Thursday Threads: Mobile Device Encryption, Getty Images for Free

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Just a brief pair of threads this week. First is a look at what is happening with mobile device encryption as consumer electronics companies deal with data privacy in the post-Snowden era. There is also the predictable backlash from law enforcement organizations, and perhaps I just telegraphed how I feel on the matter. The second thread looks at how Getty Images is trying to get into distributing its content for free to get it in front of eyeballs that will end up paying for some of it.

Feel free to send this to others you think might be interested in the topics. If you find these threads interesting and useful, you might want to add the Thursday Threads RSS Feed to your feed reader or subscribe to e-mail delivery using the form to the right. If you would like a more raw and immediate version of these types of stories, watch my Pinboard bookmarks (or subscribe to its feed in your feed reader). Items posted to are also sent out as tweets; you can follow me on Twitter. Comments and tips, as always, are welcome.

Apple and Android Device Data Encryption

In an open letter posted on Apple’s website last night, CEO Tim Cook said that the company’s redesigned its mobile operating system to make it impossible for Apple to unlock a user’s iPhone data. Starting with iOS8, only the user who locked their phone can unlock it.

This is huge. What it means is that even if a foreign government or a US police officer with a warrant tries to legally compel Apple to snoop on someone, they won’t. Because they can’t. It’s a digital Ulysses pact.

The next generation of Google’s Android operating system, due for release next month, will encrypt data by default for the first time, the company said Thursday, raising yet another barrier to police gaining access to the troves of personal data typically kept on smartphones.

Predictably, the US government and police officials are in the midst of a misleading PR offensive to try to scare Americans into believing encrypted cellphones are somehow a bad thing, rather than a huge victory for everyone’s privacy and security in a post-Snowden era. Leading the charge is FBI director James Comey, who spoke to reporters late last week about the supposed “dangers” of giving iPhone and Android users more control over their phones. But as usual, it’s sometimes difficult to find the truth inside government statements unless you parse their language extremely carefully. So let’s look at Comey’s statements, line-by-line.

I think it is fair to say that Apple snuck this one in on us. To the best of my knowledge, the new encrypted-by-default wasn’t something talked about in the iOS8 previews. And it looks like poor Google had to play catch-up by announcing on the same day that they were planning to do the same thing with the next version of the Android operating system. (If Apple and Google conspired to make this announcement at the same time, I haven’t heard that either.)

As you can probably tell by the quote I pulled from the third article, I think this is a good thing. I believe the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of government control over communications, and Apple/Google are right to put new user protections in place. This places the process of accessing personal information firmly back in the hands of the judiciary through court orders to compel people and companies to turn over information after probable cause has been shown. There is nothing in this change that prevents Apple/Google from turning over information stored on cloud servers to law enforcement organizations. It does end the practice of law enforcement officers randomly seizing devices and reading data off them.

As an aside, there is an on-going discussion about the use of so-called “stingray” equipment that impersonates mobile phone towers to capture mobile network data. The once-predominant 2G protocol that the stingray devices rely on was woefully insecure, and the newer 3G and 4G mobile carrier protocols are much more secure. In fact, stingray devices are known to jam 3G/4G signals to force mobile devices to use the insecure 2G protocol. Mobile carriers are planning to turn off 2G protocols in the coming years, though, which will make the current generation of stingray equipment obsolete.

Getty Offers Royalty-Free Photos

The story of the photography business over the past 20 years has been marked by two shifts: The number of photographs in circulation climbs toward infinity, and the price that each one fetches falls toward zero. As a result, Getty Images, which is in the business of selling licensing rights, is increasingly willing to distribute images in exchange for nothing more than information about the public’s photo-viewing habits.

Now Getty has just introduced a mobile app, Stream, targeted at nonprofessionals to run on Apple’s new operating system. The app lets people browse through Getty’s images, with special focus on curated collections. It’s sort of like a version of Instagram (FB) featuring only professional photographers—and without an upload option.

Commercial photography is another content industry — like mass-market and trade presses, journal publishers, newspapers, and many others — that is facing fundamental shifts in its business models. In this case, Getty is going the no-cost, embed-in-a-web-page route to getting their content to more eyeballs. They announced the Getty Images Embed program a year ago, and have now followed it up with this iOS app for browsing the collection of royalty-free images.

Interesting Shibboleth Use Case: Enforcing Geographic Restrictions

Last month’s HathiTrust newsletter had an interesting technical tidbit at the top about access to out-of-print and brittle or missing items:

One of the lawful uses of in-copyright works HathiTrust has been pursuing is to provide access on an institutional basis to works that fall under United States Copyright Law Section 108 conditions: works in HathiTrust that are not available on the market at a fair price, and for which print copies owned by HathiTrust member institutions are damaged, deteriorating, lost or stolen. As a part of becoming a member, institutions are required to submit information about their print holdings for fee calculation purposes. We have also been requesting information about the holdings status and condition of works, to facilitate uses of works where permissible by law (specifications for HathiTrust holdings data are available at

As of December 2012, we are using the holdings status and condition information submitted by United States member institutions, in combination with information about the market availability of works stored in the HathiTrust rights database, to determine whether or not access to applicable in-copyright works in HathiTrust is allowed. The specific terms of access are as follows:

  • Access is only available to users affiliated with HathiTrust member institutions in the United States, and only from U.S. soil.
  • In order to gain access, users from member institutions must be authenticated into HathiTrust via Shibboleth using their institutional login.
  • Print copies of the works in HathiTrust must be owned currently or have been owned previously by the institution’s library system.
  • The number of users who can access a given digital copy at a time is determined by the number of print copies held (or previously held) in the library system. If a library system only has one print copy, only one user at a time will be able to access the digital copy.

A general scenario for how out of print determinations are made and communicated to HathiTrust is available in the HathiTrust rights database documentation: Additional information on the service is available at

It is the first three conditions (in the first two bullets) that I find interesting: that access is only available to affiliated users, that access is available only from “U.S. soil”, and that users must authenticate using a HathiTrust member institution’s Shibboleth identity provider. The only way I can think for HathiTrust to enforce the first two conditions is to use Shibboleth. Only through Shibboleth would HathiTrust have assurances that the user is a member of the community and is at a particular place. 1 Libraries more commonly use rewriting proxy servers, like EZproxy, to facilitate access to restricted or licensed material. Rewriting proxy servers effectively hide the location of the user because to HathiTrust the user’s location would appear to be where the proxy server is.

