OCLC’s new Copyright Evidence Registry

OCLC has launched the WorldCat Copyright Evidence Registry.

From the press release:

The WorldCat Copyright Evidence Registry is a community working together to build a union catalog of copyright evidence based on WorldCat, which contains more than 100 million bibliographic records describing items held in thousands of libraries worldwide. In addition to the WorldCat metadata, the Copyright Evidence Registry uses other data contributed by libraries and other organizations…

“Having a practical registry of copyright evidence is vital to our objective of providing our scholars and students with more digital content, one goal of Stanford’s mass digitization projects,” said Catherine Tierney, Associate University Librarian for Technical Services, Stanford University. “By leveraging the value of its massive database, OCLC is in a unique position to champion cooperative efforts to collect evidence crucial to determining copyright status.”

It’s good that OCLC is creating a copyright status registry. A well-populated registry, by and for librarians, with good and useful metadata, could eventually save users real time and money. Currently, we have a handful of institutions doing major digitization projects that are separately investigating copyright status on a large scale. It’s inefficient, with lots duplicated effort. Copyright evidence is exactly the kind of thing on which libraries can and should be collaborating, and OCLC seems like a logical organization to take the lead.

I do have a couple of questions/concerns.

  1. OCLC claims and enforces copyrights in its bibliographic records. While it grants member libraries permission to make broad use of those records, my understanding is that the same is not true for non-members. If OCLC extends that policy to the Copyright Evidence Registry, it risks becoming just another walled garden that is useful only to a select (and paying) group of members, and less useful even to that group than it would be if it were truly open.
  2. Right now the registry is sparsely populated. It will take a critical mass of records and contributors to become a trustworthy source of copyright evidence. Where will that critical mass come from? What is OCLC doing to build it quickly? How will users know when the registry has reached it?

Via Digital Koans.

Life on the command line

A grad school classmate of mine, Dianne Dietrich, has created an excellent set of tutorials for librarians who want to learn how to use command line. Here’s why:

If you’re a librarian, and you’re working with lots of information — and I mean, lots, like information overload lots — you need to be equipped with a way to handle this information without resorting to mind-numbing data entry methods. No, really. Every time someone says, “I guess I have to do this exhaustingly repetitive task by hand, I cry a little. It doesn’t matter if you’re one thousand miles away; I know, and I weep.

The tutorials are funny, easy to understand, and created especially for librarians (the examples use the LC Classification Outline!). I’ve been having a great time working my way through them, discovering some of the ways that command line can make my life easier, and it’s just too terrific a resource not to share. If you ever wanted to learn how to use the command line but weren’t sure where to start, look no further.

Collected stories: Paul Krugman on e-books; Science vs. the RIAA; Cory Doctorow is a bestseller; pictures of libraries

I just got back from a week of vacation, followed by a week of post-vacation crunch, so here’s a small assortment of things I would have blogged about sooner, but didn’t.

Paul Krugman says it better In a column titled Bits, Bands, and Books: Paying for Creativity in a Digital World, Paul Krugman describes the impact of the digital revolution on the market for creative content. I think he gets it exactly right. He also calls the Grateful Dead “business pioneers.” Who knew?

Bit by bit, everything that can be digitized will be digitized, making intellectual property ever easier to copy and ever harder to sell for more than a nominal price. And we’ll have to find business and economic models that take this reality into account.

Cory Doctorow and Creative Commons are bestsellers Like all his other books, Cory Doctorow’s latest novel, Little Brother, was released online using a Creative Commons license (BY-NC-SA). Unlike his other books, and unlike any other CC-licensed anything, Little Brother has now spent four weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. It’s the first CC-licensed novel to make the list, and excellent news for people like me who argue that giving stuff away for free online doesn’t mean you can’t sell it for profit, too. Also fun to think about in the context of Paul Krugman’s column on e-books.

Science proves the MPAA and the RIAA are jerks A recent piece in the NYTimes Bits Blog points out a study from the University of Washington which showed that the technologies Big Media uses to investigate illegal file sharing regularly produce false positives.

