Friday, January 15, 2021

Book: The End of Ownership

Ownership is an interesting concept. As individuals, we own many things, but we also borrow, rent and lease items. For example, we can own the clothes we wear, but we can also borrow or rent them. We can own our car, but we can also lease it. And sometimes ownership is complicated, such as owning an apartment, which is in a building that you do not own. 

Ownership is a concept that can be applied to books, too. We can go to the store and purchase a book. We also pay for ebooks and think that we own them, but we do not. Like a leased vehicle, just because it is in our possession does not mean that we own it. 

In 2016, Perzanowski and Schultz wrote The End of Ownership, which is about the ownership of digital goods and the digital marketplace. Schultz notes that ownership of digital goods has gotten quite messy. And it has gotten even more complicated since this book was written.  If this topic is of interest to you, I suggest that you read The End of Ownership through SSRN (available here for free as of fall 2020).  Perzanowski has also talked about this in a 66-minute video from 2016.

Book Abstract

If you buy a book at the bookstore, you own it. You can take it home, scribble in the margins, put in on the shelf, lend it to a friend, sell it at a garage sale. But is the same thing true for the ebooks or other digital goods you buy? Retailers and copyright holders argue that you don't own those purchases, you merely license them. That means your ebook vendor can delete the book from your device without warning or explanation—as Amazon deleted Orwell's 1984 from the Kindles of surprised readers several years ago. These readers thought they owned their copies of 1984. Until, it turned out, they didn't. In The End of Ownership, Aaron Perzanowski and Jason Schultz explore how notions of ownership have shifted in the digital marketplace, and make an argument for the benefits of personal property.

Of course, ebooks, cloud storage, streaming, and other digital goods offer users convenience and flexibility. But, Perzanowski and Schultz warn, consumers should be aware of the tradeoffs involving user constraints, permanence, and privacy. The rights of private property are clear, but few people manage to read their end user agreements. Perzanowski and Schultz argue that introducing aspects of private property and ownership into the digital marketplace would offer both legal and economic benefits. But, most important, it would affirm our sense of self-direction and autonomy. If we own our purchases, we are free to make whatever lawful use of them we please. Technology need not constrain our freedom; it can also empower us.

Citation: Perzanowski, Aaron and Schultz, Jason. The End of Ownership. MIT Press, 2016. Full-text available at SSRN: (SSRN is a site for sharing full-text of working papers.)


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Coming February 1: U.S. Copyright Law in the Library: A Beginner's Guide eCourse

Copyright license choiceI'm pleased to again be offering U.S. Copyright Law in the Library: A Beginner's Guide eCourse beginning on Feb. 1. This six-week ALA eCourse includes discussions related to our continued pandemic. Won't you join us?

Description: The library is a hub of content, all of it subject to copyright law. The legal reality of copyright is dynamic—changes in technology have created a landscape that is constantly adapting and can be difficult to predict. If you don't have any formal training in copyright law, it can be intimidating to know how to answer your patrons' copyright questions and to know what you can and cannot do with your library’s content and resources. It can be tough to understand the line between providing information and answering a legal question.

In this eCourse, consultant, speaker, writer, and educator Jill Hurst-Wahl guides you through the basics of copyright law and provides you with the foundation to become your library's copyright expert.

Each week, you'll learn how copyright law informs what libraries, library staff, and patrons can do with their materials and how you can stay up-to-date as this area evolves. You'll be able to check and affirm your knowledge through focused self-assessments.

After participating in this course, you will be able to:

  • Explain the basics of copyright law
  • Evaluate whether or not a work is copyrightable
  • Determine if a work is still under copyright protection
  • Appraise whether a work can be used under Fair Use
  • Understand how to locate additional information on U.S. Copyright Law
  • Assist a member of the community or library staff in understanding the real meaning of Fair Use

 Additional information and registration is available on the ALA website.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Wrapping Up 2020: A Pandemic Influenced Year

Librarians Threaten IgnoranceThis has been quite a year, which will be reflected in this look back on 2020. 

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Those three words became more important this year. The library and information professions were already examining themselves and how to become more diverse in terms of people within the professions, content, programs, etc. We need and want to be more representative of the communities we serve. We need to include all voices. This is an ongoing struggle and one in which every ally needs to remain vocal and active. We cannot leave this work to other people. 

