Ramblings, citations and "brainwaves" of a college librarian in Toronto. 475 square feet refers to the size of my home, not the size of my office or library.

Unofficial Guides and Copyright and Trademark Infringement

"Makers of the wildly popular "World of Warcraft" online game now face a lawsuit from an eBay seller who claims he was improperly barred from selling copies of his own unofficial gaming guide. The complaint argues that his book does not infringe on any of the companies' copyrights for several reasons: The book presents a disclaimer on its first page about its "unauthorized" nature, contains no copyrighted text or storylines from the game and makes "fair use" of selected screenshots under copyright law, the complaint said. " Get the complete story at CNET News.

People are developing new content that challenges existing commercial players. Fan fiction, fan blogs, parody videos, parody ads, how-to guides, and many others. Luckily we have lawyers to snuff out any little flowers that may be blooming. Dojinshi practices in Japan are perhaps a glimse into the future whereby official products exist alongside unofficial creations in the market place. Each feeding consumers to each other. I remain optimistic.

When I first read this story, it got me thinking of all the content faculty are developing, that is to some degree sourced (with and without attribution) from copyright protected materials. Luckily most remains uncommercial at this time. But with budget pressures, more departments are asking faculty to cut back on photocopy costs, so they are selling their works to students on a cost recovery basis. Some "course-packs" or "course-notes" are legit (royalties are paid to copyright holders) but many are not. The ease of online dissemination makes tracking faculty practices even more difficult. Maybe the vast majority of faculty creations are legit, maybe they are not. We'll never know.

I just worry about a future day of reckoning, and what the fallout may be.

Britannica Tries to Push Wikipedia Into the Wall

In NASCAR automobile racing, intentionally pushing a competitor into the wall on the race track, all so gently, without the victim or anyone else knowing they were "bumped", is a proven tactic for winning races or moving up the standings. If you are caught, you can be punished both financially and in championship points. Nature tried to push Britannica into the wall on the information race track. Crash and burn baby, you're out of the race! Britannica went to the garage, hammered out the sheet metal put on some 200 mile per hour duck tape and got back onto the track to get even with Nature.

As fun as this is to watch (lots of people are trying to crash Wikipedia out of the race), accuracy or quality is not the key difference between the two. Britannica suffers currency issues, that is entries are often old and out of date. Wikipedia lacks editorial oversight and anything goes. The real difference is in the range of entries. Whenever I want a definition or description or explanation of anything, Britannica never has the entry. You know what? I always find it in Wikipedia. Try looking up DRM in Britannica...or information about your small home town...or local food specialties, try "Poutine"...you see why I love Wikipedia...like I've always said, sometimes I use a rock to bang in an exposed nail on the deck because I'm too lazy to go get the hammer. It works...


Veoh Networks has received and made available to its members 10,000 homemade TV shows and movies. Veoh approves each movie placed on the network to ensure that copyright material does not get traded on the network and that adult content is not labeled as something else.

Veoh Networks also recently began offering free downloads of cult classics, including kung fu flicks such as "Ninja Death 1," John Wayne movies like "The Lucky Texan" and black-and-white horrors such as "The Brain That Wouldn't Die." (CNET News 8 March 2006)

There's so much emerging fun things to look at online, there's not enough hours in the day!

Google to Sell Online Access to Books

Google has announced plans to sell online access to books. Consumers will be able to pay for access to books and view them through a browser-based interface, with no ability to save copies of pages to their local hard drives. Publishers have to opt-in and will be able to set their own prices. This initiative is a competitive response to a similar program that Amazon launched in November 2005.

Direct-to-consumer sales threaten libraries. Patrons expect online access to content and if they can't get it from their library, many are willing to pay if the price is right. If enough consumers jump on these initiatives, publishers may stop licensing their titles to services like NetLibrary. That would be bad news for libraries.

DRM Monopolies

"DRM (Digital Rights Management) has the potential to become the universal billing system for the Internet. Apple's iTunes store currently dominates online media sales, while Microsoft has successfully sold its Windows Media format to telecommunications carriers that are hoping to sell copy-protected music, TV and videos to subscribers...

