Your Friendly FedEx Librarian

I went to pick up a friend’s egg share today. Turns out you can’t pick up your eggs before 3:30, so I went to FedEx to print out some wedding stuff (allow me to pollute this last untouched, wedding-free space in my internet universe and say that Jonathan & I am getting married in ten day).

As I was waiting for help with paper quality questions, the man next to me was being denied services because of a copyright issue, and of course I listened closely.

FedEx Employee: Sorry, man. We can’t print that, because of copyright.
Customer:  I bought it though.
FedEx Employee: Yeah, you bought a PDF. So you can look at a PDF online. Doesn’t mean you can print it. There’s copyright.
Customer: No, there’s no copyright, I paid for it.

So, obviously both of these positions are wrong. It is a certainty that the material the customer purchased online has some form of copyright associated with it. But since the employee had never actually laid eyes on the document, he had no idea whether copyright on this particular item allowed for printing for personal use.

The customer explained that he merely wanted to print and bind this thing he’d purchased so he could better study for an exam. The employee again explained that he couldn’t just print a book off the internet. These were both legitimate positions, but the messiness of “well…it depends” was not going to be part of their conversation.*

Internet, I really couldn’t help joining the conversation at this point. I’m no copyright expert, but I suspected there would be language on the first few pages of the document specifying what could and could not be done with it. I suggested to the customer that he take his USB key to the library and ask for help at the reference desk. “They’ll let me know what I can do with it?” The customer asked.

“They will.”

If I hadn’t had to pick up my eggs, I would have walked back with him and helped him personally, because actually getting access to a public computer at Robarts is pretty complicated. But the people at the desk, they’d be there and ready for him.


* I fully understand that FedEx needs to cover their butt, and that “we won’t print something off the internet after you’ve explicitly called it a book ” is probably a necessary position for them to take.


Library Publishing Forum

It’s been a week and my brain is still buzzing from the 36-hour long inaugural Library Publishing Forum.  I saw nothing of Kansas City, unfortunately, but the experience of being transported to a whole community deeply committed to publishing in libraries was so, so valuable. I came away with a lot to think about, and a list of projects I wish to have funded asap (please and thank you).

I am late with this. Others have blogged, Storifyedarchived or shared quicker and better than myself, so I’ve written just a few quick thoughts, and included the entirety of my notes below, should they be of interest.

– Similar to discussion in digital humanities, there’s a tension about the role of the library as service provider versus research partner. An extra layer of complexity is added in that, in addition to libraries building relationships with scholars, there are many instances where libraries collaborate or merge with their university’s press. Questions here are around who manages, who selects and, of course, who pays for the publishing work that go on as parts of these relationships.

– What’s more interesting to me, and more useful to think about since I’m not tied to one school or press, is the publishing that’s going on in libraries as library work – either as service or as in-library scholarship. What became very clear at LPF was that it’s often not possible to distinguish a library publishing effort from a library-managed Digital Humanities project. It’s arguably not necessary either, as long as conversations about publishing and conversations about ‘doing DH’ are not happening separately.

Should libraries and their presses integrate? Should they align but have different foci? Should libraries reject the traditional publishing model completely? Before attending the forum, I had really only thought of libraries-as-publishers in this third sense—and the Forum may have further radicalized me in that direction.  There are a lot of consortial opportunities in that scenario, and I look forward to fleshing them out in the coming months. I’ll also be pushing to formally join the Library Publishing Coalition as soon as it opens to consortium (quite soon!).

Notes below. Some session notes are more fleshy than others, and I’d be happy to clarify or expand with anyone who’s interested.

Continue reading

On (Access) Copyright

I’m back to blogging, and this time it’s because I had an argument on the internet. I do not normally argue on the internet; I am a very non-confrontational person, and the maliciousness that comes out so easily in cyberspace (in myself as much as others) is kind of frightening.

Still, after reading this I joined in on what turned into a bit of a mean-spirited pile on. I don’t think we scored librarians any points, although I think we were clearly in the right.

John Degen, an author and Ontario Arts Council worker, wrote a pretty scathing post about the OLITA resolution passed at last Friday’s AGM, a resolution I was  proud to throw my weight behind (read it here).

I don’t think (surprise!) that Twitter did justice to the response I wanted to give so John, or whoever, here is what I have to say about your post, the OLITA resolution, and Access Copyright:

(But first of all, heck yes librarianship is political. I hope this doesn’t come as a surprise to too many people.)

Degen disputes several of the resolutions clauses out-right, without explaining why he disagrees that students are broke, supreme court rulings on fair dealing give more leeway to educators, or that Access Copyright treats technology restrictively.

He then goes on to say:

What the resolution rather studiously does not point out is that when schools, colleges and universities decide to forgo licensing for copyright-protected content, millions of dollars in legitimate royalty payments to Canadian writers disappear

There’s not a lot of room for argument here, because I dispute that Access Copyright represents “legitimate royalty payments.” The structure of Access Copyright is bad. They spend a lot of money to collect a lot of money, very little of which actually goes to writers.

At one point in our incessant Twitter squabling Degen argued: “last time I checked, Spacing expected their copyright to be respected.” Spacing is an urban issues magazine. I am the books editor for this publication.

(Just in case you were looking for an answer, John, yes, I do expect people to follow copyright law when using Spacing. But copyright is obviously nuanced…if it wasn’t we wouldn’t need to have too many discussions! If you want to photocopy an issue of Spacing and sell it…there will be a problem. If you want to photocopy an article for your class, the law has come down squarely on your side, regardless of how Spacing’s editors and writers feel about it.*)

Fair dealing is real. This doesn’t mean I can photocopy twenty copies of his novel and pass them out to students so that they don’t need to buy their own. That’s obviously an extreme example of infringement, but Degen’s arguments take everything to an extreme. In another blog post he argues that yes, teachers should have to pay 30 licensing fees if they want to teach a news article in their current events class. First of all, what would be the logistics of putting this sort of mind-numbing bureaucracy into action? If handing out a single newspaper article to your class is not covered under fair dealing–what the heck is?

Degen’s issue is with the law itself–he doesn’t seem to believe in fair dealing, period. And if that’s the case then his argument is really, “the legal system is bad and doesn’t compensate authors properly, so underfunded libraries should be threatened with law suits until they pay more for content they have already legally acquired.”

(But yes, he’s right that the OLA and OLITA websites do not do a great job of explaining our membership…so hi, I’m one of them.)

* My guess is that they would feel pretty good about it –they are heavily invested in urban advocacy issues, and the article might just generate some new subscribers!