In October, I wrote four posts on the struggle to diversify library staff, which have been widely shared and I think have helped to inform some conversations. If you are interested in increasing the diversity of your staff - whether your in a library or not - I encourage you to read these posts. 

By the way,  many people read the first post with fewer reading the remaining ones. Yet it is parts 2 and 3 which provides ideas for improving the situation.  (I think part 3 offers a radical idea.)

Racism in the Profession

In November, an article pointed to someone in the library and information profession as being a member of a right wing extremist group. This led to a lot of chatter on Facebook and in other places about the values of the library profession and how this person did not seem to have those values. However, the truth is that the profession contains a breadth of personal values and opinions, some of which are at odds with the values practitioners believe the profession has.  

This is an area where we all need to listen to those who have been - and continue to be marginalized in the profession. After that listening, we all need to think deeply about the changes that need to be made, and then make them.

I encourage you to read the ALA's Code of Ethics and consider how that code is helping or hindering us as we try to become more inclusive.  I also encourage you to read "This Is Who We Are" by Fobazi M. Ettarh.

If you head a library, look at your meeting room policy and consider if they would allow racist or extremist groups to use a room. Is that what you want?  Then look at your collection development policy. Does it support the inclusion of racist materials into your collection?  Is that what you want? You may need to update your policies. If you want racists to use your meeting rooms and be reflected in your collection, then you need to think about what that means to your community and likely you should document your rationale and decision. Finally, start a conversation with your staff about the values of your library, as well as about diversity, equity and inclusion.  Make this a long-term conversation. You will not be able to surface concerns or problems - or create solutions - in just a few sessions. You and your staff will need to get comfortable with each other and with the conversation, before people are willing to really open up. Everyone will need to see that conversation as safe space for all opinions.

BTW I have purposely not included links to articles, etc. about the LIS person who is associated - loosely or tightly - with a right wing extremist group. Why? Because this is not about scrutinizing one person, but about looking at the entire profession. 

My Most Shared Facebook Post

Rubber bullet

Much of the conversation around racism in 2020 was due to the Black Lives Matter protests. After a protest in Syracuse in May, a colleague helped pick up the debris and found a "rubber bullet." The term rubber bullet is used to describe a range of projectiles of varying sizes, including large ones that are used on our city streets. With permission, I created a public Facebook post about rubber bullets, noting that they can do serious damage, which other attested to. A few people disagreed, because there is a smaller version, which I know are used in police training instead of "live rounds," but these large projectiles are not those. I'm glad to know that Facebook post has been shared over 2,000 times, because it surely has educated some people.

A Push to Change the Pathways to Librarianship

There is a group in ALA and in the New York Library Association which are each focused on what needs to change in LIS education or the pathways to librarianship (I see these as being entwined).  

The work of the NYLA Pathways to Librarianship Task Force is just beginning and their timeline is ambitious. As stated:

This first charge of the task force will be to work towards the development of a Statement of Principles on the topic of Alternative Pathways to Librarianship. Particular emphasis will be placed on creating sustainable practices that allow historically discriminated groups to more easily enroll in library and information science graduate programs, attain graduate degrees in librarianship, retain employment in their chosen field, and advance through the profession.  These Principles will be used to create a white paper advocating for systemic reforms and the subsequent creation of a new framework to address inequities.

In ALA, nearly 100 people have come together  as part of the Librarian Education Reform Discussion Group (within the ALA Connect platform). This group is talking "about education requirements in the future of librarianship." Members of this group are also focused on other aspects that could help to diversify the profession.  

Talking about changing LIS education or pathways to librarianship is a complicated discussion. There are more opinions than people, and there is truth in every opinion shared.  Because there are so many valid opinions (or options), selecting which one to focus on can be problematic. Do you select the one advocated by the loudest voices?  It is the one that the group selects?  Do you select the easiest to tackle? Or perhaps your research leads you to the one that will have the biggest impact? If the focus is on making changes which will help the profession become more diverse, do you have representatives from those diverse communities in the discussion and are you listening to them?

I'm involved in the ALA Connect group, but have decided not to get directly involved in the NYLA effort. I've enjoyed the ALA discussions to-date and look forward to what they continue to surface and what ideas they might bring to the profession.

Digital Lending of Library Materials

After everything began shutting down in March, due to COVID-19, the number of copyright questions library staff increased. ALA did two webinars with me, Kenneth Crews and Lesley Ellen Harris. (Part 1 post and Part 2 post contain links to the recordings.) People had questions about fair use, storytime, the digital lending of materials, and more, and we answered all of their questions.

