What does Icelandic fishing have to do with commercial publishing?

Siglufjordur is a small fishing village in the north of Iceland that my wife and I had the pleasure of visiting this past summer.  It nestles between the mountains of the Icelandic highlands and the sea in a way characteristic of towns on the northern coast.

What is unusual about Siglufjordur is its economic history.  It was a boom town in the 1940s and 50s, the center of the North Atlantic herring trade.  In addition to fishing, a great deal of processing and packing was done in Siglufjordur, and the town was triple its current size.  In the early 1960s, however, the herring industry in Siglufjordur collapsed quite suddenly, because the fishing grounds had been overfished.  Now the town is a shadow of its former self, surviving on sport fishing and tourism (the Herring Museum, perhaps surprisingly, is very much worth a visit). Read more


Copyright in government works, technical standards, and fair use

It is one of the simplest, yet most frequently misunderstood, provisions of the U.S. copyright law.  Section 105 of Title 17 says that “Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States government, but the United States government is not precluded from receiving and holding copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest or otherwise.”  A single sentence, but lots of nuance, both because of what it says and what it does not say.  Last week, an important decision from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals again highlights some of the scope for confusion. Read more


The Impact of Big Deals on the Research Ecosystem

Earlier this month I read this article by Kenneth Frazier from D-Lib Magazine which argues that academic libraries should reconsider the value of so-called “big deals” from publishers. The core of the argument is that the downsides of these journal packages outweigh the benefits of convenience and an arguably lower cost per title. I say “arguably” about cost per title because, if one excludes the titles in a bundle that are rarely or never used when calculating per title cost, the value proposition is significantly different. Read more


What does a journal brand mean?

Brands and branding are an important part of a consumer society, and they are largely about goodwill.  Trademarks, which are, roughly speaking,the legal protection given to brands, are premised on the idea that consumers should have some assurance about the continuity of the source of the goods and services they purchase.  A brand name is supposed to provide that continuity; whether you are buying from McDonald’s or Land’s End, the brand helps you know what you are going to get.  This is why trademarks protect against any use that might cause consumers to be confused about whether the goods or services they are buying are really from the same source.  The sense of continuity is what we call goodwill. Read more


A new contract

When I complained, in a blog post written several weeks ago, about the contract I had signed, and regretted, for a book to be published by the American Library Association, I really did not expect the kind of reaction I got.  Quite a few readers made comments about the unequal position of authors in publishing negotiations, and especially about the need for the library world to do a better job of modeling good behavior in this area; that was to be expected.  A few people took me to task for agreeing to a contract I disliked so much, which was no more than I deserved.  But I truly was surprised by the number of folks from the ALA, including current ALA president Jim Neal, who reach out to me and expressed a determination to fix the problem I had described. Read more


Join the Movement: The 2.5% Commitment

NB: This is a guest post from David Lewis, Dean of the IUPUI University Library.  David and the regular IO authors hope that this post will generate discussion, and we invite you to comment.

The 2.5% Commitment: Every academic library should commit to contribute 2.5% of its total budget to support the common infrastructure needed to create the open scholarly commons.

A number of things came at me at in late summer. Read more


Foibles and Follies, part three

The final foible I wanted to write about in this series of posts involves a distressingly common situation – a copyright holder who does not understand what the rights they hold actually are.

This is not the first blog post to point out that Human Synergistics International is pretty clueless about copyright.  Almost five years ago, the TechDirt blog made an effort to school Human Synergistics about fair use.  Apparently it did not work; they seem to continue to misunderstand the copyright law. Read more


Foibles and Follies, Part 2

The second folly I want to talk about is somewhat embarrassing, since it is my own.  Publication contracts are always an adventure for academic authors, of course; we are routinely taken advantage of by publishers who know that publication is a job requirement and believe they have us in a stranglehold.  I once read a comment by a lawyer who works with authors that signing an agreement with one of the major publishers was akin to getting into a car with a clearly intoxicated driver – no sensible person should do it.  So in this story I have no one but myself to blame.  Nevertheless, I want to tell folks about it because it was not one of the big publishers that treated me badly; it was my own professional organization, the American Library Association. Read more


Foibles and follies, part one

It has been a while since we have posted to this site, and I want to catch up by sharing some thoughts about a few odd or disturbing developments from the past month or so.

Let’s start with a recent folly, the “settlement” in the infamous “Monkey Selfie” case.  The New York Times proclaims the settlement proposed on Monday as “a victory of sorts” for the monkey and his friends.  The “friends,” of course are PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who brought the case as Naruto’s “next friend,” trying to establish that the monkey, who they named Naruto, owned the copyright in the picture he apparently snapped.  It is not at all clear that PETA even knows which monkey it is representing, since in court papers they identify Naruto as a six-year old male, but the original photographer whose copyright claim PETA is disputing, David Slater himself identified the photogenic macaque as a female. Read more


Is the copyright world tired of exhaustion?

Over the last two weeks, I have been putting together a syllabus to teach a course in copyright law at the University of Kansas law school.  Although I have taught copyright a lot, I have never done so in a formal law school class, so this is both an exciting and intimidating process for me.

As part of planning a class session about the doctrine of first sale, I was doing a little bit of research about the Capitol Records v. ReDigi  case, which squarely confronts the issue of whether or not first sale can survive in a digital age.  The case has been going on for a while, so I will claim the process of creating a syllabus as my justification for writing about it now. Read more