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.
“The idea that search engines can, or should, be neutral can be traced back to a movement of leftist librarians in the 1970s. Led by Sanford Berman, one of the first to bring social rebellion into the library, radical librarians argued that the system used to organize books was inherently biased and racist because it reflected a Western perspective.”
Danny Sullivan explains why librarians might care about what he calls “the biggest change that has ever happened in search engines” Google’s Personalized Results. [juice]
TechSoup uses Google Analytics to track site visits and other statistics. I’ve said for a while now that the more data you can get about people using your websites, the more you can translate these into requests for funding, staffing and other improvements in your institution. Elliot Harmon wrote a good article about the things to keep in mind as you start using these tools. I gave a few pullquotes for it: Site Statistics and User Privacy for Nonprofit Websites.
I read with interest this blog post over on Freedom to Tinker about the Google Book Search folks talking about finding and fixing errors in their giant catalog, metadata errors especially. The conversation seems to have largely started at this post on LanguageLog and gotten more interesting with follow-up comments from folks at Google. One of the things we have all learned in libraryland is that the ability to trawl through our data with computers means that we can find errors that might have otherwise stayed buried for years, or perhaps forever. Of course computers also help us create these errors in the first place.
What’s most interesting to me is a seeming difference in mindset between critics like Nunberg on the one hand, and Google on the other. Nunberg thinks of Google’s metadata catalog as a fixed product that has some (unfortunately large) number of errors, whereas Google sees the catalog as a work in progress, subject to continual improvement. Even calling Google’s metadata a “catalog” seems to connote a level of completion and immutability that Google might not assert. An electronic “card catalog” can change every day — a good thing if the changes are strict improvements such as error fixes — in a way that a traditional card catalog wouldn’t.
Note: thanks to people who let me know that one link was wrong, and that I managed to typo both “computers” and “interesting” in this post.