Archive for 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.

Getting into trouble with PG

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

To some extent, I saw this one coming. The first question, answer, and expansion in OCA and GLP 1 wasn’t really designed to provoke, but I knew it might be considered provocative.

I thought it might serve as a test of reading comprehension: Would the Project Gutenberg supporter be able or willing to understand the distinctions I was making (between the plain text of a book and the pages of the book, for example) or would they just fulminate that I was demeaning PG and the Michael who made it all possible?

Turns out the first response came in two days ago–but it came in to, the special email address for those who verify up front that their comments can be published, and I don’t check that email address very often. (This is the first such submission…)

Two more arrived today.

Bruce Albrecht sent the first response, a long and thoughtful one. He begins:

I would like to take exception to the several places in the December
2005 edition of Cites and Insight
( where you dismiss the Project
Gutenberg as merely a library of e-texts as opposed to e-books, which
are clearly better.

In the lowest common denominator form, PG texts are, as you say, only
etexts. However, many, if not most of the new works contributed to PG
these days from Distributed Proofreaders also include a secondary HTML
version which include all the features of an e-book that Karen Coyle
claims work from PG lack.

He goes on to note an example and all of its features, explain what Distributed Proofreaders is doing, and question my association of typography and page design with the book itself as written by the author, as opposed to the particular edition.

Well, there aren’t “several places…where I dismiss” PG as merely a library of etexts; I only see one place. But never mind. I was mistaken.

I plead guilty: I had grown so sick of Michael Hart’s inflated ego, his wayward ways with facts and figures (particularly back in the late unlamented “Ask Dr. Internet” days), and other aspects of His Project that I hadn’t gone back to Project Gutenberg in a long time. Everything Hart writes continues to emphasize plain ASCII as what PG is all about. When I did visit the site, I still find that emphasis–although there’s a mention of other formats hidden near the end of a very long FAQ.

And, sure enough, if you start clicking on entries in the catalog, eventually you’ll wind up with some HTML offerings (even a PDF or two!).

Because there’s at least one PDF, the answer to my first question (“How many books has Project Gutenberg digitized and made available online?”) should not be “None” but “A few.” Further clarification: There are several thousand “ebooks” by definitions I’d agree with, namely the HTML versions, but only a few digitized books–that is, digital replications of book pages. End of further clarification 12/3/05. The general answer is correct, however: PG’s primary thrust as explicated endlessly by its founder continues to be etexts, not ebooks (and I would note that Hart would probably take offense at the first sentence in the second paragraph of Albrecht’s letter). But even HTML digitizes the text and organization of a book, not the edition itself. (Google’s public domain offerings, as currently planned, offer the digitized editions, but not in ebook form…)

Then there’s the issue of whether an ebook should be a digital facsimile of a print edition, as opposed to a properly-organized version of the work itself. In this case, there are good arguments to be made on several sides. For some purposes, the digital facsimile is superior; for many purposes, the HTML (or TEI, or whatever) version of the work is superior. I think it’s legitimate to call both of these ebooks.

So, to the extent that PG does now include proper HTML versions of works, I’ll say that there are ebooks on PG.

As to the other two pieces of mail:

  • In one case, I’m waiting for permission to publish, since the mail came in to The correspondent raises a similar issue in briefer form, and says “it’s not fair to represent PG’s content so inaccurately.” My best defense is that PG’s founder makes such a point of representing PG that way that it’s easy for mere mortals to get confused.
  • The other case includes a “response” from Michael Hart himself, and since it was posted to a list (and forwarded from that list), I don’t feel I need his permission to quote some excerpts. The problem is that he was responding to exceprts from the article (I assume, given the responses), which leads to some silliness. He seems to assume that I’m holding Google up as the paragon of ebook provision. But Hart’s derision when it comes to caring about typography and page design can’t be missed; apparently caring about anything related to print is “obsessive.” I’m not sure what, if anything, I’ll actually use from Hart’s stuff; it’s too easy to quote without comment, since he doesn’t need much rope…

There will certainly be feedback/followup in the next issue, maybe even a separate essay. I see one discussion possibility already (having nothing to do with pure ASCII)…

Stinking magazines

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

Go read this post at Library Dust.