I dug a little deeper to see if I could find a definition of “affiliated” — does it mean “only students, faculty and staff” or other looser forms of affiliation like “alumni” or “parent” or “guest”? One of the great strengths of Shibboleth (generally) and the identity management federations like InCommon (specifically) is that they have fairly rigorous definitions of “member” and “affiliated” — piggybacking on the eduPerson eduPersonAffiliation attribute definition. I didn’t find a firm linkage to those defined eduPerson terms, but I did find an interesting declaration in HathiTrust Digital Library Access and Use Policies: “Users must be authenticated members of a HathiTrust institution or individuals using a computer on a HathiTrust institution’s library premises.” That would both seem to simultaneously make the Shibboleth requirement redundant in cases where access came from an on-campus IP address and the question about the definition of affiliation moot — by that statement, anyone using a library terminal would have access even if they weren’t otherwise a member of the campus community. Hmmm, I wonder how they are resolving that contradiction?

Digging a little deeper, I found the HathiTrust Shibboleth technical details page where they talk about the kinds of attributes required to use the service. They do require ‘eduPersonScopedAffiliation’2, so they can see the types of membership someone has with an institution. It is also refreshing that the only other element they require is eduPersonTargetedID — the “persistent, non-reassigned, privacy-preserving identifier” known only to the institution and the service. (The eduPerson definition goes on to say: “This attribute is designed to preserve the principal’s privacy and inhibit the ability of multiple unrelated services from correlating principal activity by comparing values. It is therefore REQUIRED to be opaque, having no particular relationship to the principal’s other identifiers, such as a username or eduPersonPrincipalName. It SHOULD be considerably difficult for an observer to guess the value that would be returned to a given service provider.”) It is great to see HathiTrust using the privacy-enhancing aspects of Shibboleth like they were meant to be used. Because they are using targetedID, a prosecuting party would need to subpoena records from both HathiTrust (to get the eduPersonTargetedID of the person they were interested in) and the member institution (to see who that eduPersonTargetedID was assigned to) to pin research activities to a specific individual.


  1. Let’s set aside for a moment the relatively trivial ways that IP address geolocation can be fooled: VPN services, web proxies, etc. If you want to know more, just Google “how to bypass geographical restrictions”. []
  2. eduPersonScopedAffiliation is nearly the same as eduPersonAffiliation; it just tacks “@<institution>” on the end. []

Thursday Threads: Open Source Advocates Twitch at Blackboard’s Strategy and Effect of Copyright/DRM on Access

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Thursday Threads has been a back-burner activity for quite a while now. Blame it on too many interesting things happening at home and at work (to say nothing of the early arrival of spring weather). This week will be only a slight exception with just two threads of mention rather than the typical three or four. First is the announcement by Blackboard that it is starting up an open source support division and acquiring/hiring some of the bigger names in that sector. Second is a reflection on two independent stories about the effect of copyright uncertainty and digital rights management on book materials.

Feel free to send this to others you think might be interested in the topics. If you find these threads interesting and useful, you might want to add the Thursday Threads RSS Feed to your feed reader or subscribe to e-mail delivery using the form to the right. New this year is that Pinboard has replaced FriendFeed as my primary aggregation service. If you would like a more raw and immediate version of these types of stories, watch my Pinboard bookmarks (or subscribe to its feed in your feed reader). Items posted to are also sent out as tweets; you can follow me on Twitter. Comments and tips, as always, are welcome.

Blackboard Pivots Towards Open Source

Today we are making some big announcements that we know will catch the attention of many members of the education community. Taken together, they speak to a broader shift in our strategy for serving education institutions so we are taking a moment to share some thoughts about our approach.

The high level change is this: Blackboard is becoming a multiple learning platform company that supports both commercially developed software as well as open source solutions.

An Open Letter to the Education Community, Blackboard Strategy Update

Last week Blackboard announced a four-part strategy to join the open source community: 1. the formation of an open source services group; 2. the acquisition of Moodlerooms and NetSpot; 3. the hiring of Sakai Foundation Board Member Charles Severance to lead Blackboard’s Sakai initiatives; and 4. the announcement of continued support for Angel (a proprietary platform and company that Blackboard acquired in 2009). Phil Hill has a wrap-up of public statements from Blackboard and commercial competitors to Blackboard.

You might remember Blackboard from its now infamous patent lawsuit with competitor Desire2Learn in which Blackboard tried to claim invention rights to the fundamentals of any computer-mediated learning management system. Blackboard initially won the lawsuit but the finding was overturned at the appellate level. That was all after Blackboard issued a “non-assertion pledge” following discussions with both EDUCAUSE and the Sakai Foundation. (Interestingly, the original pledge is no longer available from the Blackboard website; it is available through the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.) Blackboard has an extensive history of buying companies and integrating them with its core software, so one has to wonder what this move towards open source means for not only Sakai and Moodle, but for the core Blackboard product as well. Audrey Watters sums up some of the concerns from the open source community while “Dr. Chuck” reflects on the state of institutional support for open source software versus what commercial companies are putting into the effort. Laura Gekeler pulls no punches in contemplating what that means.

There’s been quite a bit of chatter lately about some research by Professor Paul Heald from the University of Illinois. Heald recently delivered a seminar on the stagnating effects of extended copyright terms in the U.S., and blogger Eric Crampton immediately called attention to one data-set about books that is particularly telling (found through Slate) which illustrates what The Atlantic has dubbed “The Missing 20th Century”. It’s the number of titles available from Amazon as new editions (as opposed to used copies) graphed by the decade of original publication:

The source of that massive fall-off at the midpoint is seemingly simple: all books published in the U.S. in 1922 or earlier are in the public domain. What’s immediately apparent from this graph is the fact that copyright is limiting the public’s access to older works—but why and how, exactly? The answer lies in the reality of what a copyright is really worth, commercially, and how long it retains that value—and it sheds light on another problem with copyright law.

