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Preview: Confessions of a Mad Librarian

Confessions of a Mad Librarian

A forum for discussion of library and information topics and interests by a rank amateur, a dilettante and a gadabout.

Published: 2007-11-09T10:08:36-08:00


An unrelated snippet


This has almost nothing to do with librarianship. If you can see a relationship, you're a better thinker than I, Gunga Din ...

But, this is the first writing I've done "in a legal context" that is being seen by more than just a single prof. So, this is a bit of a milestone for me. I think the term of art for the appropriate response is ... Woot!

I'm a winner!


I won an iPod Nano from Elsevier! At the IL Exhibit Hall opening this evening. Who knew that wearing that Scopus button worked?

Back in Monterey


Taking a bit of time off from classes and whatnot to attend Internet Librarian. Just to say, as a profession ... boy, I miss you guys.

SF Bay Area screening of "The Hollywood Librarian"


Have you been hearing about "The Hollywood Librarian" but unable to attend a screening? Are you in the SF Bay Area? Are you available this Friday evening (10/5)?

Then you are in luck:

THE "HOLLYWOOD LIBRARIAN: A LOOK AT LIBRARIANS IN FILM" IS COMING TO ALAMEDA! The "Hollywood Librarian" is a unique and charming blend of film clips, humor and critical analysis of the popular image of librarians. This documentary will increase your awareness of the complex and democratic nature of librarianship in the age of technology, and be a step toward redefining librarians as not only more than a stereotype, but also as a cultural imperative. The film is about 95 minutes and appropriate for ages 12 and older. Dewey's Friends Cafe will be open to sell snacks to movie-goers. Tickets are $8.00 for adults, $5.00 for seniors and children 5 years old and younger. Tickets may be purchased at the Check Out Desk at the Main Library. Ticket sales benefit the Friends of the Alameda Free Library. Call the Reference Department at 510-747-7713 for more information.

Time, date and location:

October 5, 2007
7:00 p.m.
Main Library
1550 Oak Street
Regina K. Stafford Meeting Room
Alameda, CA 94501

Patriot Act gag struck down



A federal judge yesterday struck down the parts of the recently revised USA Patriot Act that authorized the Federal Bureau of Investigation to use informal secret demands called national security letters to compel companies to provide customer records.

The law allowed the F.B.I. not only to force communications companies, including telephone and Internet providers, to turn over the records without court authorization, but also to forbid the companies to tell the customers or anyone else what they had done. Under the law, enacted last year, the ability of the courts to review challenges to the ban on disclosures was quite limited.

The judge, Victor Marrero of the Federal District Court in Manhattan, ruled that the measure violated the First Amendment and the separation of powers guarantee.

The decision won't strike down the provisions immediately ... the judge expects an appeal by the Justice Dept., although there was no immediate confirmation of one by a DOJ spokesperson.

More by AP, Washington Post [registration needed] ... and ALA.

The Times pinpoint some judicious language by the federal judge in this ruling:

“When the judiciary lowers its guard on the Constitution, it opens the door to far-reaching invasions of privacy,” Judge Marrero wrote, pointing to discredited Supreme Court decisions endorsing the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and racially segregated railroad cars in the 19th century.

“The only thing left of the judiciary’s function for those Americans in that experience,” he wrote, “was a symbolic act: to sing a requiem and lower the flag on the Bill of Rights.”

New copyright news


After two years of law school, I am finally taking Copyright Law. And while I'm deep in the basics (what is copyrightable? What is a "Writing"? What is an idea and how do you separate it from expression?), I hope that at the end of the semester, I'll be able to read opinions like Golan v. Gonzales and form my own thoughts of the meaning (and meaningfulness) of such cases.

In the meantime, however, I point you to the reactions of Larry Lessig, William Patry and Carlos Ovalle.

And there is the added irony of lacking the time to keep up with copyright news ... in order to study copyright. I just found out that the Greenberg v. Nat'l. Geographic case is being reopen and heard en banc ... (for those who pay no attention to such things, cases that go to the federal appellate level are heard by a panel of 3 judges ... after a decision has been reached, the losing side may petition for rehearing by the "full court". If the full court denies an en banc hearing, then the appellant may appeal to the Supreme Court.)

I wrote about one of the Nat'l Geo. cases earlier that was supported by many in the library community (4 of 5 major lib. orgs sided with NG in amici curaie briefs), and there were further updates that I missed ... so these are very muddy waters ... and it's hard to tell if there will be significant clarification when the full 11th Circuit wades in ...

So can you shelve "Grand Theft Auto" in the teen room?


Since more than a few libraries are getting into gaming, this seems relevant:

... a federal judge has blocked a California law that required retailers to label violent video games and prohibited their sale to minors. Passed in 2005, the law enjoyed strong support from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger but never went into effect after Judge Ronald Whyte issued a preliminary injunction against its enforcement.