The possibility of one or two proprietary U.S. standards dominating the market is not just a concern in France, whose leaders have recently been touting "economic patriotism." It also unnerves any company that has content to sell or distribute, since songs or videos purchased from one store will often not play on systems from another store, locking in users...

French law wants different copy protection software programs to be able to communicate with one another, so that downloads from the Web can be transferred to any device, not just iPods or WMA devices, as long as the number of copies stays within limits set by media publishers." (CNet News 20 March 2006)

Just look at audio books in libraries. Online services generally use Microsoft's DRM while most patrons carry Apple iPods. Tying hardware to DRM has got to end now. Look at the emerging next generation DVD mess, DRM is at the heart of the matter. Content holders are picking sides, consumers are going to suffer as a result.

CRIA Trips and Falls

Michael Geist, Canada's biggest technology activist, recently commented on a CRIA report that undermines their file sharing doomsday prediction. Among others things he notes: "CRIA's own research now concludes that P2P downloading constitutes less than one-third of the music on downloaders' computers, that P2P users frequently try music on P2P services before they buy, that the largest P2P downloader demographic is also the largest music buying demographic, and that reduced purchasing has little to do with the availability of music on P2P services."

Millenials Are Amazing But...

It seems every conference I go to lately has a session focusing on "Millennials" and how amazing they are and how out of touch teachers and curriculums are with them. As a result of this mismatch, student success is declining. A University of Pennsylvania study suggests otherwise. It found that students are falling short of their intellectual potential not because of inadequate teachers, boring textbooks and large class sizes but a failure to exercise self-discipline. "Hard work is no longer seen as a key factor in academic success. Kids have convinced parents that it is the teacher or the system that is the problem not their own lack of effort. Today the teacher is supposed to be responsible for motivating the student" (USA Today 8 March 2006: 11A).

Humm. Just show up for class, consume the "service", expect to do well. A writing assigment that averaged 10-15 hours to write (not including research) 20 years ago does not fly today. The expectation is 1-2 hours. Activists will point out how many hours students work at jobs, how long their commutes are, ESL issues, etc., but I see lots of video game playing, IM'g, movie watching. Expectations are way off and learning objectives are not being met to the degree they once were. Hold the line and everyone would fail the course. Some faculty hold the line, take the heat, and the student work is truely impressive.

We need to expect more from this generation. Its time to turn up the heat. India and China's graduates are ready to take up the slack.

Student postings (text, images, etc.) on MySpace, Xanga, Hi5, Friendster and Facebook are proving to be a great source for 'character investigations' by universities, colleges and employers. USA Today reports that students are loosing scholarships, admission offers and jobs because of the irresponsible content (libel, erotic, drugs, hate literature, crimes, etc.) they posted online. To some degree it is a similar manifestation of the buzz about blogging and people being fired for what they wrote.

Although many of these communities may be limited to students, if there is a will, there is a way for people to get access. I think alot of students believe they are hanging out in virtual spaces in relative anonimity from "higher-ups" and that the power relations of the past have been turned on their head by technology. They're in the know, while others are clueless. Evidently this belief (from anedotal evidence) is false.

Clip Culture Threatens Big Media

'Old School' broadcasters are beginning to offer content on the web and/or mobile phones. Like anything else mobile phone related, Asia is light years ahead of North America in this area. I'm guessing profit margin expectations are to blame here. Whether it is content providers or the mobile phone companies that are to blame, we will never know. All I know is that there is not much content available here.

In terms of the web, the barbarians are at the gate. Amateur videographers and video remixers empowered by video sharing sites are challenging big media for eyeballs. Youtube, Blinkx.tv, Truveo.com, Google Video, AOL Video, Yahoo Video, TVEyes, GoFish, MSN video and other sharing sites are chock full of must-see video clips. Most films are only movie trailer or sports highlight length. They can be entirely amateur shot and developed to mash-ups of copyright protected content (infringing) to unedited clips of copyright protected content.