From the Bits blog:

In two separate studies in August 2007 and May of this year, the researchers set out to examine who was participating in BitTorrent file-sharing networks and what they were sharing. The researchers introduced software agents into these networks to monitor their traffic. Even though those software agents did not download any files, the researchers say they received more than 400 take-down requests accusing them of participating in the downloads.

The researchers concluded that enforcement agencies are looking only at I.P. addresses of participants on these peer-to-peer networks, and not what files are actually downloaded or uploaded — a more resource-intensive process that would nevertheless yield more conclusive information.

In their report, the researchers also demonstrate a way to manipulate I.P. addresses so that another user appears responsible for the file-sharing.

This is not the first time flaws in the RIAA/MPAAs’ strategy have been revealed, and librarians and other concerned parties have been calling for more transparency in their tactics for quite some time. Now opponents of file-sharing lawsuits – not to mention the defendants in those lawsuits – have scientific evidence that these tactics implicate innocent people.

Pictures of Libraries When I travel, instead of collecting souvenirs I like to visit and take pictures of libraries. I saw a few very cool libraries on my recent vacation, including the brand new Openbare Amsterdam Bibliotheek, the Amsterdam public library. I was incredibly impressed with the design of the Amsterdam library. It has a lot of good signage, open spaces and tables for people to hang out and collaborate, tons and tons of computers (both Mac and Windows), good light, inviting stacks that weren’t too tall, and seemingly intuitive organization (from what I could understand of the Dutch).

If you’re interested, have a peek at my Libraries set on Flickr. Also check out the page about the new library at the Openbare Amsterdam Bibliotheek website.

Library Camp Ann Arbor, 2008

I spent yesterday afternoon at the Ann Arbor District Library, attending Library Camp. I joined the group discussing how to sell Web 2.0 to our colleagues, administrators, and patrons. Overall, I was pretty proud of how the group managed not to devolve into a whine fest about how hard it is to get libraries and librarians to experiment with new technologies, though there were a few requisite moans and groans. A lot of folks in the room had already had some successes introducing 2.0 technologies, and they shared their strategies, which tended to fall into one of two camps:

  1. Build first, explain later: People found that it was very hard to sell anyone on a 2.0 experiment when all they could do was try and describe it. “Well, Twitter is like microblogging… Well microblogging is like blogging, but smaller… Well, blogging is like when people post about different stuff, like news and stuff, and it shows up chronologically on the webpage…” etc. If they actually created a few Flickr sets, or set up a blog, it was much easier to demonstrate the utility of such a thing, and they were able to generate buy-in from the administration and the users.
  2. Talk about the ends, not the means: In trying to explain Web 2.0 technologies to upper level administration, Dave Carter of the University of Michigan focused on their ability to help us better connect with our users, rather than on the details of how they work or what they are. By explaining the end goal – building a relationship with users, encouraging interaction, and improving services – he was able to sell the principle of 2.0 without getting bogged down by the minutiae of various sites and and technologies. U of M ended up offering a whole summer series on Library 2.0, and blogs, wikis, and Facebook have been adopted by librarians all over campus.

After the breakout sessions we had a show and tell, where several people got up and demonstrated a cool new thing they’re doing in their library. They included

We also saw a library book blog, but apparently I didn’t write down the URL or the name. I was especially impressed by all the different embedded media options from DALNET (that’s Detroit Area Library Network, I think). They’re doing stuff like embedding movie previews from YouTube in the catalog, so that if a patron is looking at a record for Spiderman 2, she could actually watch the preview right there on the page. And they’re doing it all with MARC! Very cool.

It was nice to meet librarians from all over the Midwest, and also to be reminded of some of the stuff I’ve been meaning to experiment with but just haven’t gotten around to. When I learned that there was no Wikipedia entry for the AADL, I went home and created one, my first ever new Wikipedia article (it’s still a stub – go edit it!). I also decided to take my Twittering to the next level, to see if I can finally understand what the fuss is about. If you’re interested, follow me at http://twitter.com/mollyali.