Why The ‘Missing 20th Century’ Of Books Is Even Worse Than It Seems, by Leigh Beadon, Techdirt

DRM is just “a speedbump,” Hachette’s Maja Thomas said at a copyright conference this afternoon. However, opinion within Hachette is clearly divided.

I do wonder what will be left in archives decades from now. It does seem like some forms of creative media are under assault from this double-barrel shotgun: uncertainty of public domain status for content from the 1920s to the 1980s and, arguably when we get our recordkeeping act together on ownership from the 1990s forward, the content will be locked up in digital rights management encoded formats.

AIME v UCal Decision Says Streaming Equivalent to Public Performance

NOTE! The title of this post was updated (replacing “Display” with “Performance”) a day after it was originally published. See the update at the bottom of the post for more details.

Last week a federal district court in California decided in favor of the University of California defendants in a lawsuit brought by Ambrose Video Publishing (AVP) and the Association for Information Media and Equipment (AIME). A majority of the decision hinged around whether the plaintiffs had “standing” to bring the suit, and commentary by Kevin Smith and ARL go into more detail about that. The bit that I found interesting was reasoning by the judge that equated “public performance” rights with “streaming.” Far down in the judge’s decision was this line of reasoning:

AVP alleges that Defendants’ use of the DVDs (streaming them on the UCLA intranet) infringed on multiple exclusive rights that AVP has over the DVDs. These exclusive rights included the rights to control copying, public performance, public display, and public distribution. (Id.) Defendants argue that AVP (or “Ambrose”) does not state a claim for violation of AVP’s exclusive rights to publicly perform, publicly display, distribute, and copy under the Copyright Act because: (1) AVP granted Defendants the right to publicly perform the DVDs at issue; (2) UCLA’s streaming practice is not a “public display” under the Copyright Act;1 (3) there are no allegations that UCLA distributed copies of the DVD, as “streaming” is not distribution, and (4) any unauthorized copying was an incidental “fair use” under the Copyright Act and therefore permissible.

AVP argues that Defendants’ copying the DVD in a way that changes the format of the DVD to a digital format for use on the internet violates AVP’s rights under the copyright law. As to Defendants’ fair use argument regarding the making of unauthorized copies, Plaintiffs argue that Defendants’ use is not fair use because Defendants knew that their license was limited and did not provide for streaming (and therefore incidental uses of the streaming practice such as copying) of the DVDs.

(1) Publicly Perform

AVP concedes that it licensed Defendants to “publicly perform” the DVD. At oral argument, AVP conceded that within the scope of the right to publicly perform the DVD is Defendants’ ability to show the DVD in a classroom. Plaintiff’s basic argument is that streaming is not included in a public performance because it can be accessed outside of a classroom, and as remotely as overseas. However, Plaintiff does not dispute that in order to access the DVDs, a person must have access to the UCLA network and specifically to the DVD. The type of access that students and/or faculty may have, whether overseas or at a coffee shop, does not take the viewing of the DVD out of the educational context. The Court finds that the licensing agreement allows Defendants to put the DVD content on the UCLA internet network as part of the provision of the agreement that Defendants could “publicly perform” the DVD content, and therefore Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim of copyright infringement over their right to publicly perform the DVD.

(2) “Public Display” and “Distribution”

Plaintiffs do not specifically counter Defendants’ arguments that “streaming” is not distribution or that the Complaint lacks allegations of “public display.” The Court finds that Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim for a violation of these rights under copyright law.

(3) “Copying”

Defendants do not dispute that they did not obtain authorization from AVP before placing the DVDs’ content on the UCLA network. They argue that the copying was an incidental use of their right to publicly perform the DVDs. Incidental exercises of other lawful rights constitute non-infringing “fair use.” See perfect 10, Inc. v., Inc., 508 F.3d 1146 (9th Cir. 2007) (holding that the creation of short-term copy to be a fair use). Here, Plaintiff AVP alleges that Defendants copied the DVD in order to be able to put it on the UCLA internet network. Because placing the DVD on the UCLA network is part of the right that Plaintiff licensed to Defendants, the copying was incidental fair use.
– Order Granting Defendant’s Motion To Dismiss, Association For Information Mediat and Equipment et al v. The Regents of The University of California et al, CV 10-9378, pp. 8-10, as captured from PACER by Internet Archive RECAP (emphasis added, legal citations removed from text)

To me, this seems to equate public performance with the right to stream. I would note that a public performance right is one that needs to be purchased/negotiated, and ownership of a physical DVD does not imply public performance rights. (This is where I take issue with the lead paragraph of the Ars Technica article covering this decision; it is not enough to have purchased the DVD — one must purchase the public performance rights as well.) Still, this is a significant decision for higher education institutions that seek to harmonize physical classroom capabilities/options with those of distance learners. Or, in other words, if it can be done in the physical classroom it can be done in the virtual classroom as well (with all of the identity and enrollment access checks in place). As the Chronicle of Higher Education quotes New York Law School associate professor James Grimmelmann as saying, “universities will have a little more breathing room for using media.”

This is, of course, not legal advice. Consult your own lawyers before using this court decision as precedent. And note that Ambrose and AIME still have the option of refiling the case subject to meeting criteria not talked about in this post.


The original title of this post was AIME v UCal Decision Says Streaming Equivalent to Public Display. It now refers to Public Performance rather than Public Display. I was sloppy in writing the headline after constructing the post, and Jonathan’s first comment indirectly pointed that out. “Public Performance” and “Public Display” are two different rights as spelled out in the U.S. Code and are rights that are treated individually in the district judge’s ruling. Here are the definitions:

To “display” a work means to show a copy of it, either directly or by means of a film, slide, television image, or any other device or process or, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to show individual images nonsequentially.

To “perform” a work means to recite, render, play, dance, or act it, either directly or by means of any device or process or, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to show its images in any sequence or to make the sounds accompanying it audible.

– U.S. Code, Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 101 (“Definitions”); paragraphs for display and perform

Not that these definitions really clear up anything — there is clearly a diference between “display” and “perform” for motion picture works, but the exact distinction is not significant to me. There are probably whole treatises written on the difference, but I couldn’t come up with anything quickly that I trusted that explained the difference. As Jonathan points out, more clarity here would be welcome.

