Issue No. 13

March 4, 2002

Paula Kaufman, University Librarian




Stanford law professor and author Lawrence Lessig and a small band of collaborators at MIT, Duke, Harvard and Villanova are about to embark on an interesting new endeavor.

A recognized national authority on intellectual-property, Lessig is perhaps best known as the author of two of the most important books yet produced about computers, the Internet and how our legal system deals with them: "Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace," and his more recent work, "The Future of Ideas."

In an interview last week, Lessig confirmed the basic details about his latest venture, Creative Commons, which is slated to be formally unveiled in a few months. Creative Commons will make available flexible, customizable intellectual-property licenses that artists, writers, programmers and others can obtain free of charge to legally define what constitutes acceptable uses of their work. The new forms of licenses will provide an alternative to traditional copyrights by establishing a useful middle ground between full copyright control and the unprotected public domain.


The US Supreme Court has announced that it would hear arguments in Eldred vs. Ashcroft, a case that features the entertainment industry fighting claims that the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 is unconstitutional. The law extends the period of copyright control for an additional 20 years. Educators and other free speech proponents argue that the longer copyright terms are made, the longer it will take for important literary and other entertainment works to reach the public domain and be available for educational use. Case archive at

Coverage at





In recent weeks publications such as the CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION have hinted that the press was under pressure from the administration—and might possibly be closed—due to financial troubles. A recent report in the DAILY WILDCAT, Northwestern's student newspaper, reported the press as booking a stunning loss of $877,000 on revenues of $1.54 million last year, numbers that could not immediately be confirmed, or put into context with past years' or the press' current budget expectations.

The possibility of Northwestern's demise, real or imagined, has led to an impassioned defense of university presses, many of which are struggling in the current tight economy. In response to the rumors of Northwestern's demise, Willis Regier, the director of the University of Illinois Press, wrote in the Feb. 22 edition of the CHRONICLE of the university press' vital role in academe and pointedly challenged the Northwestern administration not to discard its press.

LC Academic Newswire 2/28/02


Butterfields, the eBay-owned San Francisco auction house released a press release on February 27 officially announcing the auction of what it called an "An extensive, historically-important archive of handwritten and typed speeches, correspondence and photographs." The release says the lots contain "notes of the slain minister's thought-process and full texts of his speeches as well as an unpublished journal of his meetings with African and Middle Eastern political leaders." The property will be previewed for potential bidders in Los Angeles March 8-10 and in San Francisco March 15-17. According to the release, other lots include 87 typed manuscripts of prepared articles and speeches delivered at Clark College, Yale University, Howard University, and elsewhere as well as 23 Malcolm X freedom rally speeches totaling more than 200 pages and expected to "bring as much as $40,000." Another lot is described as "a large archive of more than 800 pages," featuring outlines of talks delivered at mosques, temples, and public rallies in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and other cities. LJ Academic News Wire 2/28/02


Less than three weeks before a never-before-seen collection of Malcolm X's personal papers are set to be auctioned over eBay through the San Francisco auction house Butterfields, it has been reported that the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is in discussions to arrange purchase of the collection. A division of the New York Public Library, the Schomburg is one of the world's leading resources for black cultural studies and boasts an impressive collection. Preserving Malcolm X's papers there would ensure their availability to future generations of scholars. "We are doing everything we can," Schomburg Director Howard Dotson, told the Library Journal Academic Newswire. Dotson said he was in talks with representatives from Butterfields about the fate of the collection.

Prior to the Schomburg, or perhaps anyone, purchasing the collection, one issue appears to need resolution: establishing that the anonymous seller of the collection actually has the right to sell it. A representative from Butterfields could not comment on the owner's identity. Sources close to the situation, however, have indicated that the collection is not being sold by family members, raising concerns over whether the title to the items set to be auctioned—including Malcolm X's personal diaries—will be disputed. "I share those concerns," said Dotson when asked if he was worried about ownership issues. "I do not know if the items have been through probate." In May of 1999 Butterfields was forced to withdraw from auction the bullet-riddled address book, in Malcolm X's pocket at the time of his assassination, after the family and New York City officials raised ownership issues. It was believed that the address book was stolen from official case files.

LJ Academic News Wire 2/28/02


Despite recent demise of e-book imprints at Random House and AOL Time Warner, industry e-book sales have actually continued to rise (though the total numbers are still in the tens-of-thousands, not the hundreds-of-thousands). Patricia Schroeder, head of the Association of American Publishers, says: "Publishing houses are still very much watching how this is unfolding. This is a nation that always overhypes technology in the beginning and then overreacts in the other direction." (AP/San Jose Mercury News 27 Feb 2002)

Technicians at the British Library yesterday began the six month task of digitizing the mother work of English literature, Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The project will open the book to a potential audience of millions through the internet. Surfers will be able to spend evenings online with two of the bawdiest characters in the language: the eponymous wife of Bath, and the miller's wife in the Miller's Tale.

The tales were the first printed book in English, published by William Caxton in 1476. The 12 copies that survive are between them worth £4.6m. The British Library in London has two. Their 748 pages have worn thin with the centuries. They are kept in darkened secure rooms and shown only at rare exhibitions or to handpicked scholars.

The digitization is being done by staff from Keio University in Tokyo - which is sponsoring the project - in a windowless room. Their work will yield 1,300 high resolution images, which are due to reach the internet by late summer.

Guardian Unlimited Books, 2/26/02,6109,658342,00.html


With declines in the trade, professional, and mass market sectors in 2001, sales for the year inched ahead just 0.1% over 2000 to $25.36 billion, according to preliminary estimates from the Association of American Publishers. Total trade sales fell 2.6% to $6.37 billion. Within that segment, adult hardcover sales fell for the second year in a row, declining 2.2% in 2001 to $2.63 billion. The trade paperback segment bounced back from a decline in 2000 to show a 1.4% sales gain in 2001. Children’s hardcover book sales fell 22.7% to $988.6 million. Paperback sales, however, had a second consecutive good year, with sales ahead 17.9% to $887.6 million. After increasing 0.5% in 2000, mass market paperback sales fell 0.8% in 2001, with revenues of $1.55 billion. Sales in the school sector of the education market rose by 7.8% with sales of $4.18 billion. Sales in the college sector rose 7.2% to $3.47 billion, and sales of standardized tests increased 6.8% to $250.1 million. Publishers Weekly, 2/26/02


Concerned that corporations are using cease-and-desist notices to intimidate people whose web site contents may be protected by the First Amendment, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and several law schools have created a searchable cease-and-desist database to inform recipients of their rights. The first entries in the database, at, include commentary and analysis provided by law students at Harvard, Stanford, and Berkeley.

We’d like to hear from you. Please send comments and suggests to Paula Kaufman at