Copyright small claims: an update on legislation

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.

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Revolutionizing Scholarly Publishing

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.

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Momentum

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.

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Are Some Fair Use Factors “More Equal” Than Others?

more equal

“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.

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The Copyright Office off the rails

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.

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Waking from the Dream

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.

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