Judge Whyte found the California law problematic on several levels. He agreed with the Entertainment Software Association's position—and that of other courts—that the law was unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds. He was also critical of arguments that video game violence causes real-world violence. "At this point, there has been no showing that violent video games as defined in the Act, in the absence of other violent media, cause injury to children," he wrote in his decision. "Although some reputable professional individuals and organizations have expressed particular concern about the interactive nature of video games, there is no generally accepted study that supports that concern."

I guess the question is, how are libraries handling video games (whether available only in the library and able to lend out for home use)? Do you treat them like movies, and if so, do you pay attention to the ratings? Are some games off-limits to certain users? Are some games simply not purchased because of their content (or mods)?

ALA looking for copyright scholars


Sigh. The ironic thing is that because I'm going to be taking Copyright Law, I know I won't have the time to do this ... at least, this year.

The ALA Office for Information Technology Policy is seeking individuals interested in serving as a Copyright Scholar for the Copyright Advisory Network.

The Copyright Advisory Network (CAN) is a Web site ( and network forum where librarians discuss copyright dilemmas and concerns online. Since 2005, eight librarians have served as Copyright Scholars on the forum. It is time to recruit a new batch of librarians who are keenly interested in copyright and want to volunteer their time to the Network.

Selected individuals will attend an all expenses paid 2-day orientation meeting in Washington, DC, train with the Copyright Scholar class of 2005, and help craft new improvements to the Network. Once you become a Scholar, you agree to devote a small amount of your time (estimated 2 hours a week) responding to copyright queries posted to the Network. You can decide how long your commitment to the Network will last but it must be for at least one year.

Qualifications for interested applicants:

Expertise in US copyright law and its application in libraries and educational institutions
Excellent writing skills
Flexibility in scheduling time to serve on the Network
Experience working in teams
Permission from your institution to participate

All applicants must be ALA members.

To be considered, send a letter expressing your interest in becoming a Copyright Scholar. Tell us of any special training or expertise you already have that would make you a good candidate for the job. The Copyright Advisory Committee will select the lucky applicants from the pool of letters received.

Send your letter or any questions you have to Carrie Russell via email at Deadline for applications is August 31, 2007 (deadline extended).

Potter mania, writ large


I have fallen sway to Pottermania. My helpmeet was adamant that if Scholastic started threatening those who've managed to get their hands on copies of the latest book, like they did with the last one, we wouldn't buy it (and no, we still don't own #6, but we have read it). I've ordered a copy for pick-up after midnight at my semi-local independent bookstore. But while I wait, there's the curious phenomenon of not wanting to be spoiled. I find it interesting ... sometimes, I want to be spoiled and sometimes I don't.

But spoiling is a big deal nowadays. It's tied up with publicity, of course. And criticism and review ... for instance, the NY Times has already posted its review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and I'm not sure that a book review that wasn't at least somewhat spoilery would really be much good.

And now there's linkage between spoilery and contract law, as Scholastic threatens to to sue book retailers who allowed HP7 to ship early to buyers. There's issues of copyright law, as pointed out by Salon's Farhad Manjoo in his entry about HP7 being leaked online. A later entry discussed copyright, the expectations and readers versus authors and publishers, fan fiction and control over information products. Meanwhile, a local tech writer believes that "[t]he real issue is the sense of entitlement that prompts many on the Net to believe that everything's up for grabs, that you shouldn't have to pay for anything found online because digital content wants to be free."

That's a lot for one little series of children/YA fantasy. What does it all mean? Maybe little, maybe nothing. Or maybe it's a grand example of what Nick Gillespie, Editor-in-Chief of Reason magazine describes as identity creation, "how actual people use culture to create identity, take pleasure, and negotiate their relationship to the world."

The Noble Amateur?


Not to be mean or to pile on (because really, law school has left me with maybe 5-10 minutes this year to both read and care about Michael Gorman's controversies), but I wonder if the fondly-thought-of former Prez of ALA has 1) heard about this book and 2) started fuming that he hadn't written it himself ...

I am curious enough about it to consider buying it, if only to see how the author sustains a 200+ page critique of Web 2.0. First though, I may do a Technorati search -- see what the blogosphere is saying about the book. ;> (yes, it's a lame joke ...)

Bits of activism


1) Gosh, it's quiet ...

Any libraries or librarians out there participating in the Internet Day of Silence? More info here. Short version: the Copyright Royalty Board has set rates for webcasting of music that many feel will stagger commercial webcasters and beggar small, non-profit webcasters (think of the web-based streaming and archived audio of your favourite college radio station) into shutting down entirely.

These teeming hordes request that you call your representatives and ask for a reprieve, via the Internet Radio Equality Act ...