Thursday Threads: Authors Guild Sues Hathi Trust, Libraries Learn from Blockbuster, Publisher’s View of Self-Publishing

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Legal action against the digitization and limited distribution of orphan works unexpectedly hit the news again this week. This week’s DLTJ Thursday Threads starts with an overview of the lawsuit filed by authors organizations and authors against Hathi Trust over plans to make digital versions of orphan works available to university users. And while we’re wondering of libraries’ role in providing access to digitized works, we should also take note of an article in American Libraries Magazine on what we could learn from Blockbuster’s fall. And lastly, I point to a story of one author’s experience when her own self publishing with Amazon ran afoul of a publisher’s desires.

Feel free to send this to others you think might be interested in the topics. If you find these threads interesting and useful, you might want to add the Thursday Threads RSS Feed to your feed reader or subscribe to e-mail delivery using the form to the right. If you would like a more raw and immediate version of these types of stories, watch my FriendFeed stream (or subscribe to its feed in your feed reader). Comments and tips, as always, are welcome.

Hathi Trust Taken to Court

The Authors Guild, the Australian Society of Authors, the Union Des Écrivaines et des Écrivains Québécois (UNEQ), and eight individual authors have filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in federal court against HathiTrust, the University of Michigan, the University of California, the University of Wisconsin, Indiana University, and Cornell University. … “This is an upsetting and outrageous attempt to dismiss authors’ rights,” said Angelo Loukakis, executive director of the Australian Society of Authors. “Maybe it doesn’t seem like it to some, but writing books is an author’s real-life work and livelihood. This group of American universities has no authority to decide whether, when or how authors forfeit their copyright protection. These aren’t orphaned books, they’re abducted books.”

Just days before what could be the final status hearing before the judge in the Google versus Authors Guild et al. case, the Authors Guild in conjunction with two other authors organizations and eight individual authors filed suit in federal court against Hathi Trust and five of its member universities. And with that suit it would seem that the Authors Guild has begun a full-throated assault on libraries. In a subsequent post on the Authors Guild blog, they announce that they have found the author of one of the orphan candidates identified at the University of Michigan. The tone to me isn’t so much that they are pleased for the author that they accomplished this (they don’t say whether the author was a member of the Guild or not), but that they took great pleasure in rubbing librarians’ noses in it:

Just before we filed our lawsuit, we did some cursory research into some of the names on the list of “orphan works” candidates at the HathiTrust website to see if we could find contact information for a copyright holder. …
We weren’t hopeful, because we knew that research librarians were behind the project, and they were likely to be especially careful to avoid any embarrassing slip-ups in this first go-round. We thought, at best, we might find the representative of some obscure literary estate. We were wrong.

A bit nasty, eh guys? I imagine they are trying to fire up their membership for this fight against arguably one of the great institutions of America — the library. At the very least, you’d think that if they were trying to help their members that they would prominently post the link to the list of orphan work candidates in their postings, but it took a reader deep in the comments to offer a link.

In any case, this is being set up as a fight as dramatic as the original Google vs. Authors/Publishers lawsuit. Here are some things you should read, in ascending order of length and comprehensiveness:

  1. Wards of the Court, Inside Higher Ed
  2. The Orphan Wars, James Grimmelmann’s The Laboratorium
  3. ARL’s Resource Packet on Orphan Works: Legal and Policy Issues for Research Libraries, with extensive commentary by Jonathan Brand of Policy Bandwidth

Avoiding the Path to Obsolescence

Blockbuster was much in the news last fall, though not in the favorable light it once enjoyed. The cultural phenomenon and former stock market darling that once prospered through aggressive marketing, savvy exploitation of technology, and keen insights into customer preferences filed for bankruptcy in September 2010. Though some analysts thought the filing could give the franchise time to reinvent itself, others predicted that the onetime video-rental colossus is steps from the graveyard of retail obsolescence.

There is a lesson or two for libraries in this riches-to-rags story.

Avoiding the Path to Obsolescence, by Steven Smith and Carmelita Pickett, American Libraries Magazine

This is a great article. Although they don’t say it specifically, the authors point to Clayton Christensen’s theory of disruptive innovation. Specifically, how an organization’s Resources-Processes-Values framework prevents it from reacting to innovations that are disrupting its products/services. Even if you aren’t familiar with Christensen’s work, I highly recommend reading this article.

On Self Publishing and Amazon versus Traditional Publishers

In January, 2010, I signed a contract with one of the Big 6 publishers in New York for my next novel. I understood then that I, like every writer in the business, was being coerced into giving up more than 75% of the profits from electronic sales of that novel, for the life of the novel. But I was debt-ridden and needed upfront money that an advance would provide. The book was scheduled for hardback publication in August, 2012, and paperback publication a year later. Recently that publisher discovered I had self-published two of my story collections as electronic books. To coin the Fanboys, they went ballistic. The editor shouted at me repeatedly on the phone. I was accused of breaching my contract (which I did not) but worse, of ‘blatantly betraying them with Amazon,’ their biggest and most intimidating competitor. I was not trustworthy. I was sleeping with the enemy.

On the heels of last week’s DLTJ Thursday Threads entry on Amazon’s tactics for end-to-end control of book publishing comes this view from the author’s perspective. Publishers are getting squeezed from all ends by new models of getting content in the hands of readers. If we could, do you think we can throw into the air all of the pieces of the author-agent-publisher-printer-library-reader chain and sort them into nice neat lines of responsibility and value-add without all of this name calling and lawsuit-filing?

Thursday Threads: Google’s Social Strategy, Big Data, Patriot Act outside U.S., Frightening Copyright Revisited

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It might have been the week of the annual American Library Association meeting with all the news and announcements and programming that came from it — as well as getting into the dog days of summer — but interesting news at the intersection of technology and libraries did not take a pause. Google made a big splash this week with tantalizing tidbits about its new social media project; it is at a look-but-don’t-touch stage, but the look is enticing. Then there were two articles about really big data — what is produced in the high energy physics supercolider at CERN and what we produce as a society. And to go along with that data we produce as a society is another warning that much of it isn’t safe from the prying eyes of the USA PATRIOT Act. Finally, we revisit the Georgia State University copyright case with a comment on the potential chilling impacts on free speech.