The digital lending of library print materials is the cause of many discussions and disagreements. Yet there are libraries - more than you realize - who are engaged in digitally lending their print materials. The simplest example are academic libraries who have digital course reserves. Ecourse reserves are done in a controlled environment. Making materials available in an accessible format for those who are blind or other people with disabilities (Title 17 Section 121), is a form of controlled digital lending. Libraries are also digitizing some of their print works and making those copies available in a "lend like print" fashion.  In other words, that one digital copy can be loaned to one person at a time, and when that digital version is out on loan, the print copy cannot be loaned. Below are related blog posts and I know I'll be writing about this more in 2021.

Related blog posts: 

Report: Public Library Survey Data: Some Answers, Many Questions

As I've written about before, two years ago, the Syracuse University iSchool Public Libraries Initiative (IPLI) became interested in the IMLS Public Library Survey (PLS) data. At the time, the IPLI was doing some work on the data in conjunction with the EveryLibrary Institute. Seeing the data from every public library in our 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and our U.S. territories raised questions in us. Exploring those questions took time and required adding some skills to our team, while also understanding which of our questions were answerable and how many were not. Fast forward and earlier this fall I finished a 17-page report using the 2017 PLS data entitled Public Library Survey Data: Some Answers, Many Questions (free download).  I am still proud of this report and hope that public libraries across the U.S. will continue to use it.  


I really enjoyed the ALA Midwinter Conference in Philadelphia in January.  Now I look back at it as not only being a wonderful conference, but also my last trip before the pandemic. (Relevant ALA blog posts) That in-person conference was definitely a high point of the year, as was the virtual conference held by the New York Library Association in November. (Relevant NYLA blog posts) The NYLA Annual Conference us!ed the PheedLoop platform, which provided space for broadcasted and pre-recorded sessions, real-time chat, and a trade show.  It was more interactive than I expected, which was a huge plus. Of course, NYLA had excellent content as always.

Sticky bun from Beiler's in the Reading Terminal Market

My Last 2020 Flight

A travel highlight of being in Philly is the Reading Terminal Market. On the last day, I bought a half-dozen Amish sticky buns to bring home and put them in my backpack. A security person at the convention center wondered - as I was stuffing them in my backpack - if I could get them on the plane, which was an odd question. But later, there I was at the airport security checkpoint watching my backpack being scanned and the TSA agents staring at the screen.  One brought my backpack to me, opened it up, pulled out the bag of sticky buns and asked, "What is this?" Evidently, they did not recognize sticky buns on their scanner! (Yes, I got them home with me.) That was the highlight of my last flight of 2020.

A Change in Work!

The stay-at-home orders in March flowed nicely into my retirement from academia at the end of June. I am now Professor Emerita!

Yes, I am retired and just as busy as before. I am serving on several boards including the EveryLibrary Institute and the Onondaga County Public Library (OCPL) Board of Trustees. Being on the OCPL Board during the pandemic has been very "interesting" (in every sense of the word). Like nearly every library in the U.S., all of the libraries in the OCPL system shut their physical locations for many weeks or months due to the pandemic. However, like many other libraries, the OCPL libraries have been online for many years, including the ability to search from home for a book to reserve, access to online databases which contain high quality verifiable information, ebooks, audio books, and much more. While online programs are not new for any library, they multiplied in 2020 when meeting in-person was not possible. The OCPL libraries used storytime, performances of Shakespeare, online book clubs, craft sessions, summer reading, staff generated podcasts and YouTube videos, and much more in online formats to give people respite from the stress that 2020 provided. While many people focused on the doors being closed,  but the staff at the libraries were still working to meet the needs of our communities. We cannot forget that our libraries are very digital and are always open.

Besides serving on several boards, I'm continuing to give webinars on a wide variety of topics, including copyright (running again in February), communications, using SMART goals, productivity, and mentoring (March 2021). In terms of consulting I am talking with prospective clients about copyright projects and projects related to innovation. Innovation is something I've focused on for a long time and I look forward to putting my knowledge to work with a new organization. 

