a few things to read

I have seen a few things that are only tangentially related to what I normally do here, but I thought you might like them.

google print on hold, continued

Google Print Library going on hold over copyright is big news in our world. Copyfight followed up on the story. Of particular interest is the comments with people speculating on the copyright-kosherness of a publicly traded for-profit company freely scanning, copying and indexing content that is not owned by them without negotiating for rights. Other popular copyfighters Siva and Seth have worthwhile insights.

Siva “Once again, I think we should recognize that unless we think copyright should not exist, copyright holders should be able to decide when to license their works to other companies. This is far from absolute. But it’s common sense and generally true. Only in unusual circumstances, such as when markets fail to provide an essential public good, should we consider radical moves. This is not one of those cases. The service is not an essential public good — just a cool idea. And the market was not failing. Publishers were at the table…. Google messed up by going all unilateral on the publishers. There was no market failure here. Transaction costs were not prohibitive. They were working out the deal. This was not the recording industry shunning Napster. This was how copyright is supposed to work.”

Seth: Why is Google doing this book-scanning project? It’s not because it’s just so cool (even if it is). While coolness may justify a small-scale promotional project, the scanning efforts are expensive. So Google, as a company, obviously sees some value in the effort. This is not wrong. But it’s also a direct conflict with the granted monopoly know as copyright. Whenever there is value, particularly commercial value, there is conflict over who should be able to receive it.

other information poor pitfalls

Sethf explains one of the pecadillos that I have a hard time putting in to words. His example concerns filtering and just who is responsible for overfiltering. These problems magnify when people believe what they are told by vendors [and other advocates with an agenda] about hardware and software “solutions” to their problems. It’s important to maintain a critical perspective to provide the best service to our patrons. Remember, to them we’re the experts and we shouldn’t outsource that responsibility just because we’re outside of our comfort range with new technologies.

It’s a tale of a typical “censorware shuffle”. The administrators have no idea what blacklists are in place and what’s blacklisted (they probably think censorware “filters pornography”). The service reseller (SonicWall), as a hardware manufacturer, just repackages the censorware blacklists (here, “Cerberian”). The censorware company will say the site fits their category, so it’s the school policy maker’s fault. Everyone’s fingers point to someone else. And the eventual effect of it all is that the government has a free hand to propagandize. While critics – who remember, are sometimes told by net-bubble-blowers that The Uncensorable Internet gives them an equal opportunity to be heard, because you can put up a website – are marginalized from important audiences.