[unrev-II] Publishers v. Libraries -- Round 1?

From: Jack Park (jackpark@verticalnet.com)
Date: Wed Feb 07 2001 - 08:07:21 PST

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    Here is a post I circulated elsewhere...
    I have assembled some quotes from two sources: slashdot.org, and an on-line
    article slashdot references. At issue, publishers are taking the side that
    they lose money by way of free lending of documents by libraries. The issue
    strikes me as a logical outgrowth of all of the noise generated within the
    music industry by the Napster episode.

    In these quotations, it is nearly impossible to find a balance of opinion.
    As you might guess, the coverage is almost wholly given over to arguments
    against shutting down the present library system.

    I prefer to contrast this with the arguments of Douglas Engelbart (
    http://www.bootstrap.org <http://www.bootstrap.org/> ) in which the case is
    made that humanity faces some extremely tough issues with complex problems
    to solve; his take: augment human intellect as a means of enabling society
    to rise to the occasion. I am struck by the notion that, what we have in
    Publishers v. Libraries is yet another arms race. Arms races are what
    society does well. We mimic all our ancestral animals in that regard.
    Clearly, human intellect has yet to rise above that behavior.

    I would not post this if I did not think that there is a way out. Doug is
    right. Maybe it's time to start paying attention to him.

    Quotes below.


    <http://slashdot.org/yro/01/02/07/1145228.shtml> shtml
    "Reading the post article called some of Richard Stallman's writing to mind,
    specifically The Right to Read. This must be stopped. Now."
    "I find this article not surprising in the least, nor should anyone.

    In regards to media (in general), our country (and to an extent the world)
    is suffering a kind of slow-motion nervous breakdown. There are changing
    issues, changing technologies, new opportunities, and missed potentials.

    Instead of rationally looking at the big picture, people are busyily
    scrabbling in a mixture of Cover-Their-Backsides and Exploit The New thing.
    The end result is a kind of bizare insanity where our Public Libraries
    become evil pirates, insane copyright laws are enforced, no one's happy,
    everyone's afraid, and layer upon layer of technical and social limits are
    conjured up with no thought of the future.

    I say this article, this situation, needs to be shoved in the face of the
    public as much as possible. PEOPLE ARE ATTACKING LIBRARIES, treasured public
    institutions. Copyright issues have gone completely insane.

    I take some comfort in knowing these moronic legal acrobatics will
    eventually produce such an unenforceable mess and lead to so many ridiculous
    lawsuits, they'll be scrapped. I'd rather it didn't come to that however.

    "The Sage treasures Unity and measures all things by it" - Lao Tzu"
    "From what I note in the article, the people who are really getting hot
    under the collar about this are the publishers.
    Perhaps, this is because, like the music industry, they're beginning to see
    that anybody can go direct with their content in a digital format, and
    bypass them completely.
    As soon as this is really understood, then nobody, or at the very least far
    far fewer people will be relying on them, and thus paying their huge cut of
    each book paid for.
    It looks like another outmoded dinosaur is desperately thrashing around with
    tooth and claw (read litigation) in an attempt to protect their revenue
    streams in an age when they're no longer required.
    About the only way they can stay required is if they make it near enough
    illegal for anyone to publish their own content and not go through them.
    And this looks like the first step in that direction.

    Just a pondering,"
    "Didn't Salon originally run this idea as a cartoon?"
    "But currently libraries already pay royalty fees for items that they lend
    out to people. See this article for details. So this isn't quite a hot topic
    as it seems, it's more about the exact details of how it will work...
    The real problem is that by changing to digital content the publishers have
    seen a way to inflate the amount that they get from libraries. Libraries
    don't traditionally have huge budgets with which to purchase new materials,
    and if they end up having to pay on a per-use basis then many of them will
    have to stop stocking as many items. And because libraries have
    traditionally been free to use, they can't pass their costs onto the public.

    However in this case the libraries have something in their favour that
    Napster users don't - an unbeatable public image. You can't tarnish
    libraries as thieves and pirates, not without ruining your cause. It may
    well be that this issue is the single most important thing in deciding
    exactly how fair use and payment models will apply to digital content."

    <http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A36584-2001Feb7.html> html
    "No joke. Of all the dangerous and dot-complex problems that American
    publishers face in the near future -- economic downturns, competition for
    leisure time, piracy -- perhaps the most explosive one could be libraries.
    Publishers and librarians are squaring off for a battle royal over the way
    electronic books and journals are lent out from libraries and over what
    constitutes fair use of written material."
    "Libraries have spent all this money on technology," says Pat Schroeder.
    "They don't have any money left for content."
    Nancy Kranich, president of the American Library Association, begs to
    "The reason we're in a bind," says Kranich from her office at New York
    University, "is that the price of some of the materials has skyrocketed
    without any explanation." She cites one chemistry journal, Tetrahedron
    Letters, that costs $14,000 a year.

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