Besides my website, this blog, and LinkedIn, I've been using a new service called Lunchclub as a way of thinking about "what's next." Lunchclub provides curated one-on-one professional connection, and smart introductions to relevant people. What an interesting way to meet other people who are interested in copyright, and from difference perspectives. Paul Signorelli has written about this platform, so you can go there to read more. Lunchclub does not allow people to automatically join, but instead looks for people to be referred in some fashion.  If you're looking for a new or different networking platform, here is a link so you can signup for Lunchclub.

What else?

I'm sure there is more I should write.  I haven't talked about what I've learned about Zoom, or about the site Gather.Town (which has more functionality than you can imagine), or discovering Sardek Love's Monday "Ask a Master Facilitator" videos...or Tom Haymes' book Learn at Your Own Risk, or Paul Signorelli's book Change the World Using Social Media (which includes information from an interview with me)...or about the days I sat in front of the TV watching in disbelief all that was happening in the world. I am thankful for the light, for the good...and I look forward to what I hope will be a better 2021.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

What is hidden in $900 billion COVID-19 relief deal? Hint: changes to IP law

U.S. Congress from Wikimedia
Yesterday the U.S. Congress passed the long awaited COVID relief bill.  Besides COVID relief for people in the U.S., it contained other things. USA Today reported:

The roughly $900 billion measure was attached to a $1.4 trillion spending bill to fund the federal government through Sept. 30, 2021 (the end of the fiscal year) to form a nearly 5,600 page-bill that is one of the largest pieces of legislation Congress has ever tackled. It also includes bipartisan provisions like the end of surprise medical billing and legislation creating Smithsonian museums for women and Latinos. clearly more than just COVID relief. What else? Fight for the Future reported:

Fight for the Future has learned that three controversial changes to copyright law: the CASE Act, Felony Streaming Act, and Trademark Modernization Act are in fact included in the must-pass omnibus spending bill lawmakers will vote on later today (bill text here). Protocol first reported on the potential inclusion of these provisions in the package earlier this month. The CASE Act would threaten ordinary Internet users with up to $30,000 in fines for engaging in everyday activity such as downloading an image and re-uploading it. 

The Verge said:

Most controversially, the CASE Act would create a quasi-judicial tribunal of “Copyright Claims Officers” who would work to resolve infringement claims. As outlined in the bill, copyright holders could be awarded up to $30,000 if they find their creative work being shared online. 


The Trademark Modernization Act would allow third parties to request the Patent Office to reject trademark applications in an effort to combat “trademark trolls” who make money off of trademarks they never planned to use.

As for the Felony Streaming Act, TV Technology wrote:

Under Tillis’ bill, any person that pirates video streams of copyrighted work will have committed a felony act and be subject to either fines or imprisonment. The previous penalty for pirating streaming content was a misdemeanor.

The bill targets large-scale, criminal, for-profit streaming services, not good faith business disputes or noncommercial activities. Nor does it target individuals who access the pirated streams, knowingly or unknowingly.

Addendum (1:25 p.m. ET): Looking at this text, on page 2592 there is an opt-out provision for libraries and archives related to the Copyright Claims Board. 

So there is much for us to pay attention to in this bill that has been passed. Sadly, everything in it was not debated and I doubt that those who voted on it had read and considered every word. The New York Times reported:

The legislative text is likely to be one of the longest ever, and it became available only a few hours before both chambers approved the bill. 

We will now need to figure out what this means to use and our organizations, and likely how to work towards modifications to these changes. Please watch social media and a variety of news sources for information, as people read the bill and reflect on its impact.

By the way, if you wonder how all of this stuff - and more - got into this bill, consider that every Representative and Senator saw this important measure as a way of getting what they wanted to have passed before this session ended. People were unlikely to vote against bill if it contained, for example, something related to Internet streaming. And if putting that stuff in meant that the bill received more votes, then they saw that as being good.  

Yes, there are people who voted for this bill that I wish had voted against it. I also wish they had just passed COVID relief earlier, so it could have been of more help to those who needed it. I also wish it had contained relief for counties and municipalities that have seen their budgets be severely impacted. I hope that more COVID relief - and not bundled with anything else - will be coming in 2021!

Addendum (1:25 p.m. ET): I'm not seeing articles yet from library sources about this bill.  If you see any, please leave a comment with a link. Thank you!

Addendum (12/30/2020): The President signed this bill int law on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020.