Michael Geist recently spoke about this issue: "From a business perspective, media compaines are being forced to grapple with the competitive threat of user-generated content and how to address unauthorized sharing of their clips... Users are increasingly not satisfied with merely consuming content, but rather deamnd the ability to share and re-create it." (Toronto Star 20 March 2006: C4).

Remember the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction at SuperBowl? It was online for download within 15 minutes of the altercation. Saturday Night Live's mock music video called "Lazy Sunday" and its west coast response "Lazy Monday" (Wall Street Journal 1 March 2006: D4). Ever see the withdrawn TV ad for Ford's 'Sport Ka' car?..the one with the sunroof and the cat? There is alot of content that companies yank for PR reasons, business reasons that live on (illegally) online.

Back to mobile phones. I predict (yikes) that if content prices remain unaffordable, in time, rogue networks will develop to meet demand for "free" content on mobile phone handsets. Already the Symbian OS has been proven to not be robust and content is being migrated from DVDs to handsets. Network accessible content is around the corner. For now we have the Video iPod and its cousins. Lets hope mobile and online video content business will not be bungled like music was. People will pay if the DRM is robust and prices are reasonable. Forget quarterly profit, go longterm. Please!

There is a perception that people refuse to pay for online content, that they expect everything to be available for free. In the absence of robust DRM, this might be true, but when you have a platform used by billions, with robust DRM, people pay for content willingly. Where many gripe about 99 cent music downloads, they willingly pay $3 or more for a mobile phone ringtone (Toronto Star 17 March 2006 p. E1, E8). The sound bite can be music or dialogue cut from a favorite film or TV show. I'd love to have Cloe from 24's "I don't care why you need it, when do you want it..."

Don't get me wrong I'd love to be able to plug my mobile phone into my PC and install it myself. But since I cannot, a few bucks would not bankrupt me. The problem is the options available are limited. You can only be as creative as the offerings available.

While not a new vision or practice, the idea of government (state, provincial, federal, trading block) funded "digital libraries" is begining to gain traction. Under the guise of equalization between haves (university people, business people) and have-nots (high schools, most of the general public), we're seeing more and more ambitious digital libraries 'for the people' planned and develped. A few examples are:

Lois Hole Alberta Digital Library ($30 million, of oil money?)

Canadian National Site Licensing Project

EC Digital Library

Ontario Digital Library

New York Online Virtual Electronic Library

Content licensed from commercial providers is combined with digitized physical holdings no longer under copyright protection. Sounds dreamy right? A movement that will free up over leveraged electronic resource budgets of libraries. Maybe not...

The business plans I've seen thus far require existing libraries to pay a tithe to support the project. The tithe can either be a flat fee on some scale or a scaled fee per information service a library wishes to make available to its user community. The groups that can benefit most from this type of arrangement are those who already are the "haves". The "have-nots" do not have the resources to buy in. If we're going to realize the dream of digital libraries opening up content to everyone, we need projects fully sponsored by government. In any case it will not be cheap, providers will demand more and more as these libraries eventually cut into their profit margins. I'm not sure this model is sustanable for current content (say less than 3 years old).

I would rather see universal index access via Google Scholar or something better, with national clearinghouses for purchasing full-text, be it 3 or 5$ per article. Libraries could buy bundles of "downloads" to make available to their patrons (a set amount for each person). When the bundles run out, you could buy more yourself. Anything older than 3 years would be available in full-text in traditional information services like Elsevier, EBSCO, ProQuest, CSA, etc. Lets face it, the money is in current materials not archives. Current materials have more value than older materials, I don't think it should be one access model for all full-text content.

Wikipedia Passes 1 Million Entries

Wikipedia announced on March 1st 2006 that it had surpassed 1 million English entries. As you may have noticed I am a huge Wikipedia fan. The Wiki has explanations of words, concepts, technologies, etc. you cannot find anywhere else. The glocalized nature of the tome continues to astound me. Whether you want an entry on a local place, building, person, food or event, you often find an entry. Before Wikipedia, I had to search many different online search engines, encyclopedias and dictionaries for questions (Who, What, When, Where, Why, How, etc.) requiring basic explanations. In many cases, Wikipedia provides one stop shopping.

