Catherine Fisk’s Working Knowledge:Employee Knowledge and the Rise of Corporate Intellectual Property, 1800 – 1930 (University of North Carolina Press, 2009) has been around for a few years, but I only became aware of it recently, after a colleague mentioned it in conversation. So my recommendation — it is a fascinating read — is belated, but I hope these reflections based on the book are still useful.
Note to readers: This is the first post in our new series “Building Open” where we interview those who are building tools and services to support scholarship in the open. For our first installment, we talk to Philip Cohen of SocArXiv.
Ultimately, I do think we need to leave the old system behind, but it can work incrementally. For example, we need people to donate fewer free hours of labor (reviewing, editing, moderation, publishing) to for-profit, paywall publishers and more to open access institutions. But they can do that without completely boycotting all for-profit journals, if we build our institutions in an open and inclusive way.
Readers of “In the Open” are familiar with the ongoing machinations of Elsevier and other major commercial publishers as they seek to tighten their grip on elements of the scholarly communication system. As Mike Taylor points out, these developments bring to mind the underlying issue of who controls OA infrastructure, and the notion that resistance to commercial domination should be largely based on the academy establishing its own dissemination infrastructure, ideally with substantial investments from funding agencies. Recently, a new funder-supported open dissemination platform, Wellcome Open Research, has emerged as an alternative to vehicles controlled by commercial publishers, and in a separate development, the SocArXiv repository has been released as an alternative to Elsevier’s newly acquired Social Science Research Network. Wellcome Open Research in particular offers an intriguing model that raises the question of how funder and university-supported elements of OA infrastructure can coalesce into a more integrated system in the future.
In theory, the idea of a small claims board that could adjudicate copyrights claims where the monetary value is not too high seems sensible. Federal litigation is very expensive and intimidating, so a small claims mechanism could make it easier for independent artists and small businesses to defend their rights.
Nevertheless, I have never been very enthusiastic about the idea, in large part because the devil is definitely in the details of any proposed scheme. The fear is that a small claims board could become, in the words of this 2012 article about the topic from Techdirt, just “a new venue for porn companies to coerce settlements out of internet subscribers.” If such a board appeared to be nothing other than a mechanism to make it easier not just for trolls but for Big Content in general to bully individual users and avoid the high costs of litigation, it would ultimately be harmful to the copyright balance that is already so out of whack in the U.S.
I recently went out on a limb to help a group of scholars who were trying to do a good thing but going about it in a not-so-good manner.
They wanted to curate a list of articles on a topic relating to current events and social justice. Unfortunately, they were determined to post the materials to the open web using full-text PDFs from licensed, published content.
Yes, cue the collective copyright librarian shudder.
Last month university presses came together for their annual convention in Philadelphia. This was only my fifth meeting so I lack the deep perspective that many of my colleagues in the UP world have, but I perceived signs of a shift in the center of gravity around conversations of open access. It’s a somewhat wobbly, but directionally clear migration toward engaging deeply with how OA might apply toward monographs.
“Cute Little Tiny Baby Pig” by Michael Kappel CC-BY-NC
Last week, a district court judge upheld a jury’s decision that Google’s use of Java declaring code in the Android operating system was protected by fair use. If terms like “declaring code” and “application programming interface” aren’t common parlance for you, don’t worry, you’re in very good company (and may be eligible for a seat on the Federal Circuit). No matter how familiar you are with the technical details of the case, however, it offers a fascinating example of how fair use has evolved in recent years. It also suggests we take a closer look at one generally-overlooked aspect of the law: the second fair use factor.
When the Copyright Office issued its Notice of Inquiry (NOI) about a “Draft Revision of the Libraries and Archives Exception in U.S. Copyright Law,” I happened to be at a large meeting of librarians. The conversation turned quickly to this new NOI, in regard to which librarians are, of course, a major stakeholder, and I learned two things.
First, the group confirmed my previous intuition that section 108 — the exception in question — still works pretty well for the limited activities it enables – copying for library preservation and for users doing private research and study (which includes interlibrary loans). Second, there is considerable mistrust of the Copyright Office in the library community.
A blog called “In the Open,” dedicated to issues for scholarship and libraries, is a logical place to engage in the ongoing and vital discussions about diversity and inclusion in our libraries and on our campuses. Following the lead of April Hathcock’s post from last month, I offer this reflection to continue the conversation:
Many years ago, soon after we were married, my wife and I spent a year as house parents for a group of academically-talented teenage boys from disadvantaged backgrounds who, were they not part of the program that put them in better schools, would have had little chance of getting into college. The house was, to say the least, ethnically and racially diverse. One afternoon, one of our seniors came home upset and with his knuckles bleeding. Corry, as I will call him, had been in a fight because another boy in the school had called him the N-word. The details of the fight, as well as his distress at the result, convinced me that Corry had behaved as well as could be expected in the circumstances, but there were complex consequences. For me, the most profound part of the whole episode was when I sat listening to a conversation between Corry and his father. His father asked Corry if he understood why being called that word had upset him so, since it was common enough in music and on the basketball court. When Corry admitted that he did not, his father explained the context and history of that epithet in his own life, which I think opened Corry’s eyes. I know that it opened mine.
A few weeks ago, it felt like the threats to the work we do at the University of North Carolina Press were coming from all directions.
At a regional SSP panel discussion, a key local collection development librarian in the audience told the university press panelists that declining purchases of our monographs was not primarily due to a lack of financial resources in libraries. Instead, he argued, their analytics indicated our books were not being used enough to justify their acquisition.