Feel free to send this to others you think might be interested in the topics. If you find these threads interesting and useful, you might want to add the Thursday Threads RSS Feed to your feed reader or subscribe to e-mail delivery using the form to the right. If you would like a more raw and immediate version of these types of stories, watch my FriendFeed stream (or subscribe to its feed in your feed reader). Comments and tips, as always, are welcome.

Google Unveils its Social Media Project

Among the most basic of human needs is the need to connect with others. With a smile, a laugh, a whisper or a cheer, we connect with others every single day.

Today, the connections between people increasingly happen online. Yet the subtlety and substance of real-world interactions are lost in the rigidness of our online tools.

In this basic, human way, online sharing is awkward. Even broken. And we aim to fix it.

We’d like to bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software. We want to make Google better by including you, your relationships, and your interests. And so begins the Google+ project.

The new Google+ service is temporarily out of capacity at the limited trial launch.

This week Google unveiled its latest plan for entering the social networking space. Called “Google+“, it is less a product and more of a series of services that will tie together existing Google products with new social binding tools. At the heart of the binding tools seems to be “Circles” — or the ability to create different social networks for the various kinds of social interactions one has in real life. This sort of social segmentation is possible with Facebook “groups”, but the introductory video and the online help make the point about how Circles is baked into the Google+ social networking structure. There are other tools in the announcement, too, like a video “hangout” space, “sparks” for surfacing threads of conversations, and ways for groups to “huddle” in a chat session.

Google+ is in very limited public roll-out at the moment. Some are speculating that this is a marketing strategy to build buzz around the project like they did with limited invites to GMail and Google Voice. I wonder, based on the “We’ve temporarily exceeded our capacity. Please try again soon” message on the signup page, whether they are having difficulties scaling up the service. In any case, they are taking measured and deliberate steps in rolling this out. If you want to learn more, there are about seven minutes of videos on the Google+ Project Overview page. Beyond that is an excellent 6,300-word article by Steven Levy on; Steven has had inside access to the development of the project for months and there are a lot of insights in the article that I’m not seeing published elsewhere.

The Size of Big Data

Experiments at CERN are generating an entire petabyte of data every second as particles fired around the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at velocities approaching the speed of light are smashed together. However, Francois Briard, control infrastructure section leader, beam department, explained that CERN doesn’t capture and save all of this data, instead using filters to save only the results of the collisions that are of interest to scientist at the facility….

This still means CERN is storing 25PB of data every year – the same as 1,000 years’ worth of DVD quality video – which can then be analysed and interrogated by scientists looking for clues to the structure and make-up of the universe.

CERN experiments generating one petabyte of data every second, by Dan Worth, IT News from

In 2011 alone, 1.8 zettabytes (or 1.8 trillion gigabytes) of data will be created, the equivalent to every U.S. citizen writing 3 tweets per minute for 26,976 years. And over the next decade, the number of servers managing the world’s data stores will grow by ten times. Interestingly, the amount of data people create by writing email messages, taking photos, and downloading music and movies is minuscule compared to the amount of data being created about them, the EMC-sponsored study found.

The IDC study predicts that overall data will grow by 50 times by 2020, driven in large part by more embedded systems such as sensors in clothing, medical devices and structures like buildings and bridges.

These two reality checks came by way of ACM TechNews. Just in case you think you were dealing with some big hunks of data, just know that data in the library world is pretty miniscule. Now there are some that are having to deal with this sort of “big data” — particularly with regards to the new rules from the National Science Foundation.

Microsoft admits Patriot Act can access EU-based cloud data

At the Office 365 launch, Gordon Frazer, managing director of Microsoft UK, gave the first admission that cloud data — regardless of where it is in the world — is not protected against the USA PATRIOT Act… After a year of researching the Patriot Act’s breadth and ability to access data held within protected EU boundaries, Microsoft finally and openly admitted it…
Frazer explained that, as Microsoft is a U.S.-headquartered company, it has to comply with local laws (the United States, as well as any other location where one of its subsidiary companies is based).

This was a bit unexpected. If you are a U.S.-based entity and thought your data was safe from revealing through a U.S. National Security Letter because you were using a hosting service outside of the U.S., you may want to check with your lawyers again.

Closing the book on academic freedom

The scope of the proposed injunction in the [Georgia State University] litigation goes far beyond existing case law, as it limits all speech, by all actors, in any way associated with GSU. As such, it is not a limit on a particular instance of suspected infringement, but a limit on all potential speech going forward. Prior injunctions have been limited in scope and have stopped the publication of existing works; the proposed injunction chills all future expression coming out of GSU, and leaves no space for the comment, criticism, and dialogue that lies at the center of constitutionally protected speech. In order to open up a new business model, the plaintiffs ask the court to shake the foundations of the balance between incentive and expression; and the price of doing so is simply too high.

Closing the book on academic freedom, by Bobby Glushko on Paul Courant’s blog

Bobby Glushko, J.D., is the Associate Librarian in the Copyright Office of the University of Michigan Library. Following up the frightening scenario in a DLTJ Thursday Thread earlier this month, Mr. Glushko looks at the potential impact on First Amendment free speech if the litigation in the Georgia State University case goes in favor of the plaintiffs. It is a whole new level of frightening.

Thursday Threads: RDA Test Results, Author’s Rights Denied, Future Copyright Scenario

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This week we got the long-awaited report from the group testing RDA to see if its use would be approved for the major U.S. national libraries. And the answer? An unsatisfying, if predictable, maybe-but-not-yet. This week also brought new examples of the tensions between authors and publishers and libraries. The first example is an author’s story of an attempt to navigate an author’s rights agreement and coming to an insurmountable barrier. The second example tries to look in to the future of teaching and learning in a world where fair use has been dramatically scaled back from the existing status quo, and it is a frightening one.

