge to the FCCs weird Broadcast Flag regulations, decision can be read here. Not only does this mean that the FCC has to back off from trying to require all digital video receivers to have special Digital Rights Management embedded [that's Congress's job, the courts say, if they choose to do it] but the courts also agreed that the ALA, and by extention librarians and educators, had standing to file this case in the first place. Here’s an example from one of the librarian’s affadavits cited in the decision.

There is clearly a substantial probability that, if enforced, the Flag Order will immediately harm the concrete and particularized interests of the NCSU Libraries. Absent the Flag Order, the Libraries will continue to assist NCSU faculty members make broadcast clips available to students in distanceeducation courses via the Internet, but there is a substantial probability that the Libraries will be unable to do this if the Flag Order takes effect. It is also beyond dispute that, if this court vacates the Flag Order, the Libraries will be able to continue to assist faculty members lawfully redistribute broadcast clips to their students.

Get more links and some discussion here, plus the great quote from the decision “Congress does not…hide elephants in mouseholes.”

DRM isn’t just ineffective, it does active harm

Speaking of DRM, let’s look at what ten years of it have done so far. I’ve been reading the Intellectual Property & Social Justice blog this morning and they have a summary of an EFF white paper on the subject. The IP-SJ blurb does a great job of giving some “in a nutshell” descriptions both of what DRM is, as well as what is wrong with it, especially for libraries and educators and anyone who has an obligation to provide content to all the public. I’ve excerpted the list of negative effects DRM has had for libraries, in the developed world where the EFF states “it has been in wide deployment for a decade with no benefit to artists and with substantial cost to the public and to due process, free speech and other civil society fundamentals.”

  • The success of the information society depends on digital content being accessible. Digital content must not locked up behind technical barriers.
  • Libraries must not be prevented by DRM from availing themselves of their lawful rights under national copyright law and must be able to extend their services to the digital environment.
  • Long term preservation and archiving, essential to preserving cultural identities, maintaining diversity of peoples, languages and cultures and in shaping the future, must not be jeopardized by DRM.

learn this term: DRM

About half the people at my second talk and very few at my first talk knew what Digital Rights Management (DRM) was. Since librarians will be dealing with more products with increasing amounts of DRM, it’s a good term to get cozy with, carry a few examples in your toolkit, etc. The DRM blog is a good place to start learning as is EFF’s DRM section. My favorite examples, phrased in the form of patron questions:
“This DVD won’t play on my computer without me having an Internet connection and installing special software. Why?”
“I paid for a song using the iTunes store but now I can’t move that song to a different computer. Why?”
“I can’t play music I’ve legally downloaded from the Internet in open source format on my iPod. Why?” [note: not strictly a DRM issue]
“Is it really illegal for me to use my screenreader software to listen to the ebook I’ve cheked out? Why? “