Sunday, December 18, 2016

Recommended Reading For Copyright Enthusiasts

Of interest to copyright enthusiasts this week:

Authors Guild files a friend-of-the-court brief in the long-running and very important lawsuit concerning universities creating their own unlicensed digital course "packets" comprised of excerpts --sometimes consisting of entire chapters-- from copyrighted works.

Authors Guild supports the publishers' and authors' claim that it is not "fair use" to cherry pick, publish and distribute the most useful portions of authors' works when the authors are not paid at all and this use removes the incentive for students to rent or purchase the works or a licensed (and paid) package.

On Friday, the Librarian of Congress published an online poll for the public, asking for popular opinion about the priorities and qualifications that the replacement Register of Copyrights ought to possess.

If you would like to make polite and constructive suggestions (you cannot do so anonymously), please follow this link.

No doubt, anonymous and pseudonymous trolls (who do not like the idea that authors, musicians, photographers and other creators should be paid fairly for their work) will encourage the appointment of someone with strong sympathies for EFF and tech giant "permissionless innovators" and "disruptors".

The Trichordist comments scathingly.

Both Authors Guild and TheTrichordist recommend an op ed from the New York Times written by Jonathan Taplin, author of "Move Fast and Break Things: How Google, Facebook and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy."

One of the most striking points made in the article is that Facebook makes a great deal of money by hosting copyright infringing content. Perhaps things will get better for the content creators in 2017.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry


  1. As far as using excerpts for instructional content is concerned, I like the idea of licensed packets -- although flexibility might be a problem. As a student at all levels and an occasional college instructor, I know the value of a teacher's being able to assemble the precise materials that will complement his or her course. Sometimes, the excerpt needed comes from a work that's still under copyright but out of print and very hard to get. Often, whole books -- particularly those published by academic presses -- would be prohibitively expensive for students, esp. if they'd have to buy several different books to get a selection of, say, various 4000-word excerpts. Maybe a system could be created whereby instructors could license excerpts for a small fee, with, necessarily, an easy-to-use database of contact information of rights holders. On the whole, I don't think any great harm is done when teachers copy material strictly for classroom use if excerpted from works that are so obscure, expensive, or both that the students would never buy them anyway. On the other hand, defending authors' rights is vital, so it would be better to have a fully legal means of doing this.

  2. Or the gatekeeper of the database could handle the licensing and payment so that there'd never have to be contact between rights holders and instructors. Much neater.