I have no idea what libraries do (although Michael certainly raises an interesting question), but I surely wish that magazine publishers would stop stinking up their products. (My wife, who’s pretty sensitive to that sort of thing, is a tad more vehement…)

Right now, at home that is, I’m trying to read the November Conde Nast Traveler. Apparently there was a perfume insert that I ripped out (or at least I can’t find it), but it’s still strong enough a week later that it’s hard to put up with. (But then, that magazine seems to have odd-smelling paper anyway…)

Actually, the other advertisers should demand that perfume inserts be stopped: I don’t look at ads when I’ve given up and trashed the magazine for stinking up the household…

Cites & Insights 2005 index available

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

The cover sheet and indexes for Cites & Insights 5 (2005) is now available (one cover sheet and two indexes totalling 18 pages).

This completes volume 5.

If your institution actually binds print volumes of C&I, I’d love to hear from you.

Well, I swear…but not that much

Monday, November 28th, 2005

Our Saturday night DVD movie was Flight of the Phoenix–the new one with Dennis Quaid, not the 1965 original with Jimmy Stewart.

My wife doesn’t much care for flying. Amazingly, she made it through the first half hour with only the comment that “I’ll never get on an airplane again.” (Not likely to be true, but it will take a really great cruise on the other end of that flight…)

The rest of the movie? Good, compelling, not too many lapses in logic and continuity. (I don’t remember the 1965 version, so can’t compare. I added both the new and old War of the Worlds to our Netflix queue at the same time, so we can make a comparison.)

But this isn’t a movie review. We enjoyed it. You might; you might not.

We had time to watch the 41-minute “making of” featurette. We were looking forward to it: To what extent did they actually try to accomplish the key plot element, and what were filming conditions actually like (in Namibia, substituting for the Gobi desert)?

We were disappointed in the featurette, for two primary reasons:

  • The studio tried too hard to make the featurette a mini-movie, with lots of dramatic music sometimes swamping the dialogue. That’s minor.
  • The director, John Moore, apparently can’t say ten words without one or two of them being f*ck or f**king. This got real old real fast. Either word used appropriately is, well, appropriate. Either word used instead of having a real vocabulary is just annoying. It got to the point where we both cringed a little whenever Moore appeared on screen

Actually, John Moore generally impressed us as being a first-rate a**h*le. We’ve never seen any of his other movies. With any luck, we never will. It’s fair to say there weren’t a bunch of quotes from cast members saying what a pleasure Moore is to work with. Admittedly, the filming was done under tough conditions–but geez, Moore seems to be a real pill.

Death of a friend

Sunday, November 27th, 2005

Dr. Ilene Rockman died yesterday–and that’s the last time I’ll use “Dr.,” because she was always Ilene to my wife and me.

You may know or know of Ilene through her many professional and editorial activities within ACRL, at the California State University System, and elsewhere. Charles W. Bailey, Jr., posted this notice earlier today; it offers a good brief summary of her career.

I might have met Ilene at some editorial board function many years ago (actually, I almost certainly did)–but we really got to know her when she married Fred Gertler. Fred is a close friend; has been for more than a quarter-century. When Fred married Ilene, she became a close friend too. Fred called this morning to let us know; we just returned from a visit.

Ilene had great intelligence, persistence, energy, and personality. I knew some of her many accomplishments. I also knew she and Fred made a great pair for the last decade–and admired her as a person as much as as a high-achieving librarian.

We always got together for a combined New Year’s/anniversary (ours) brunch, and typically a few more times each year. We’ll miss her. So will the library field (in general) and, I’m sure, thousands of individual librarians.

There’s more to say, but that’s enough for here and now.

Update, November 30: Please see the comments for this entry, including Fred Gertler’s eloquent eulogy.

Cites & Insights 5:14 available

Saturday, November 26th, 2005

Cites & Insights 5:14, December 2005, is now available for downloading.

This somewhat oversized 28-page issue (essays also available as HTML separates from the C&I home page) is, to use a seasonal metaphor, a post-Thanksgiving feast for the mind, with two big helpings of scanning-related goodness, a turkey of a story, a small side dish of crow, and a dessert helping of odd/old flicks.

