Posts tagged “library”.

Upcoming travels – ALA and CNX

Even though I am a recently minted new parent, I am still keeping up on outside world obligations (barely!) and as such, I will be traveling to some upcoming conferences. Will I see you at any of these?

State Education Technology Directors Association

January 19th – webinar
One that doesn’t need travel is a webinar for SETDA this Thursday on Open Educational Resources and how K-12 schools can really harness the power of open licenses.

American Library Association’s Midwinter Conference

January 20th-22nd – Dallas, TX
I’ll be speaking on a panel titled “Getting the Rights Right” about Creative Commons and Open Access (essentially, why OA is truly transformational when paired with CC licenses).

Connexions Conference

February 15th-17th – Houston, TX (Rice University)
Connexions is a great platform for writing, editing, and sharing open textbooks. I’ve only been to the conference once before, and just as an attendee, but this year I’ll be speaking about the metadata work I am doing at Creative Commons under the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI) project.

If you’ll be in either Dallas or Houston on those dates and want to get a beer, let me know!

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Michigan Library Changes their Creative Commons License

As some of you may know, I work for the University of Michigan Library where my title is Copyright Specialist. One of the projects I am most proud of is the change of the default Creative Commons license for content created by librarians and staff at MLibrary and posted online from CC:BY-NC to CC:BY, removing the non-commercial restriction. Why is this important? Well, see what I wrote on the MPublishing blog, copied below under the terms of the CC:BY 3.0 license :)

Back in October of 2008, MLibary became one of the first academic libraries to apply a Creative Commons license to its website content. At the time, the Library opted for the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial (“CC BY NC”) license. More recently, on November 18th, 2010, the library changed the default Creative Commons license used for all content created by librarians and staff hosted on the library website to an Attribution-only (“CC BY”) license.

Why did we opt for a CC BY NC license initially then – after some experience – remove the non-commercial restriction? Greg Grossmeier, Copyright Specialist at MPublishing, explains how the Creative Commons License MLibrary chose enables content creation.

Why use a Creative Commons license at all?
Before we get into the reasons why MLibrary changed its license, it is important to review the types of uses we are hoping to encourage by using any Creative Commons license in the first place. In the most simple of terms, we hope to encourage adaptations and redistribution of our content.

First, we are delighted to see our work actually used, improved or incorporated into new resources. When other organizations reuse our work (for example, another institution using some of our libguides) we know that others appreciate our work and find it useful. Second, by using a Creative Commons license that allows derivatives we enable others to make translations of the work without the need to get prior permission. With our use of a Creative Commons license we enable others to make translations and redistribute them for even wider reuse of our work.

Why remove the NonCommercial restriction?
First, removing the NonCommercial restriction provides greater clarity for those wishing to reuse our content. The NonCommercial clause in the CC licenses does not fully define what a “commercial use“ is. Thus, an individual or organization wishing to use our work cannot always be certain that their use would be acceptable. If they are uncertain, the users or organizations will either contact MLibrary to ask for clarification/permission (something which we wanted to avoid by using a Creative Commons license in the first place) or they will elect to simply not use our material. Unfortunately, the second scenario is typical.

A report released by Creative Commons in 2009 found that content creators see more uses as noncommercial than do content reusers. This means that individuals and organizations tend to self-censor their reuses of a NC-licensed work because they erroneously believe that their use will be considered a commercial use, thus not permissible by the license.

The MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) project uses a NonCommercial license from Creative Commons for their content. They elected to be explicit with their interpretation of what “non-commercial“ means. While this is very useful for users of MIT OCW materials it does not scale easily. This is because it is simply defining “non-commercial“ for MIT — and that definition might not be the same for all creators using NonCommercial licenses. Thus, it is not advisable for all creators using a NonCommercial license to write their own definition of “non-commercial.”

If 1000 people are asked to write their definition of “non-commercial” you will probably get 1000 different definitions. If all users of NonCommercial licenses produced their own definition of “non-commercial” then potential users will need to read that definition closely, and possibly ask for legal advice, each time they wish to reuse a work. Ironically, the more specific each content creator is about its particular view of ‘commercial’, the more confused and inconsistent the situation becomes. This confusion and inconsistency is the exact situation that Creative Commons aspires to eliminate.