By IO blogger Ellen Finnie with Guest co-author Greg Eow, AD for Collections, MIT Libraries
As charged discussion around Elsevier’s purchase of SSRN continued in the past week, Elsevier and the University of Florida (UF) announced a pilot that links UF’s institutional repository with Elsevier’s platform. By employing an automatic deposit of metadata about Elsevier-published UF articles into UF’s repository, with pointers to Elsevier’s site for access to the articles themselves, users of the UF institutional repository will be able to discover and, if they have authorized access, access final copies of Elsevier journals.
On Friday, May 20, a group of librarians from all over the country—and Canada—gathered at Brooklyn College for the annual Library Association of the City University of New York (LACUNY) Institute. The theme for this year’s LACUNY Institute was “Race Matters: Libraries, Race, and Antiracism,” an important topic that is long overdue for discussion in a profession that is 87% white.
Elsevier is a massive, for-profit publisher headquartered in Amsterdam. They make a lot of money aggregating faculty work product for cheap and selling it back to universities at a huge markup. Their mission is to maximize shareholder value and profit.
Elsevier just bought SSRN, a widely used repository of social science research articles, especially preprints. A lot of smart people, including Kevin Smith on this blog, have weighed in on this development. SSRN users aware of Elsevier’s profits-first practices are nervous. The excellent Authors Alliance has put together a list of principles they believe SSRN must adhere to in order to maintain the trust of the authors who post work there. One of our favorite takes, Christopher Kelty’s blog post here, explains why Elsevier probably bought SSRN, and why we should be nervous. The acquisition is probably not so much about the individual papers as it is about possession of a trove of research for data mining about scholarship. Possession may be 9/10ths of the law, but it’s 10/10ths of data mining. If you don’t have the data, you can’t do the mining. Now Elsevier’s got the data, and the academy will get to use it only on Elsevier’s terms.
In the last couple of weeks, there have been several developments in the scholarly communication world that all point in the same direction – the move by the major commercial publishers to tighten their grip on access to and share of academic work, as well as a concern to capture data about how scholarship is shared. Call this last part the commodification of the professoriate.
My attention was first drawn to these developments by a tweet that pointed to Wiley’s “Article Sharing Policy” site — with its handy-dandy sharing guidelines chart — and asked if Wiley really was asserting control over the pre-peer review copy of scholarly manuscripts. Before I proceed, I think it is important to explain why the answer to that question is yes.
Pointing an OA lens on cultural heritage objects
Last fall at the Penn State University Libraries, one of the ways that we observed Open Access (OA) Week was to dedicate half a day to a series of presentations and discussions about the topic. Organized by the Libraries Open Educational Resources (OER) Task Force, the event was conducted also for internal outreach purposes, particularly since the previous semester the Library Faculty Organization, our governance body, passed an OA Policy. The talks included a “Scholarly Communications 101” presentation; a progress report by the chair of our Open Access Monographs Team; tips on how to be an OA ambassador; priorities for implementing the OA Policy; and a “technical update/year in review” that addressed federal funding agency requirements since the responses to the OSTP mandate began pouring in. It was a compilation of informative talks, put together by colleagues who have become, over the years, increasingly adept at addressing OA and schol comm issues.
At my home institution, the University of Arizona, the Faculty Senate recently passed an Open Access policy that follows the standard model of directing faculty authors to deposit the final accepted manuscripts of their articles into our institutional repository. As an Arizona alum and OA advocate, I’m doubly pleased that that the Faculty Senate embraced the principle of making the university’s scholarship more widely accessible. Having gone down this path twice, once at Oregon State University and now at Arizona, I’ve been thinking about faculty motivations and how they relate to OA policy compliance.
In a recent discussion about Sci-Hub, I took some heat for bringing up the history of copyright and the shifting attitudes over time about what it is good for. So I should probably know better than to appeal to history again as I begin some thoughts about the unique place of translations in copyright law. Nevertheless, I think it is important to note that translations were not explicitly protected by U.S. law until 1870, and that 17 years earlier, an author of no less stature than Harriett Beecher Stowe lost a lawsuit in which she tried to prevent the publication of an unauthorized translation into German of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. As this article about the case tells us, the judge asserted that once it was published, Stowe’s expression was as available to translators — as much “public property” — as were the works of Homer or Cervantes.
This week I had the opportunity to speak at the University System of Georgia’s Teaching and Learning Conference. We had a great discussion about the role of libraries supporting open educational resources (OERs) as part of a daylong track sponsored by Affordable Learning Georgia, a program that connects faculty, librarians, the press, and external partners to support course redesign and open education. ALG is a relatively new project but has already shown outstanding results, saving students more than $16 million in its first two years. In light of these results, it’s no surprise that the university system gave ALG such a prominent role in the event. In fact, an OER track has become increasingly common in many academic conferences, including special emphasis at this month’s CNI Executive Roundtable, a daylong event at ALA Midwinter, and sessions at most of the major library-focused conferences in 2015 and 16.
There have been developments, of the sort that don’t make headlines, in two major copyright cases that folks in higher education need to know about.
First, today the Supreme Court announced that it would not review the opinion issued by the Second Circuit in the Authors Guild v. Google, the case about the Google Books project that offered a strong reaffirmation of fair use. So the Authors Guild finally and definitively loses another in its string of anti-fair use cases. This was what I and many others expected, but it is nice to be able to say that this case is done. And the broad, flexible approach to fair use that is outlined in the Second Circuit’s decision stands, which is great news.