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.
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.
One the the benefits of my free agent status is that I can occasionally push the envelope on certain rules in a spirit of “see what happens” realizing that some small town in Vermont won’t be bankrupted if I get sued. I’ve often said that I’d like to see more civil disobedience from libraries concerning copyright legislation (especially concerning public performance rights to movies and ability to make copies of our own content) but it’s not happening quickly. That said, as you may know, I make some videos and have put them on YouTube. One of them was popular for a little while. Sadly, that one had a soundtrack from a Beausoleil album that I liked and did not have permission to use. The other much less popular video was just some shots out the window driving in a rainstorm while listening to the radio. The song in question comes on the radio for about the last minute of my video.
Last week I got an email from YouTube saying… I don’t still have the email but in short their Video Identification tool had matched a song in two of my videos and my videos had immediately been removed from public viewing. My options were to 1. delete the audio and/or use their AudioSwap feature to replace it 2. dispute the copyright claim on a few grounds 3. delete the video. I opted to try AudioSwap for my popular video, sort of sad because it removes my voiceover and other sound effects, but decent because it’s a better option than removing the video entirely. I replaced the soundtrack with a free track from AudioSwap. If I felt like I had time and energy I’d write to Michael Doucet and see if he’d give me permission, but it’s probably not even him but his record company, etc. The AudioSwap interface is clunky and may or may not put an advertisement in your video (and hasn’t worked yet for me but I keep trying) but it’s a good option to have.
In the second case, I really feel like I have a decent Fair Use case, so I filled out this form. The form says that I think the clip is fair use under copyright law. It’s my responsibility to “understand the law” according to YouTube, and that is my understanding of it. I had to “sign” it and also type [well copy/paste] the line that says I’m not intentionally abusing the dispute process. After I did that, I was sent to this help article to see what will happen next. The article warns
If the content owner disagrees with your dispute for any reason, they will have the option to submit a copyright takedown notice which will result in the disabling of your video and/or penalties against your account. To avoid penalization, only submit legitimate dispute claims.
So, we’ll see. I think I’m right. I hope the copyright holder thinks so too. At the very least they will be bored with four minutes of windshield rainstorm before they even hear their song and even then they’ll probably be straining saying “Is that it?” At the worst, I’ll get some sort of “penalty against my account” of unspecified awfulness. So, for those of you too timid to try this at home, or possibly being cavalier about the audio you swipe, that’s my report of the consequences … so far.
University of Michigan President defends their relationship with the Google Book Search project (full speech pdf download). Intriguing comments below including Siva and a plug by librarians’ own SuperPatron on another way of harnessing the power of the Google Book Search for libraries. [thanks molly]