Feel free to send this to others you think might be interested in the topics. If you find these threads interesting and useful, you might want to add the Thursday Threads RSS Feed to your feed reader or subscribe to e-mail delivery using the form to the right. If you would like a more raw and immediate version of these types of stories, watch my FriendFeed stream (or subscribe to its feed in your feed reader). Comments and tips, as always, are welcome.

Implementation of RDA Contingent on Improvements

Contingent on the satisfactory progress/completion of the tasks and action items below, the [U.S. RDA Test] Coordinating Committee recommends that RDA should be implemented by [the Library of Congress], [National Agricultural Library], and [National Library of Medicine] no sooner than January 2013. The three national libraries should commit resources to ensure progress is made on these activities that will require significant effort from many in and beyond the library community.

To achieve a viable and robust metadata infrastructure for the future, the Coordinating Committee believes that RDA should be part of the infrastructure. Before RDA is implemented, however, the activities below must be well underway. In order to allow sufficient lead time for these actions to occur, the Committee recommends that RDA implementation not proceed prior to January 2013. Timeframes in these recommendations assume a start date of July 1, 2011 and represent the Coordinating Committee’s best estimates.

Over three years in the making, the work of the U.S. RDA Test Coordinating Committee is starting to be published. “Resource Description and Access” (or RDA) is the name of the standard that has been under formal development since 2005 to “provide a comprehensive set of guidelines and instructions on resource description and access covering all types of content and media.” From the foundation of the existing standard, the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR), work on this standard has been delayed and debated quite a bit in the past half-decade, and this mixed report from RDA Test Coordinating Committee casts both light and doubt on the viability of RDA in the U.S. All told, it is hard to separate the issues with the text of the standard from those of the lack of flexibility of the underlying carrier (MARC) and the tool to access the standard (

An Author’s Rights Horror Story

Now, let me really conclude by saying this: I hereby boycott all [Taylor & Francis] journals. T&F publishes a fair number of journals in ILS (Journals by Subject > Information Science), and I shall not publish in any of them ever again. And, furthermore, I would encourage you, whether you are in ILS or not, to not publish in T&F journals either. Because, let’s face it, the only way publishers will change their restrictive copyright policies is if authors refuse to publish with those publishers. Give ‘em hell.

My Copyfight, PomeRantz, 14 Jun 2011

This is the last paragraph of a detailed story from a tenured faculty member that agreed to write an article in a special issue of the journal The Reference Librarian only to run afoul of the authors rights agreement. The points brought up by Jeffrey Pomerantz in the post are something I suspect we are going to see more of as copyright conflicts between authors, publishers, and libraries remain unresolved.

It sounds preposterous, right? This is what Kevin Smith has called a nightmare scenario, one that doubles down with new guidelines for interlibrary loan (which in his terms opening are opening “a second front” of attack on education).

But this is our future if publishers prevail. We may have to adhere to a strict and highly conservative interpretation of old guidelines drawn up by – you guessed it – publishers, who back in 1976 were troubled by that disruptive new technology, the Xerox machine. If they call the shots, we will have to create a bureaucracy to enforce copyright compliance or face litigation. We will have to reserve interlibrary loan for journal articles only for rare instances and in a manner controlled by “rightsholders” – which, by design, are publishers, not the authors. Where would we get the lines to staff compliance mechanisms? And the money to pay permissions for everything we use in teaching and research, every time we use it? Out of our existing budgets. The ones that keep getting smaller.

Librarians have been Cassandras for long enough. It’s time for the rest of the academy to wake up before they have this nightmare and stop treating research as a commodity we naturally give away in exchange for personal advancement, assuming it will always be available, somehow. Otherwise, get ready for a future that will not be a hospitable place for that old-fashioned pursuit, the advancement of knowledge.

Dispatches from the Future, Barbara Fister’s Library Babel Fish blog, Inside Higher Ed, 13 Jun 2011

Speaking of copyright, this post describes what could be a worst-case scenario of publishers’s desires to control copyrighted academic content come to fruition. We can see some of it coming in cases like the author rights story above, in the Georgia State University copyright case, and in the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers’ Statement on Document Delivery. And the crystal ball is too murky to try to make out which direction this is going.


p style=”padding:0;margin:0;font-style:italic;”>The text was modified to update a link from to on December 4th, 2012.

Thursday Threads: HarperCollins, Google Book Search Settlement, DPLA, Juggling Robots

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It is another e-books issue of DLTJ Thursday Threads with updates on three significant efforts: HarperCollins, Google Book Search Settlement, Digital Public Library of America. And, just for fun and to keep this from turning into purely a legal and blue-sky policy blog, we have a video of juggling robots.

Feel free to send this to others you think might be interested in the topics. If you find these threads interesting and useful, you might want to add the Thursday Threads RSS Feed to your feed reader or subscribe to e-mail delivery using the form to the right. If you would like a more raw and immediate version of these types of stories, watch my FriendFeed stream (or subscribe to its feed in your feed reader). Comments and tips, as always, are welcome.

More Libraries Decide To Give HarperCollins the Cold Shoulder

Library consortia, organizations, and individual library systems around the country continue intensely to debate the HarperCollins decision to limit ebook checkouts to 26, and many are joining a growing list of those deciding not to purchase HarperCollins ebooks. …

[Jo Budler, State Librarian of Kansas] is now heading a task force that has been formed by the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) that is debating a response to HarperCollins. The task force teleconferenced on March 9 with representatives from Georgia, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Alaska, Colorado, Ohio, Texas, and Tennessee participating.

The past couple of weeks have seen more libraries and library consortia making decisions not to buy ebooks from HarperCollins after the 26-checkout limit came into force earlier this month. The article quoted above from Tuesday gives the latest roundup. HarperCollins’ March 1st Open Letter to Librarians is still on their blog, still accepting comments (overwhelmingly against the policy), and would seem to be the last official word from the company to date. OverDrive’s CEO Steve Potash is interviewed about e-books in a 4-minute video from Bloomberg Television’s “In the Loop” show, and part of the clip contains his commentary about the HarperCollins situation (“That is one publisher that is adding a new term based upon some of the concerns their authors and agents expressed about a continuing right that a library could have for many years.”). Competitors to HarperCollins are trying to use the outrage to their advantage. Some, such as Library Journal Editor in Chief Francine Fialkoff, see this situation as a call to action on the wider topic of ebook licensing. And the most creative response I’ve seen comes from Dave Bott who proposes a “borrow it now” upcharge and revenue share for libraries.