Enough of the metaphor, here’s the details:

  • Perspective: OCA and GLP 1: Ebooks, Etext, Libraries and the Commons – the first of two essays on the Open Content Alliance and Google Book Search/Google Library Project. This shorter essay consists entirely of my own perspectives on the two projects and related topics.
  • Following Up: Mea Culpa – While this section includes several “following up” notes, the “mea culpa” regards “Analogies, Gatekeepers and Blogging”–Seth Finkelstein and Jon Garfunkel have convinced me that I’m not qualified to deny the existence of “gatekeepers” within the biblioblogosphere. Read why.
  • ©3 Perspective: Sony BMG: DRM Gone Bad – How an innovative, customer-oriented consumer electronics company can also be a Big Media turkey.
  • Perspective: OCA and GLP 2: Steps on the Digitization Road – The big essay (roughly 10K words, 13 pages, and the reason this issue’s so big: Quotes and comments on developments within these complementary projects, organized by topic.
  • Offtopic Perspective: SciFi Classics 50 Movie Pack, Part 1 – a little leavening to finish the issue. From Hercules and Gamera to the Wasp Woman and Pia Zadora, mini-reviews of 26 movies (the first six discs of a megapack that now goes for $20), a few of which deserve the “SciFi” label. Be your own MST3K script writer!

Note: While this is the final issue for volume 5 of Cites & Insights, it is not the end of the volume. The index (a volume title sheet and index) will appear in the reasonably near future, for those few (?) who actually bind Cites & Insights.

Followup on megapacks

Friday, November 25th, 2005

This post noted the availability of several new 50-movie packs, most all with “Classic” in the name, at a new lower price of $19.99 from Overstock (plus a humongous $1.40 shipping and handling charge for USPS shipping).

First a correction: The new company name “Mill Creek Entertainment,” not “Mill Pond,” and that’s about the only change in packaging from the old TreeLine 50-movie packs. Even the UPC company portion is the same, 26831. (The musicals were made in Singapore; three of the four previous packs were made in Taiwan; the first doesn’t have a made-in label. Given the full UPC numbers involved, I’d guess “Classic Musicals” is the 16th such pack–the first, “Family Classics,” was 26831 07001, this one’s 26831 07016, and the others are somewhere in between.)

Second, a little amplification. I ordered the set on Sunday from Overstock in Minnesota, using the cheapest possible shipping. The order shipped on Monday. From Minnesota. It arrived on Wednesday. In Mountain View, California. This is why I don’t pay for rush shipping if USPS or USPS Media Mail is available…around here, at least, I like the Post Office’s performance.

There are 50 titles. Some of them aren’t what you’d think of as “movies” (i.e., two collections of shorts, each running less than 45 minutes total), and some are musical revues rather than musicals as such. Most are in black & white (including at least one marked as color). Five are movies I have in other collections (but that’s OK: The five range from pretty good to first rate, and those five are in color). Most are old, as you’d expect, although one features Tuesday Weld and Chuck Berry. I probably won’t get to these pictures for a year or so, but I’m looking forward to it–quite a few of these are little-known movies that were never widely released, and I suspect there will be some great performances among them.

Third and finally, a possibly-redundant note as to why I find these megapacks so interesting (doing the reviews is just fun…): These packs testify to the wealth of material that is or should be in the public domain–and the hotly competitive and technology-driven DVD market makes it feasible to sell a package of 50 movies for $20, in a box that weighs less than a pound and takes up less shelf space than two videocassettes. These aren’t “DVD quality” remasters from the original films; they’re typically VHS-quality, sometimes not quite that good, leaving lots of room for the best movies to come out as higher-quality DVD releases. But these sets offer extensive looks into movie history and loads of good entertainment, at a price and in a form that was impossible prior to DVDs. They’re great cheap fodder for film studies, understanding the culture, and–well–making fun of the bad’uns.

Similarly, but in a different vein, cheap DVD production costs and compact storage make it possible to release very high quality sets of great old (and new) TV shows with loads of extras and picture and sound quality few of us ever saw when the shows were new. (If the music rights can be cleared, that is–I wonder whether seasons 3 and later of Moonlighting will ever emerge from clearance oblivion…)

DVDs will be gone by 2012? Here are a dozen more reasons I regard that as a silly projection…and why, even with copy protection (which these discs may or may not have), I love DVD.