Secondly, with the use of the Attribution-only license, the library is making a strong commitment to compatibility with other Freely and Openly licensed materials such as Wikipedia. If two licenses are incompatible with each other it means that content from one can not be incorporated into a work under the other. The NonCommercial clause is incompatible with many other open content licenses, including other Creative Commons licenses. In fact, it is only compatible with three out of the six Creative Commons licenses.

CC License Compatibility Chart

As the chart above shows, the most compatible license available (aside from waiving all copyrights) is the Attribution-only license. This allows others to reuse our content in the largest number of places and contexts including, importantly, the CC BY SA licensed Wikipedia.

By using the most compatible license available from Creative Commons, MLibrary enables efficient content creation. We make it possible for users to worry less about license incompatibility and permissions — and instead spend more time on the actual creation of quality content. We hope to see the positive influence of this throughout the local, national, and international library communities.

The above was originally posted on the MPublishing Blog under the title “MLibrary & Creative Commons: Commitment to Compatibility.” Reproduced under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.

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Lococast Interview

Last week I was interviewed (.mp3) for the very awesome, very fun Lococast hosted by the always enjoyable Rick Harding and Craig Maloney. We hit on many of my various interests including: copyright, open data, open educational resources (OERs), Creative Commons, community management, the Michigan LoCo team, and Ubuntu more generally,

It was great fun sitting down with Rick and Craig for about an hour; they always make it enjoyable.

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(sourcecode is to binary as ??? is to ppt/odp/pdf)

Ted Gould just posted to the planet with his presentation that he gave at the Desktop Summit. At the end of his post you’ll notice that he uploaded his presentation to Launchpad (at lp:~ted/presentations/2009_desktop_summit/).

I think that is a great idea! Not only does it provide the ability for the community to see what others are using for their presentations but it allows anyone to branch a presentation, which has awesome potential. Especially with the presentation format that Ted chose, SVGs. The S5 presentation format (XHTML/CSS/JS based) would also be a great candidate for easy branching and editing of presentations.

But what if you need to create presentations with others who use Powerpoint or Impress and you wanted to harness the power of a Version Control System? Old powerpoint (ppt) files are binary blobs which don’t work well in version control systems (they *work* but not *well*). Impress (odp) and new Powerpoint (pptx) files are effectively zipped archives of xml and images. However, since it is zipped, bzr treats it as a binary. I only tested with bzr but don’t foresee any of the other systems behaving any differently.

Why would you want to use a VCS for your presentation files? Especially a DVCS like bzr/git/hg? COLLABORATION!

Some of you may know that I am currently working with Open.Michigan, a project at the University of Michigan that enables the creation of Open Educational Resources (OER). OER is effectively a broader term for the concept of Open CourseWare. Basically, everything used in education is a resource, not just presentations, and thus is useful for others to see, use, and remix. If you are curious to see what kinds of things we produce, see our Educommons installation.


Back to the topic at hand though: presentations and DVCS.

One of the major areas that the OER community could greatly improve upon is the area of remixing; taking the openly licensed materials and using them, adding new material, and creating something original. Remixing, in general, is enabled by having access to the source files of the material being worked with. Sure, you can use a PDF or a mp3 in a remix, but it is usually better to have the original .odt or multitrack file to work from. This is why Open.Michigan provides to the public the ppt files along with the pdfs of the presentations created through the OER program.

But lets leverage some of the tried and true methods of the FLOSS community in the OER community. One of the biggest and most fundamental benefits of the FLOSS world is that everyone has access to the source code, and can easily get it, edit it, and (hopefully) compile a new version of the program; effectively a “remix.” How does the FLOSS community lower the barriers and increase efficiency for that workflow? We provide public access to code repositories, instructions on building the software (documentation), and a bug tracker to inform what needs to be worked on next.

I want to mirror much of that to the OER community. One of the first things that needs to happen is to provide an easy way to manage multiple versions of a single resource (eg: presentation, video/audio, book). A VCS seems like the obvious choice. But there must be a better way than just managing binary blobs, right?