Friday, December 18, 2020

#NYLA2020 Wrap-up: The joy of an online conference during a pandemic

Lunch in front of a laptop computer
Like many other conferences, the 2020 New York Library Association Annual Conference went virtual with broadcasted sessions on Nov. 5-6, and access to prerecorded content for weeks afterwards. This was a very different experience. There were no group lunches or dinners. No alumni events. No running into colleagues in the hallway. Instead we were each in front of our own computers as we attended the live sessions. That spot became where we had breakfast, mid-morning coffee, lunch, and snacks. For some, it was where they exercised while watching sessions!  So what stood out?

  • The conference used the PheedLoop platform, which allowed for live and prerecorded sessions, live chat, and a trade show. This is the first online conference platform I've used and I liked it. I'm sure there are a growing number of companies building platforms and it will be interesting to see what exists a year from now.
  • While the platform was easy to use, it needed an introduction. An online conference platform should have a 2-5 minute introductory video which explains its features. The video could be generic and played by any participant at any time.
  • The presenters - whether they were presenting live or were prerecording their material - needed good Internet bandwidth. Unfortunately, you likely do not know that your bandwidth isn't good enough until something goes wrong. Participants also needed good bandwidth. This is an area where a conference platform might provide a tool for testing your bandwidth or provide suggestions on how to get the most out of what you have.
  • Because of the combination of live broadcast and prerecorded sessions, I was able "to go" to more sessions! This was definitely a plus. In addition, NYLA recorded the broadcast sessions and made them available later, so more content to absorb.
  • The difference between prerecorded sessions and live sessions is the ability to interact with other participants and ask questions. Yes, there really is a benefit to being in the same "room" with everyone else  and the presenters at the same time.
  • Because I don't work for a library, trade shows and exhibit halls are a challenge. I want to go and see what's new, but I also know that I'm not a prospect for the exhibitors, so the conversations can be awkward. The virtual trade show (exhibit hall) allowed me to visit the vendors, look at their materials, perhaps watch a video about their products/services, and then only chat with a live person if I had a question. This translated into me going to more exhibitors and looking at more of their materials. 
  • NYLA does not have vendor-led sessions. However, I think conferences next year - and even NYLA - should consider having library space designers and architectural firms give programs on what they learned about library design from the pandemic. I think those could be well attended and very informative sessions.
  • The private chat feature allowed me to chat with a number of people, whom I had not seen in a while, and that was nice. That served a bit like running into someone in the hallway at the conference. The feature did take a little getting used to and I would hope that conference software companies work to make that feature obvious and easy.

Next year (2021) the NYLA Annual Conference is scheduled to be in Syracuse on Nov. 3-6.  Every 2021 conference is looking at their options and wondering if they will be able to hold their events in person. In addition, every 2020 virtual conferences is realizing that participants saw a benefit in having an online conference and likely want some virtual components to continue. 

Why go to an on-site conference?

  • While you might attend a conference by yourself, you are interacting with many people while you're on-site. That increases what information you are exposed to and what you learn. That is harder to do online.
  • You have more interaction with the speakers (including the keynoters), because you can talk with them before or after their sessions, or at another time during the conference. For example, imagine the conversations we could have had with the NY State Librarian if we had been in the same physical space as her? If possible, queuing up to see the State Librarian online would definitely be different than in person. Another example is a group gathering around a speaker after a session to talk about a particular point the person made. BTW this is all possible to do online, but requires more coordination.
  • While I liked visiting the exhibitors online, you could not see and touch their products. You need to be on-site for this.
  • It is easier to create small ad hoc discussion groups in person, whether that is in a session, on the trade show floor, in the hallways, or over a meal. This can be where the real learning and networking happens. The ad hoc nature of this is currently hard to duplicate online.
  • Association conferences are also places for recruiting people for committees, etc. While this is possible to do in other ways, you can't see who is stopping by your booth and showing real interesting in your materials when the event is online.
  • While not impossible, it is easier to do fun fundraisers in person.

I'm sure there are other reasons, but that is what comes to mind right now.  

I do want to say that I missed driving to Saratoga Springs, where the conference was supposed to be held. And I missed my favorite food places in Saratoga (Hattie's), as well as the independent bookstore. The MSLIS programs in NYS have alumni events at the conference, and I missed those too. 

Whatever form NYLA 2021 takes, I am looking forward to it. My hope is that it will be on-site (at least part of it).  If so, my plan is to create a food map for participants to use!  Maybe some dine-arounds? We'll see!