Archive for December, 2005

Warning: Possible repeats ahead

Monday, December 5th, 2005

I’m going to add a Cites & Insights category soon, partly because Cites & Insights and Walt at Random are becoming more intertwined.

Once I add the category, I’ll go through and assign it to posts that relate fairly directly to the e-journal, except for new-issue announcements (where I can’t imagine why anyone would ever need to go through the old ones, although i will use it for new ones).

I’m not sure how RSS and its ilk recognize newness/updatedness, but I believe it’s at least likely that these posts will show up in Bloglines and other RSS aggregators just because I add the category. If that’s true, my apologies: I’m not trying to get you to read the posts again! If I’m wrong, then no harm is done (other than this pointless post).

Update, 5:45 PST, December 6, 2005: If there have been any repeat messages, this should be the last of them. I’ve finished adding the C&I category to those posts that I think need it (excluding announcements of specific issues). Who knows? I might even have a topical posting one of these days….

Will fair use survive?

Monday, December 5th, 2005

Posted on behalf of the Free Expression Policy Project:

Will Fair Use Survive? Free Expression in the Age of Copyright Control from the Free Expression Policy Project at the Brennan Center for Justice, NYU School of Law

Executive Summary

“Fair use” is a crucial part of our copyright system. It allows any of us to quote and reproduce parts — or sometimes all — of copyrighted works, if the use advances creativity and democratic discussion. There are similar free expression safeguards in trademark law. Together, they assure that the owners of “intellectual property” cannot close down the free exchange of ideas. These safeguards in our copyright and trademark systems are at risk today. Threatening “cease and desist” letters cause many people to give up their fair use rights. Even more troublesome are “take-down” notices sent by copyright owners to Internet service providers, which pressure them to remove online speech without any court having ruled that it is illegal.

Additional hurdles to fair use come from the “clearance culture” in many creative industries, which assumes that almost no quote can be used without permission from the owner. Meanwhile, educational “fair use guidelines,” which are often narrower than fair use law, prevent many teachers from copying material for their classes. In late 2004, the Brennan Center for Justice began a research project to learn how well fair use and free expression are faring among artists, scholars, and others who make critical contributions to culture and democratic discourse. We conducted focus group discussions, telephone interviews, an online survey, and an analysis of more than 300 cease and desist and take-down letters that have been deposited with the “Chilling Effects” Clearinghouse. Our discussions with members of PEN American Center, Women Make Movies, the College Art Association, and the Location One Gallery yielded two common themes. The first was that artists and scholars have great interest in, and confusion about, fair use. The second was a need for community support and pro bono legal assistance in their dealings with publishers, distributors, and other cultural gatekeepers. Our analysis of 320 cease and desist and take-down letters from the Chilling Effects Web site indicated that more than 20% either stated weak copyright or trademark claims, or involved speech with a strong or at least reasonable free expression or fair use defense. Another 27% attacked material with possible free expression or fair use defenses. Thus, almost 50% of the letters had the potential to chill protected speech. The materials targeted by the letters ranged from criticism of a Scientology-like “planetary enlightenment” program to parodies of American Express and Mastercard. Our telephone interviewees included the creator of a parody New York Times corrections page, an editor at the Cape Cod Voice, and small entrepreneurs using such terms as “Pet Friendly” Travel or “Piggy Bank of America.” Five of them had strong or at least reasonable fair use or First Amendment defenses, and four had possible defenses.

Another seven received cease and desist or take-down letters with weak copyright and trademark claims. Yet nine of the 17 people we interviewed acquiesced in the copyright or trademark owners’ demands, or had their material removed because of take-down letters. 290 people filled out the online survey, expressing opinions about, and experiences with, copyright and fair use. Their stories ranged from an artist who made “Homeland Security” blankets to a fan fiction Web site that posted a story called “Gaelic Dreams” and received a cease and desist letter from the “Gaelic Dreams” import company. Numerous teachers and scholars expressed frustration with a clearance culture that locks images out of public view whenever an owner refuses permission or charges too high a price. What can be done to bolster fair use and free expression in the digital age? Our recommendations include creating a clearinghouse for information, including sample replies to cease and desist letters and take-down notices; a legal support network; outreach to Internet service providers to encourage help for those targeted by take-down letters; and changes in the law to reduce the cost of guessing wrong about fair use.