That is the part that I need to figure out next: how to utilize the power of a DVCS in this genre. Then I can move on to figuring out what a bug tracker for OER would look like (and if it is even needed). The documentation is actually already there, at least for Open.Michigan.

Do you have any ideas?

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Copyfraud: False claims of copyright such as a claim of copyright ownership of public domain material. (source: wiktionary)

Let’s start out this discussion with a quick true story:
I was working on a presentation for one of my graduate classes. My group partner and I were making a dang good presentation and wanted to spice it up with some nice photos of works of art (our topic was art related). So, we went to one of the more prominent art image databases: ARTstor. We found some paintings by Marc Chagall from 1911 and I was all ready to download them and insert them into our presentation. I then did the obvious next step: right-click the image to Save as… Not so fast! The flash interface doesn’t allow that. Why not? That is a complicated question to answer.

My aim is not to fully answer that question. The purpose of this post is to raise awareness, pure and simple. There is a problem out there and it has a name: copyfraud. The perpetrators are either ignorant at best or deceitful at worst. The ones being harmed are you and I, the public. People who want to create but are being unjustly[1] restricted. And being unjustly restricted means they are being unjustly censored.

(Nina Paley, CC:BY-SA)

Back to that Chagall painting. The cool part was this painting was done in the early 1900′s, 1911 to be exact. What that means is that the copyright term on that painting has expired (in US law, which is what governs ARTstor as it is a US non-profit). And, here is the part that is the issue, according to US copyright law any faithful reproduction of a creative work that does not add any new creative element does not produce a new copyright. In simpler terms: if I take a picture of a public domain painting then I do NOT hold a copyright on that photo; that photo is also in the public domain. I did not add any new creative anything to it so there is nothing to copyright. This is all explained in the court case Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp[2]. LARGE CAVEAT: this only applies in the US. The US rightfully, in my opinion, does not give copyright rights for “sweat of the brow” aka: hard work only (see: Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service). Countries like the UK do give copyright restrictions (“protections”) for sweat of the brow work.

Back, again, to that painting by Chagall. I decided to click on the “View Full Record” link to learn more about it and I came across this line: “Rights: © 2007 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris” BZZZZZZT! WRONG!

This, my friends, is a classic case of copyfraud

Copyright FAIL

What kind of effect does this have on you and me? First and foremost it “[results] in users seeking licenses and paying fees to reproduce works that are free for everyone to use, or altering their creative projects to excise the uncopyrighted material” (Mazzone, “Copyfraud”). People are paying fees to organizations that purport to have our best interests at heart to use images that are in the public domain. Or, almost worse, people are not creating new and cool works because they are told they aren’t allowed to. This is where copyfraud hurts you: our culture will be locked down by those who have no right to do so (cue Free Culture and Free Speech discussions).

Now, let me be clear: I am not saying that people should never be allowed to sell public domain works. That is, of course, one of the things you are allowed to do with public domain works: sell them to people. In fact, paying the people a small fee for the professional work they did to create a high quality scan of a work is important; it means they’ll keep doing it[3].

However, falsely claiming that you hold a copyright on an image is illegal. It is even spelled out explicitly in the US Copyright law: “Any person who, with fraudulent intent, places on any article a notice of copyright or words of the same purport that such person knows to be false, or who, with fraudulent intent, publicly distributes or imports for public distribution any article bearing such notice or words that such person knows to be false, shall be fined not more than $2,500″ (emphasis mine). So either unlawfully claiming copyright or being someone who distributes that unlawfully copyrighted work results in a fine of up to $2,500. ARTstor, if prosecuted, could be fined a large amount of money ($2.5 million if there are only 1000 works that fall into that category, which according to my test searches is probably a low ball number).

