fair use

The TEACH Act: For Distance Education or for All?

I'm not surprised. Cornell University along with the American Association of Publishers has developed a set of copyright guideline which states that the same fair use principles apply for electronic copies of documents placed in course management systems as do for print copies. In other words, it's not fair use to merely put electronic copies of texts in a password protected website. The copyright clearance center has a brochure outlining this new policy.

As I said, I'm not surprised. I predicted this in my dissertation, "The Future Is Open" for Composition Studies: A New Intellectual Property Model in the Digital Age. I've included the relevant text below for those that are interested:

In defining five basic changes to copyright law that the TEACH Act permits, Laura Gasaway suggests that

it removes the concept of the physical classroom and recognizes that a student should be able to access the digital content of the course wherever he or she has access to a computer. (82).

Book author wants book in Google Print

Jason Kottke notes that a book author Meghann Marco is complaining that she wants her book in Google Print, but that her publisher, Simon and Schuster, is suing Google and refuses to let her submit her book to Google. She feels that Google Print is an excellent way to promote her book.

I'm reminded here of the parallel in p2p file trading. Many smaller artists have reported increase in music sales due to file sharing. I must admit, I cannot see the downside for authors or publishers having their work indexed in Google Print. It can only lead to increases in sales. Instead, publisher objections are more a result of the mindset which they have regarding intellectual property. It's more about control than it is profit.

Restrictions impeding web-based courses

BioMed Central's BMC Medical Education journal has an article, Langlois et al's Restrictions impeding web-based courses: a survey of publisher's variation in authorising access to high quality on-line literature, a research study which looks at the difficulty in getting permission to use electronic versions of journal articles in online education.

From the abstract:

Eight of 16 publishers were willing to grant permission to store electronic versions of articles without levying charges additional to the subscription. Twenty of 35 publishers gave permission to reproduce extracts of published work at no fee. Publisher's responses were highly variable to the requests for access to published material. This may be influenced by vague terminology within the 'fair dealing' provision in the copyright legislation, which seems to leave it open to individual interpretation. Considerable resource costs were incurred by the exercise. Time expended included those incurred by us: research to identify informed representatives within the publishing organisation, request 'chase-ups' and alternative examples being sought if publishers were uncooperative; and the publisher when dealing with numerous permission requests. Financial costs were also incurred by both parties through additional staffing and paperwork generated by the permission process, the latter including those purely borne by educators due to the necessary provision of photocopy 'course packs' when no suitably alternative material could be found if publishers were uncooperative. Finally we discuss the resultant bias in material towards readily available electronic resources as a result of publisher's uncooperative stance and encourage initiatives that aim to improve open electronic access.

Editor's Note: Blocked Sites and Fair Use

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On Friday, Linux Today posted an excerpt with a link to a story on CMP Media LLC's Information Week. Later that day, Managing Editor Brian Proffitt of Linux Today learned that Information Week was blocking inbound referrals from Linux Today.

Beyond the obvious issue of why block Linux Today, especially, as Proffitt has noted, when they are sending traffic to Information Week's site, note that this is another instance of where authors/content owners are implementing IP practices which are not in the public's interest (see The Devil Is in the Details). Also, note that Information Week is doing so seemingly on the basis of a fair use violation. The message users receive when visiting Information Week from Linux Today says, as Proffitt states,

The crux of the message on CMP's blocking page reads: "Unfortunately, we cannot satisfy this particular request because it comes from a source that is not authorized to redistribute our content..."

Proffitt says that Linux Today takes care to make only fair use of other texts when quoting from other news sources. What I want to know is does the public have a right based in fair use when a content provider makes a claim which denies fair use? Which leads to can someone sue a content owner for not providing fair use access? Fair use, after all, is in Title 17.

More on The Devil Is in the Details: Exercising Our Right Not to Read

I made a background image for this post today to make a point in relation to The Devil Is in the Details. When publishers and authors exercise what they see as a right of content owners to specifically prescribe how readers may use a text in ways that inhibit fair use, they forget about the one major right of readers, one that is increasingly being emphasized within the open access movement. For example, the open letter from PLoS states,

To encourage the publishers of our journals to support this endeavor, we pledge that, beginning in September 2001, we will publish in, edit or review for, and personally subscribe to only those scholarly and scientific journals that have agreed to grant unrestricted free distribution rights to any and all original research reports that they have published, through PubMed Central and similar online public resources, within 6 months of their initial publication date.

Meanwhile, faculty senates are voting to drop database publication supplier Elsevier. Consider this quote from a resolution passed by Indiana University Bloomington Faculty Council :

Challenges of digital copyright law for academia

Challenges of digital copyright law for academia - Andrea Foster, Intellectual Property: Digital-Copyright Law Is Ripe for Revision, Chronicle of Higher Education, Volume 50, Issue 21, Page B14 (January 30, 2004) (access restricted to subscribers). One from a series " IT: 10 challenges for the next 10 years," this article discusses the interests of universities in revisions to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, with specific attention to fair use of publications in course materials and mollifying software anti-circumvention laws for study of computer systems and access to digital materials. Pressure for congress to review the DMCA may also come from industry advocates such as the RIAA, unhappy with recent rulings limiting their ability to supoena file sharers. [Open Access News]