I certainly plan to comment on this report–but it may be a while before I read it. Meanwhile, Google’s Library Project might yield some clarification of fair use, if the cases go to trial–but that clarification could be good or bad.

If you care about fair use, I recommend that you read the report.

Closing down the volume

Saturday, December 3rd, 2005

It doesn’t help that it comes right around Thanksgiving time, also a time I’m most likely to get a cold or upper respiratory virus (which seems to be what I have now), also a time that the Season’s Unjollies start to set in…

But somehow it takes quite a while, at least in terms of energy and days “lost” to either productive writing or, even better, goofing off, before a volume of Cites & Insights is really and truly Done in my eyes. I believe I’ve finally reached that point for volume 5 today, which is actually on the early side.

Here’s the steps:

  • Close the final issue for the year and turn it into a published C&I. I’ve described this process (in an unusual case) before, if briefly. This time, I closed the issue right around November 21 (I believe), recognized there was no way I was going to get it down to a reasonable size, but finally had it ready to publish on November 24. (But because that was Thanksgiving–we celebrate a day later in my family–I consider November 26, when the issue was uploaded and publicized, to be the actual pub. date.)
  • Adding index entries for the issue usually takes another day or two. I think I also got that done on November 24 (staying out of my wife’s way and washing pots, pans, dishes left a lot of time…).
  • The first special end-of-volume task is to prepare the index: Correct at least the most obvious errors and inconsistencies in the entries from each issue (don’t worry, there are loads of other inconsistencies still there!), prepare a “final” Word index (I use a dummy Word document consisting entirely of index entries, with a chapter break for each issue to build a running index), and then turn that “final” index into a publishable index.
  • What’s involved there? First, global-replacing the chapter/page strings with issue/page strings (e.g., “1001:” becomes “Ja “). Then, in a simultaneous pass, fixing the orthography and eliminating duplicate issue labels. (Orthography: This year I left journal and book titles both with first-caps rather than caps on almost every word. But I still italicize book, magazine, TV show and similar titles and change C&I section and essay names to small caps. (Citations to articles elsewhere appear in quotes, which results in Word putting them all at the beginning of the alphabet; I set those off as a separate index.) Oh yes: Since the index is designed to be useful in a bound volume of C&I I prepend a two-page document, the cover sheet, to the index.
  • That process can take anywhere from three days to two weeks; it’s not something that’s so much fun I just want to stick with it… In any case, the index was ready to publish on November 29, and I published it on November 30.
  • From external appearances, that’s it: The volume’s complete. But from my perspective, there are three more steps:
  • Print the full set of issues in clean duplex form on good paper, without three-hole punching. I did this on my cheap little multifunction this time–yes, an inkjet, but with Office Depot “Color inkjet” paper (24lb., very opaque, 99+ brightness, very smooth), the results are magnificent. (And the feeder is simple enough so that manual duplexing–printing all the odd-numbered pages in an issue, putting the paper stack back in, then printing all the even-numbered pages–worked perfectly, with no double feeds or problems.) Finished that yesterday, December 2.
  • Get it bound. I don’t know where I’d have to go or how much I’d have to pay for proper binding, and the local Kinko’s (oh, sorry, Fedex Kinko’s) no longer does tape perfect binding–hasn’t since 2002. So I settle for velo binding with the usual black vinyl back and transparent cover. No spine to write on, and it doesn’t stand up as straight as I’d like, but it’s durable (and C&I has a wide enough binding margin). Just did that today, December 3.
  • And the most important step, delayed thanks to illness (as were the previous steps) and general lassitude: Get off my fat…well, and start writing again. More to the point, start working on material for Volume 6. I’ve just begun that process: Not the 2,000 words (and part of a paid column) I was hoping for, but even 500 words is a break from 10 days without writing (unless you count Walt at random

So there it is. Volume 5 is now really, truly done…even if it’s clear that stories from Volume 5 will require followup/feedback space in Volume 6, Issue 1. Coming sometime in late December (or, possibly, early January.) With, I think, a new, sometimes lighthearted, PDF-only feature. More about that when the time is right.