Granted there are information quality problems (accuracy, currency, vandalism,
mischief, and public relations related editorial interference) plagiarism issues, and a bias towards referencing electronic works, but the 'pedia is "good enough" for many uses. If needed, I can use the Wiki entry to help me search (keywords) more authoritative sources.

Unlike other open access building projects, there is no core of experts doing peer review of entries (unlike the Digital Universe project). As long as you know that, you should be okay. Sometimes you can't find your hammer, and you grab something heavy and hard to bang down a nail. That's Wikipedia for me.

Asking the Right Questions About the Future of Libraries

My big pet peeve with futurists is that they are often knowledgeable, brillaint people who propose answers to the "wrong questions". Stephen A. recently brought Thomas Frey's (DaVinci Institute) wildly quoted 'future of libraries' piece to my attention again, and I remembered why it irked me the first time I read it. It is a great read, but fails to ask some key questions.

Thomas outlines ten trends that will guide the evolution of libraries, and this list has been extensively quoted and discussed. A few thoughts about some of his "trends".

Trend #1 - Communication systems are continually changing the way people access information
Trend #2 - All technology ends. All technologies commonly used today will be replaced by something new.

Okay, but over the last five decades, have technology trends been generally good or bad for libraries? To me, that is the interesting question. Looking back are things getting better or worse?
Change by its very nature is rarely neutral. Microfiche was good. It gave us access to a wider range of content than many libraries had before and it did not take much space. Television many can argue was bad. Reading as a leisure activity declined. Libraries were technically and legally unable to archive or store this new cultural content. The World Wide Web was initially good. People came into the building to access it. New online information products enabled libraries to expand the range and depth of full-text content they could make available to their users. Information literacy emerged as a cornerstone role for many libraries.

Lately, the web and other network infrastructure has become a negative for libraries as they continue to loose ground in terms of access to content. They cannot digitize they copyright protected holdings nor can they acquire the non-textual content their communities seek.

Trend #9 – We are transitioning from a product-based economy to an experience based economy
Trend #10 - Libraries will transition from a center of information to a center of culture

Music, movies, images, multimedia, are largely off limits for libraries. We generally cannot acquire this cultural content in the format and access channels our users seek. We can buy a CD or DVD but cannot provide internet access to the digital content on it. The ebook the teacher wants her class to use is only available as a paid direct-to-consumer download. It cannot be licensed to libraries. Old television shows are also only available as a paid direct-to-consumer download. This is not to say the CBC and BBC is not making content easily available, but the vast majority of content people ask me about, we could not buy if we wanted to. But guess what? They can access it illegally on file sharing networks. How big are libraries in making content available on mobile telephones? Copyright holders are working with the phone companies, not us. Some music tracks are exclusively available on mobile telephone networks. Seems like a problem to me.

If libraries cannot provide access to content, on the platform and access channel people seek, we're in trouble. It the digital media age it seems like we are increasingly
persona non grata in the marketplace for digital products. Text, is the exception. If the decline of the role of text, in people's lives, continues on its current trajectory, we have a content problem for the future. What value will we be able to provide?

Perhaps we will be limited to becoming repositories of local cultural products produced by non-commercial enties?

File Sharing Blamed Again as Music Sales Fall in Canada

The Canadian Recording Industry Association reported yesterday that music sales (cds,dvds and online) fell 4% in 2005, to $608.7 million dollars. Online music sales in Canada represent only 2% of our market compared to an average of 6% in other countries, and our high broadband penetration (second only to Korea) coupled with "outdated" copyright laws are continuing the piracy download bonanza, shrinking revenues.