2) Contact your senators via a free fax regarding REAL ID

The very short version: Congress debated having a national ID system. Many people take issue with the particular version that was passed in 2005, called The Real ID Act. Since then, a number of states have passed legislation rejecting REAL ID implementation. Now, there is a REAL ID provision in the current immigration bill.

EFF has quite a bit about it, and wants you to make a call ... but it's hard to get through because of all of the calls being left regarding copyright rates for music on the Internet (see above) -- but some activists have put together a website to send free faxes to your reps. So, if you're interested in this sort of thing ... pass it along.

Broadcast treaty dying?


According to Ars Technica:

Delegates from around the world have been meeting this week at WIPO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland for their second (and supposedly last) round of consultations on the treaty since last year's General Assembly meeting. The plan was to hold two sessions in order to iron out differences between countries and then proceed to a Diplomatic Conference late in 2007 if consensus could be reached. But consensus was nowhere in sight, and negotiations now appear to be at an end. There will be no treaty.

The Broadcast Treaty was an attempt to give global broadcasters the tools they needed to stop the theft of their signals, but initial versions of the treaty (which has been under discussion for a decade) adopted a controversial "rights-based" approach. Under a rights-based treaty, broadcasters would receive new intellectual property rights over their signals, and consumer advocates worried that this could put an end to some things currently allowed under "fair use." Even the US Senate had reservations about the plan.

And sighs of relief are heard throughout CopyFight Land ...

Rex Libris on the big screen


Woo hoo!

Warner Bros. Pictures has hired Mark Burton to pen the bigscreen adaptation of James Turner's comicbook "Rex Libris," about an everyday guy who becomes part of a secret sect of librarians who battle forces of darkness in chasing down overdue or stolen books.


Story revolves around head librarian Rex Libris, who must protect the world's knowledge and most dangerous secrets from falling into the wrong hands, such as when a squad of goons storm the library and tamper with the Dewey Decimal System by removing a certain card from the catalog. The library's walls collapse and a secret stack of books is revealed.

In their global exploits, Rex and the other librarians are aided by an ancient god living beneath the library. They're also armed with an impressive array of high-tech weapons, not to mention their intellects.

Sweet ... I wonder if Frances Sternhagen can play Circe ... that'll rock.

Larry Lessig leaving the copysphere?


It's true ... from his own keyboard:

The bottom line: I have decided to shift my academic work, and soon, my activism, away from the issues that have consumed me for the last 10 years, towards a new set of issues. Why and what are explained in the extended entry below.


After talking about the basic inability of our political system to reckon the truth about global warming, Gore observed that this was really just part of a much bigger problem. That the real problem here was (what I will call a “corruption” of) the political process. That our government can’t understand basic facts when strong interests have an interest in its misunderstanding.


I don’t mean corruption in the simple sense of bribery. I mean “corruption” in the sense that the system is so queered by the influence of money that it can’t even get an issue as simple and clear as term extension right. Politicians are starved for the resources concentrated interests can provide. In the US, listening to money is the only way to secure reelection. And so an economy of influence bends public policy away from sense, always to dollars.


Third, in general, I will no longer be lecturing about IP (whether as in TCP/IP or IPR) issues. No doubt there will be exceptions. In particular, I have a few (though because this decision has been in the works for months, very few) obligations through the balance of the year. There will be others in the future too. But in general, unless there are very strong reasons, I will not be accepting invitations to talk about the issues that have defined my work for the past decade.

Instead, as soon as I can locate some necessary technical help, I will be moving every presentation I have made (that I can) to a Mixter site (see, e.g., ccMixter) where others can freely download and remix what I’ve done, and use it however they like. I will continue to work to get all my books licensed freely. And I am currently finishing one last book about these issues that I hope will make at least some new contributions.

Fourth, [my blog] will change too. My focus here will shift. That will make some of you unhappy. I’m sorry for that. The blog is CC-BY licensed. You’re free to fork and continue the (almost) exclusively IP-related conversation. But I will continue that conversation only rarely. New issues will appear here instead.

Honestly ... I think it bites. I think the forces of balanced copyright and free culture and unencumbered access to knowledge and content still need Larry Lessig. He wrote about having devoted nearly a decade to issues of IP and tech -- about the "important progress on [these] issues" and how others may push on as well or better than him. Which is probably true and well and good -- but it's still disappointing. Some fights are over the long haul. Some fights outlive their original proponents (literally) and generations beyond.

Prof. Lessig has to follow his own heart and mind, of course and I wish him nothing but well. And given his standing as a legal scholar, I'm sure I'll continue to track him, his work and his ideas. But forgive me for regretting, at least for a little bit, the loss of such a prominent voice in the IP and tech worlds.

Let's see who will next hold the bully pulpit for the information commons ...