This, of course, assumes that ARTstor is willfully, “with fraudulent intent,” making available these images with false copyright notices. Unfortunately, I think that isn’t too much of a stretch. I don’t think it is a stretch because I don’t believe that the people running ARTstore, or their lawyers, are ignorant. If I were a lawyer asked to sign off on a database of scans/photographs of works of art, this is one of the things I would double, nay, triple check. First, make sure that copyright information is being preserved in the database. Second, make sure that the copyright information in the database is accurate. Third, make sure that you are attributing copyright to the copyright holder on each image, if applicable. Fourth, make sure you aren’t falsely attributing copyright on any image. And in doing any of that I would, as a lawyer worth his salt, research court cases that have an effect on scans of works of art like the Bridgeman v Corel case.

In addition to assuming ARTstor has consulted people with JDs, there are reports out there of people who work for other institutions who, when asked about the fact that they are falsely claiming copyright, say “everyone else does it.” I wish I could say I was joking; that is truly what they say, and think. Put that related example and everything else said together and one could easily assume that ARTstor is doing this “with fraudulent intent.” Again, strong words, but this is an important issue.

What you can do:
Leave a comment with an example of copyfraud that YOU have found. Lets get a big list of organizations who are intentionally or unintentionally falsely claiming copyright on public domain works. The next step is to get them to stop. Emails, phone calls, blog posts, notices, whatever. Stand up for your rights.

Beginning list:

[1] “unjustly” instead of “unlawfully” because we are being contractually limited, which is legal. It just isn’t right.
[2] This post doesn’t even get into the discussion of overly zealous publishers making wild claims that over-reach and stifle creativity. Examples are the Major League Baseball and National Football League organizations saying that no part, no matter how small or short, can be reproduced without their permission. That is a blatent lie: those uses fall under Fair Use. The lawyers who wrote those notices, assuming they did any research or know anything about intellectual property law, actively lied when they wrote them. That is a strong statement on my part, but I can only either assume that or assume that the people who wrote those notices were not either A) educated lawyers or B) they didn’t consult an educated lawyer. For a good discussion of this issue see (for example): Mazzone, Jason “Administering Fair Use.”
[3] However, a discussion of the restriction of our heritage via contractual terms should also be had. Contracts are weird things: you can sign away rights that you have, like the right to reproduce public domain images. And remember, EULA and Terms of Service are binding contracts in the US. I think that may be my next post on this topic: “Taking Away Your Rights by Clicking ‘I Accept’”.

Copyfraud links (short list):

EDIT: Clarified paragraph beginning with “In addition to the fact..” I was overloading the pronoun “they.”
EDIT2: misspelling, thanks Douglas.

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Very glad to see this on Slashdot


I am not one to use Slashdot as a measure of the importance of an issue. I’m sure there is something I could link to right now showing the complete inanity of some stories, but I won’t.

HOWEVER, this just hit the Slashdot homepage: “Non-Profit Org Claims Rights In Library Catalog Data

This is slightly old news and I thought about blogging it before. I tend to try and keep my posts on this blog mostly tech related with an obvious leaning towards Open Source (Ubuntu specifically) since I am on planet.ubuntu. However, I now feel ok to post this now since it is on Slashdot ;).

What’s the Deal?

So, in essence: The OCLC is changing their policies to restrict what their members can do with the bibliographic data which is provided. Bibliographic data is simply a collection of facts (Author, Title, publication date, etc) and is thus not able to be copyrighted. However, there is nothing stopping anyone from restricting what you can do with ANY data via a contract (think: EULA). This is what they are doing, they are stopping their members from sharing this collection of facts with other people who might be able to use those facts. Yes, some people might make a commercial use of those facts, but there are also others who, as nonprofits, are simply trying to make a wonderful product for all of humanity to use.

Ok, that last sentence was slightly over dramatic, but I want to get this point across: the limiting of this knowledge (facts are knowledge) only hurts us as a whole and only helps the OCLC; no one else.

The Code4Lib group, a collection of techies in the Library community, have a nice wiki page with more information on this change of policies, including a diff between the two versions. The page also includes others’ opinions (blog posts) on the matter.

Now, as happens regularly with me on issues related to library policy, others may disagree with me. These others may even be my co-workers and/or bosses. As such, the usual disclaimer of this is only my opinion and no one else’s etc etc applies here.

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