The Google Settlement Rejection: What Comes Next?

When it was introduced in 2008, the Google Book Settlement was hailed by its creators as historic. Now, it is history. On March 22, after more than two years of contentious debate, Judge Denny Chin rejected the controversial proposal on copyright and antitrust grounds. A status conference is set for April 25 in New York, and the parties are free (and some say likely) to appeal the decision, though at press time no appeal had been announced.

Seen as the solution to a straightforward copyright claim lodged by authors and publishers against Google in 2005, the settlement offered a complex blueprint for a new digital book business, a $125 million legal puzzle that involved a dizzying array of moving parts: thousands of authors, millions of titles, libraries, the public interest, murky copyright law, orphan works, and even the creation of a new central rights authority, the Book Rights Registry, all of which appear to be off the table now.

PW takes a quick look at what the settlement’s rejection means for the parties and other stakeholders.

The Google Settlement Rejection: What Comes Next?, Andrew Albanese, Publishers Weekly

A few more things have been written since last week’s DLTJ summary on the Google Book Search settlement rejection. Publisher’s Weekly has a high-level overview of impact and plausable desires of the various groups: Google, publishers, authors, libraries, objectors and the public. James Grimmelmann continues to put out great work with a 10-minute interview from Bloomberg Law that gives an overview of the “legal and political implications” of the Judge Chin’s decision. And Robert Darnton, director of the Harvard University Library and member of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) steering committee, wrote an article for the New York Review of Books that is part analysis of the rejected class action and part cheerleading for the DPLA. Interestingly, at the same time this settlement about the Google Books Library scanning project was rejected Google confirms Canadian launch of eBookstore will go forward | Quill & Quire using the Google Books Publisher Program materials.

Digital Public Library of America “Concept Note”

On behalf of the Steering Committee, I wanted to share with you a draft “concept note” that describes where we stand in the DPLA planning process after our recent workshop. We are posting this document to this list, and to our planning wiki, with the intention of prompting discussion. Our next steps include development of the six workstreams; convening a group of potential funders; convening a series of further workshops on the specific questions that need to be decided; and building a proof of concept of the DPLA system to demonstrate the potential of this ambitious undertaking. I know I speak on behalf of the Steering Committee when I say that I look forward to your views.

Concept note, published by John Palfrey to the dpla-discussion mailing list, 26-Mar-2011

Late last week, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) steering committee published a “Concept Note” that represents the current thinking based on the work of the workshop earlier this month and the subsequent discussions. As noted above, Robert Darnton, member of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) steering committee, wrote an article for the New York Review of Books that outlines in part some of the reasons and processes the DPLA might follow. Comments are happening on the dpla-discuss mailing list.

Quadrocopter Ball Juggling

Video of Juggling Robots

Markus Waibel from robotspodcast pointed us to this amazing video showing two quadcopters juggling a small ball. The video is made by the Control of Distributed, Autonomous Systems lab of professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ), Raffaello D’Andrea. It is shot inside the Flying Machine Arena, a facility that provides a control environment for motion control research. The two quadcopters are based on the ‘Hummingbird’ quadrotor made by Ascending Technologies with new controls and custom made electronics fabricated by the institute. A vital component is a state of the art Vicon motion capture system that provides the localization data to the robots and makes extremely precise and dynamic control possible. You can learn more about the labs other projects here.

Alright — that quote is admittedly filled with a bunch of technical gobbledegook (I don’t sound like that, do I?), but the video itself is pretty cool. It is one minute long and shows one then two hovering robots juggle a ball to a height of what looks like about 20 feet.


p style=”padding:0;margin:0;font-style:italic;”>The text was modified to update a link from to on September 26th, 2013.

Google Book Search Settlement Rejected

Wordle of the Opinion Rejecting the Google Book Search Settlement Agreement

This afternoon, Judge Denny Chin released the opinion of the court rejecting the proposed settlement agreement between authors/publishers and Google in the Google Book Search settlement. ARL’s Public Policy Twitter account seems to have been the first to break the news. It is 48 pages long (probably about 30 if you don’t read the footnotes and legal citations) and very readable. The heart of the matter begins on page 18:

As a preliminary matter, I conclude that most of the [legal] factors favor approval of the settlement. The ASA [Amended Settlement Agreement] was the product of arm’s length negotiations between experienced, capable counsel, with assistance from DOJ [Department of Justice]. Further litigation would be complex, expensive, and time-consuming. Although the parties have conducted only limited discovery, the case has been pending for some years. The legal and factual issues are complex, and there is a risk that if plaintiffs were to proceed to trial, they would be unable to establish liability or prove damages. As discussed further below, substantial questions exist as to whether the case could be maintained as a class action, in its present form, through trial. In light of the attendant risks, the financial aspects of the ASA fall well within the range of reasonableness.

Only two of the [legal] factors weigh against approval of the settlement: the reaction of the class and defendant’s ability to withstand judgment. As for the latter, there is no real risk that a judgment following trial would render Google insolvent, and thus the avoidance of insolvency is not an issue. The former, however, is important. Not only are the objections great in number, some of the concerns are significant. Further, an extremely high number of class members — some 6800 — opted out. … I turn to the objections now.

An Associated Press story in the Washington Post published shortly after the opinion was release includes a comment from Google’s lawyers:

Hilary Ware, Google’s managing counsel, called the decision disappointing and said the company was considering its options.

“Like many others, we believe this agreement has the potential to open up access to millions of books that are currently hard to find in the U.S. today,” Ware said in a statement. “Regardless of the outcome, we’ll continue to work to make more of the world’s books discoverable online through Google Books and Google eBooks.”

Last year ARL’s public policy group published a flowchart of options that the case could follow. With Judge Chin’s opinion, the number of options is reduced to two: appeal (and follow a large appeal decision tree) or not (and follow a large continued litigation tree).