I have another theory. Canadians have less disposable income in Canada, than say the United States. Our mobile phone service plans are in the "dark ages" in Canada, due to an absence of competition. We pay more for plans with useless amounts of daytime minutes, suffer overage fee drowings, are tolled into oblivion for mobile data services, the list goes on. Ask any teenager (previously they were big buyers of music) with a budget crunch requiring drastic cuts to total spending and they will fight for the mobile phone over other expenditures. It is the vital service in their lives. I would argue even more than the PC with a broadband Internet connection. I would argue, without numbers to back me up, that if our mobile phone plans were as affordable as they are in the U.S.A., kids would have more dollars to buy music online and reduce downloading of music, movies, video games, textbooks, etc.

Do I support piracy, no. But blaming our copyright laws and broadband access is overly simplistic.

If There is No Negative, How Do I Prove I took the Picture?

Before digital cameras, if someone challenged me, that I was infringing on their copyright protected photograph, I could produce the negative I used to print the picture or digitally scanned print image. Digital images by their very nature are easily copied and can be sourced from anywhere. If you win the image resolution competition, is that proof you took the photograph? You have a 5MB file, ha! I have a 20 MB file!? Photo finishing and printing establishments, through a click-through-agreement or print form, demand that you indemnify them from copyright infringement liability by requiring that you state that you hold the copyright to all the images being submitted for processing. Standing around the kiosks where you upload your images for processing, it is obvious that many of the images being submitted were scanned from books or downloaded from online sources. The vast majority are legit, but you do see red flags on some of the content being uploaded.

A long time ago I used to license images from
Corbis and other stock photography providers, quite often, but today it is too expensive. My library has a small stock photography collection on CD that I can use, but I generally look to photobloggers and sites like Flickr to source content that I cannot readily shoot myself. I wonder how long these sites will survive, when they become dominated by copyright infringed content. It is only a matter of time. This problem stops many libraries and institutions from developing image repositories. How do you determine if the uploader is the copyright holder? Before you know it you'll have a repository full of illicit content.

What we need is DRM for imaging equipment. I want my digital camera or scanner to embed an invisible to the naked eye watermark (my name and contact information for example) that is robust and can be indexed by search engines. That way when I upload an image to a sharing site, and I smack a
Creative Commons license on it, I can easily search for who is using it. Similarly, someone else cannot claim ownership of the image.

USA Today had a nice piece on Flickr, on February 28th. Jefferson Graham explores its germination, influence and future plans.

Renting Content On CD/DVDs, 2nd Hand Stores

Although media coverage of movie, music, software, and video game piracy has overwhelmingly focused on downloading activities and technologies, the "Sneaker Net" is a bigger problem. Hardware and software available today makes copying onto media (CSs, DVDs) easier than ever before and people are sharing what they've bought (legally or illegally at street vendors, flea markets and mall kiosks), or copied from friends, family, libraries, video stores, online video, game stores (Gamefly, NetFlix) and second hand stores. There's a business model problem when you can buy new or second hand and return it to a retailer for half your money back after you've made yourself a copy. You could even barter (Lala.com, Peerflix.com, BarterBee.com, TitleTrader.com, etc.) It is quite a dsyfunctional retailing environment.

Why do I care? I can imagine a day when libraries are forbidden from acquiring and lending out movies, music and other content. Commercial rental establishments for movies and video games cease to exist. The only way to get access is to buy at what I would argue is at great expense. $20 or 30$ for a first run film on DVD is at least three times higher than I feel it is worth. Look at the film selection at Blockbuster, want to show your kids your favorite films, they don't have them. Maybe your indie rental store does, but they're closing everyday. I get them at the library. I don't want to buy, archive, collect, I just want to rent or borrow. If it was $3, I could buy and throw it out, I guess that is similar to renting. Video on demand remains pathetic in terms of selection and is overly costly.

Ubiquitous robust DRM (Digital Rights Management) technologies are needed to keep our current borrowing (commercial or not) environment intact. Alternatively, films, video games, music need to be sold for less than $3 so we can use and discard without feeling guilty about it. The difficulties libraries are having licensing online access to non-text content is foreshadowing a future where borrowing or reselling content is legally and technically impossible. George Bush's "Ownership Society" realized.

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