SCHOLARLY COMMUNICATION ISSUES
A NEWSLETTER FOR THE
Issue No. 20
June 4, 2002
Paula Kaufman, University Librarian
DATA QUALITY ACT COULD LEAD TO CHALLENGES TO ONLINE DATA
The NY Times reports on an overlooked statute called the Data Quality Act, which takes effect on October 1st. The law creates a system whereby anyone can point to errors found in government documents online and, if the error is confirmed, the agency would be forced to remove the data from government Web sites and publications. The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness, a backer of the law, has already begun to request changes to government information published online.
COPYRIGHT TERM UNEXPLOITED
Tim O'Reilly of O’Reilly and Associates announced recently that all O'Reilly books by consenting authors would be given only a 14 year copyright before passing into the public domain. Copyrights lasted for 14 years at the time the U.S. Constitution was ratified, but now last for the author's life plus 70 years, or 95 years for works by corporations.
Since they were enacted in 1998, the “anti-circumvention” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright act have not been used as Congress envisioned. Congress intended to stop copyright pirates from defeating anti-piracy protections added to copyrighted works and to ban black box devices intended for that purpose. In practice, the anti-circumvention provisions have been used to stifle a wide array of legitimate activities, some of which have been reported in earlier issues of this newsletter. As a result, the DMCA has developed into a serious threat to several public policy priorities: free expression and scientific research, fair use, and competition and innovation. Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Fred von Lohmann’s white paper probes these points in depth at http://www.eff.org/IP/DMCA/20020503_dmca_consequences.pdf
WHAT’S THE IMPACT OF THE SHRINKING PUBLIC DOMAIN?
You’ve read in these virtual pages of the Herculean efforts of Disney and others to extend copyright terms and delay the time when their intellectual property becomes part of the public domain. The U.S. Supreme Court will soon hear Eldred v. Ashcroft, a challenge to the recent copyright Term Extension Act (see http://www.arl.org/info/frn/copy/extension.html). But what does it mean to you? For a glimpse, you might want to turn to an interview with Michael S. Hart, founder and Executive Director of Project Gutenberg, a large-scale project, begun in 1971, to make texts available electronically through the Internet. The recurrent extension of copyright terms by Congress has restricted the growth of this database. Hart mourns the rapidly shrinking public domain, noting that “in the USA, no copyrights will expire from now to 2019!!! It is even much worse in many other countries.” Hart cites examples of great Italian operas and other literature that is no longer accessible publicly. “This protectionism hinders the spread of literacy, deprives us of masses of much needed knowledge, discriminates against the poor, and ultimately undermines democracy.” Read more at http://126.96.36.199/ebookweb/discuss/msgReader$1362
ENTERTAINMENT INTERESTS IMPACT SCHOLARLY COMMUNICATION
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today announced an entertaining campaign to prevent passage of a seriously abusive copyright law. By distributing an Internet video that parodies Disney's attempts to control the public's use of CDs, DVDs, and other digital media, including those used for research and scholarship, EFF hopes to spur widespread opposition to the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA) proposed by Senator Hollings.
"The entertainment industry is manipulating copyright law to impose government regulation on all new digital media technologies," said Fred von Lohmann, EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney. "If they got their way in 1979, all VCRs would have been impounded as tools of piracy."
The EFF video parodies Disney's attempts to control digital media with the song "Tinsel Town Club," a remake of the theme song to the Mickey Mouse Club. Read the lyrics and view the video at: http://www.eff.org/IP/SSSCA_CBDTPA/20020528_eff_cbdtpa_pr.html
CONFUSED ABOUT COPYRIGHT?
The © Primer is an introduction to issues concerning copyright ownership and use of information. The interactive tutorial overviews the underlying principles behind copyright in the United States, outlines the requirements for copyright protection and discusses the parameters of use and access of copyrighted material. The © Primer is intended to introduce both creators and users of information to the nuts and bolts of copyright law. Consisting of twenty-one questions and answers, the © Primer includes illustrative scenarios and resources for further information and study - Center for Intellectual Property and Copyright, University of Maryland University College
COURT TOSSES OUT FILTERING LAW
In a decision handed down on May 31, 2002, the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania overturned the Children’s Internet Protection Act. The law, signed by President Clinton in 2000, would have required public libraries to install filters by July 1 or risk losing federal funding. The judges ruled that the Act went too far because the filters can also block access to a substantial amount of protected speech in violation of the First Amendment. The judges, who heard nearly two weeks of testimony in April, wrote that they were concerned that library patrons who wanted to view sites blocked by filtering software might be embarrassed or lose their right to remain anonymous because they would have to ask permission to have the sites unblocked. Any appeal of this decision would go directly to the U.S. Supreme court. The American Library Association, among others, applauded the decision, noting that the law was unenforceable, unconstitutional, vague, and overbroad and that it would deny poor people without home computers the same access to information as their wealthier neighbors because the software could mistakenly block web sites on issues such as breast cancer and homosexuality. The Justice Department argued that Internet smut is so pervasive that protections are necessary to keep it away from minors and that libraries could turn down federal funding if they want to provide unfiltered Web access. Read more at http://www.chicagotribune.com/technology/chi20531filter.story?coll=chi%2Dnews%2Dhed
CONSUMER GROUPS CONCERNED ABOUT 'DIGITAL DIVIDE'
A report written by the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union and the Civil Rights Forum on Communications Policy, states that the "digital divide" is still a cause for concern and the US government should consider subsidizing Internet access. According to the report, nearly two-thirds of all Americans now have access to the Internet, but lower-income households run the risk of being shut out of the digital economy because they are not as likely to be online. Release at
http://www.consumerfed.org/ddivide0502.pdf. Coverage at http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,52865,00.html
FBI AGENTS GAIN NEW LATITUDE IN LIBRARIES
The Justice Department has lifted restrictions on the FBI’s monitoring of the Internet, religious institutions, and public libraries. Previously, agents couldn’t do general research on the Internet or at public libraries unless prompted by a current investigation. Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the Washington, DC office of the American Library Association, noted that Attorney General John Ashcroft had waived the old guidelines —that were established 25 years ago after FBI abuses— after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but issued new ones recently because too few agents took advantage of the waiver. She pointed out that the intelligence failures noted recently were in analysis at Agency headquarters, not in the field. For those of us who resisted the FBI’s efforts to have librarians spy on readers during the Cold War (through its Library Awareness Program) it seems sort of like déjà vu all over again.
As we head into the summer months the time between issues of this newsletter will likely increase. Please continue to send me your comments and suggestions. And thanks to those of you who have pointed me to interesting items that I would not have otherwise found. Send comments and items to me at firstname.lastname@example.org