To follow the discussion, look for the #GBS hashtag on Twitter, and in particular follow James Grimmelmann of New York Law School on Twitter and his blog along with a project he is supervising, The Public Index and its blog. Also watch the wisdom-of-the-crowds at the #GBS hashtag newspaper, which is updated daily and aggregates the links published to #GBS tweets.

Thursday Threads: Free Music Scores, Hiring for Attitude, National Broadband Map

Hickory, with true-to-life parting attitude (left) and Mittens

This week’s Thursday Threads is delayed, but for good reason. If you will indulge me with a personal note, this week saw the passing of our 20-year-old cat, Hickory, and the addition of a 6-month-old kitten, Mittens, to our family. Needless to say, when I would normally be putting together a post on Wednesday evening, I was otherwise distracted. The delay certainly wasn’t because there were not interesting bits to post in the past seven days.

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Okay, cute cat pictures aside, this week’s DLTJ Thursday Threads has three stories. The first is a pointer a project that scans and releases out-of-copyright music scores; this is an interest project not only for questions of copyright and asserting public domain rights but also for what it says about the perception of libraries and librarians. The second story, suggesting that organizations should hire for attitude and train for skill, makes me wonder about how this principle could be applied to the library profession. And lastly, the U.S. federal government has issued a broadband availability map based on data collected from states.

Feel free to send this to others you think might be interested in the topics. If you find these threads interesting and useful, you might want to add the Thursday Threads RSS Feed to your feed reader or subscribe to e-mail delivery using the form to the right. If you would like a more raw and immediate version of these types of stories, watch my FriendFeed stream (or subscribe to its feed in your feed reader). Comments and tips, as always, are welcome.

Free Trove of Music Scores on Web Hits Sensitive Copyright Note

The site, the International Music Score Library Project, has trod in the footsteps of Google Books and Project Gutenberg and grown to be one of the largest sources of scores anywhere. It claims to have 85,000 scores, or parts for nearly 35,000 works, with several thousand being added every month. That is a worrisome pace for traditional music publishers, whose bread and butter comes from renting and selling scores in expensive editions backed by the latest scholarship. More than a business threat, the site has raised messy copyright issues and drawn the ire of established publishers.

The site ( is an open-source repository that uses the Wikipedia template and philosophy, “a visual analogue of a normal library,” in the words of its founder, Edward W. Guo, the former conservatory student. Volunteers scan in scores or import them from other sources, like Beethoven House, the museum and research institute in Bonn, Germany. Other users oversee copyright issues and perform maintenance. Quality control — like catching missed pages — is also left to the public. “It’s completely crowd sourced,” Mr. Guo said.

This article from the New York Times about the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) struck several chords with me (please pardon the pun). First is that this is the sort of activity libraries should be deeply engaged in. In a world where the mass distribution of physical works is common and the aggregation of digital access to materials being bundled into comprehensive (sometimes consortial-based) licenses (or libraries be bypassed by commercial distribution chains altogether), libraries can distinguish themselves by supporting projects that curate the unique and the local. The project has the word “Library” in the title and they have a category of volunteers called “librarians” (one is a high school student) but I can’t find evidence of the traditional library profession in the creation or support of the operation. As a librarian-by-formal degree (Simmons College, 2003) I’m neither offended by this, nor concerned that the project doesn’t have the involvement of librarian-by-degree people. Rather, I see this as markers of what people expect a library to be and what a librarian should do. This is an example of something we should strive towards.

The second chord is the copyright issue. It seems that this is another publishing industry segment that is under assault by the easy and relatively inexpensive distribution of content over the internet. In this case, it is the scanned versions of public domain scores. (The IMSLP has a Copyright Made Easy page describing what can and cannot be released on the site.) On the other hand, publishers can earn money by making researching and publishing what-the-composer-intended changes (my paraphrase) to public domain scores, then copyrighting the resulting derivative work. For most, scanned versions of out-of-copyright works are probably good enough and there is a cadre of volunteers who find personal fulfilment in scanning, uploading, proofing, and categorizing these versions. In its history, IMSLP was challenged in court, taken down, then reformulated and brought back online again by the original creator with the added support of volunteers. The IMSLP recently celebrated its five-year anniversary and although it faces the threat of lawsuits again, it is still going strong (hundreds if not thousands of changes per day).

Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill

How does the practice’s leader, Dr. Rushika Fernandopulle, find the right people for these unusual (but critical) jobs? “We recruit for attitude and train for skill,” Dr. Fernandopulle told Dr. Gawande. “We don’t recruit from health care. This kind of care requires a very different mind-set from usual care. For example, what is the answer for a patient who walks up to the front desk with a question? The answer is ‘Yes.’ ‘Can I see a doctor?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Can I get help making my ultrasound appointment?’ ‘Yes.’ Health care trains people to say no to patients.”

Now that’s an effective prescription for innovation!

This article in Harvard Business Review uses an example of a “special care center” in a physician’s practice to demonstrate how attitude of workers is key in radically moving an organization forward. I’ll admit to a mental struggle of trying to integrate the lessons of this story with that of the International Music Score Library Project above. This may be the kind of hiring model we need for “re-imagining the future of libraries” (to take a riff off of the physician’s practice motto). But with seemingly so many service aspects that we can’t let go of, I’m finding it hard to imagine not hiring for skills. [Via OCLC Research’s Above-the-Fold.]

National Broadband Map: How Connected is My Community?

The National Broadband Map is a tool to search, analyze and map broadband availability across the United States. Created and maintained by the NTIA, in collaboration with the FCC, and in partnership with 50 states, five territories and the District of Columbia.

On February 17th, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) launched the National Broadband Map — a collection and visualization of better-than-dialup internet service providers in the United States. It came about using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Grant funds were given to states to gather the information needed to create the map, and it is on a schedule to be updated every six months. Network World Magazine has 6 cool things learned from the National Broadband Map (One: There is a large gap between connection speeds for small businesses and for medium and large businesses; Two: A dearth of broadband providers in the Northeast; Three: DSL is still the most available wireline technology; Four: Wireless looks like the future for rural broadband; Five: New York is the king of the 100Mbps download; Six: Wyoming is not a good place for high-speed Internet).

The text was modified to update a link from to on November 21st, 2012.