Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Taking Control of Our Digital Future

Access to information shouldn't depend on where you live

On January 25, the organization Library Futures was launched. Library Futures is a new nonprofit that champions the right to equitable access to knowledge. Work on creating Library Futures began in mid-2020 and I joined its board in September. Because of our passion for expanding access to knowledge, we have moved quickly and gathered other people and organizations (coalition partners) to work with us. 

Library Futures is focused on six principles:

  • Our World is Digital
  • Protect the Right to Lend
  • Libraries must own content, not license it
  • Equitable access is the future of libraries
  • Privacy is not for sale
  • We are stronger together
You can read more details on those principles on our website.

Jennie Rose Halperin has written an introduction to Library Futures on our blog and the board has also written a post with more information. As we wrote (emphasis added):
The work of the Library Futures Institute will also advance a research and programmatic agenda that strengthens the rights of libraries,  including working toward ownership of digital works through the adoption of less restrictive licensing agreements for e-media and e-books. New licenses should allow libraries to own digital works with the same associated rights as print materials. This change would empower, not challenge, the library’s mission to promote access to knowledge, culture, and literature. 
If you are interested in knowing more, you can sign-up on our homepage to receive information from us. You can also follow Library Futures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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.