The Shifted Librarian - Shifting Libraries at the speed of byte
 Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Tech to Media: Stop Exaggerting

We're making progress - a media executive is up to half-right.

Media to Tech: Stop Stealing!

"Stop stealing!

That is what Peter Chernin, CEO of Fox and chief operating officer of Fox's parent, News Corp., told an audience of techies at Comdex on Tuesday.

Using terms like 'looting,' 'piracy' and 'digital hijacking,' Chernin said that the rampant free downloading of copyrighted material is akin to shoplifting. The big difference, however, is that downloading music and movies for free is tolerated.

'If hundreds of thousands of dresses were stolen from Wal-Mart, the police would assemble a task force that would have Winona Ryder shaking in her boots,' Chernin said." [Money]

He's definitely right about this. Of course, he doesn't finish the analogy and note that clothing designers, manufacturers, and the police would use existing methods and laws to catch and prosecute the criminals rather than asking legislators or Wal-Mart for new laws that would prevent people from taking the clothes off the rack to look at them or try them on.

How badly does the entertainment industry need new ammunition for their tired arguments? So badly that they had to parade George Lucas out in front of the Comdex audience to have him note that stealing is bad. Of course, George didn't mention that his most recent movie ended up in file sharing programs across the world because one of his own staffers pirated a copy and put it out there for the world to take. But in his Comdex speech, apparently George didn't advocate for hiring more ethical staffers.

The upside of this article is that Chernin did go on to say the following:

"One possible reason is that Chernin said it was time for media conglomerates and tech companies to work together, and that doing so could be beneficial for both industries.

'The most powerful catalyst for growth is not piracy, but partnership,' Chernin said."

That's a great sentiment that will help move discussions forward instead of apart, but I'm still waiting for any indication of what concessions or compromises the media companies are willing to bring to the table (like say, I don't know... fair use rights or the right of first sale).

Addendum: The Hollywood Reporter has a more descriptive article about Chernin's speech and in all fairness, he does say a lot of good things. I still stand by my statement, though, that given the chance, media companies will try to lock down fair use rights if they feel there are any loopholes that would allow for piracy.

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We Can Rebuild Libraries - We Have the Technology

Our SLS Reference Service subscribers to ALA Edition's approval program, so we recently received a copy of Magic & Hypersystems by Harold Billings. They let me look at it to get my opinion about keeping it for our professional collection, so I did one of my many sophisticated, complex tests - I turned to a random page and looked for something that interested me. Here's what I found:

"Despite the noise from many quarters these days, there has long been a national information infrastructure. It is called libraries. But the failure of the library profession to assert the very special and important role that its members have played in creating and maintaining this long-extant infrastructure...has helped leave them without the full stature they should command." [p.75]

There wasn't anything especially new in the excerpt I read, although I wish I had time to read the whole thing. But the phrase "national information infrastructure" made me stop for a moment. It's a message I think we need to hit home with legislators and taxpayers, especially in light of budget cuts and attempts to remove information from the public domain.

There's also a chapter called "The Bionic Library" that includes this passage:

"Electronic information is a garden ready to flower, particularly if it will move towards a new distribution, use, and payment paradigm. To some scholars, the concept of an electronic library is paradise at hand; to others it is absolutely terrifying. I suggest that libraries are evolving as bionic libraries: organic, evolutionary, and electronically enhanced." [p.37]

I like the garden analogy, especially in light of our (librarians') practice of "weeding" material in our collections. Or on the internet, which is one of the things I think the whole email spam controversy is about - the need to weed (preferably before the user sees it).

I'm not suggesting that librarians become spam filters (or electronically enhanced!), but I do hope we're stepping up to the plate to help with new paradigms and garden paths. The conferences I have been attending recently suggest to me that we are, although we're not yet at a point where users are realizing the benefits. Soon, grasshopper, soon.

Oh, and the whole garden thing is also a great analogy for the entertainment industry, don't you think? Will they let it bloom or die?

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Does this Mean the RIAA Is Out of the Gene Pool?

Starting with the November 11 strip, Out of the Gene Pool is taking on the Net Generation and file sharing in particular ("Freeze, punks! You're now part of the music industry's "axis of evil!"). Unfortunately, not all of the strips are online yet, but today's starts with "Tonight, all major cities are empty as the music industry imprisons anyone it deems part of their 'axis of evil'..."
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The UnGoogleables

Here's What You Call those Invisible Google People, Pt. 1

"A few days ago, I posted the question: What do you call people who don't show up on a Google search? I.E. what's the name for the category of person who doesn't generate even a single page hit?..." [Collision Detection, via Hippo Dignity]

I vote for the proposed "ungoogleables." More:

"The point being, you have to avoid doing and being an awful lot of things to stay off of Google. Though the number of North Americans who don't appear on Google is probably still quite big, it's diminishing every day.

Here's a fun speculation. I wonder if at some point in the far future, the world of data (the Internet, though by then we'll call it something else, probably) will be so huge and all-encompassing that there will be a final person who is the last one to not crop up in a major search engine? Kinda like a noosphere version of Mary Shelley's The Last Man (or the Left Behind series, heh).

Or, even more fun, will there be people who try as hard as possible not to be Googleable?...

Of course, dig this: The converse is also true. If you don't appear on Google, it can seem a little unnerving to the rest of us! It's like being The Man Who Didn't Exist, one of those bit characters on the X-files who doesn't have fingerprints or a Social Security Number or whatever."

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Blog Day at Yale

Slow going this week as I spend time gathering receipts, filling out travel reimbursement forms, and preparing for Friday's Revenge of the Blog conference at Yale University. Hope to see you there.

logo for Revenge of the Blog conference

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Vote Early, Vote Often

Miss World Gets New Judge: Wireless Phone Users

"The Miss World Organization today begins its first worldwide text vote, arguably the largest and most widespread campaign using wireless marketing.

Audiences worldwide will be asked to text in their nominee for Miss World, a beauty pageant now in its 52nd year. The poll will count for half the votes in deciding the winner of the Miss World 2002 title, and the judging panel decides the rest.

'Only cell phone users will be able to vote, but global mobile penetration is now higher than global Internet penetration,' said Lars Becker, CEO of Flytxt, the wireless marketing agency on the account along with marketing agency Regenerator.

The effort targets 2 billion people in 130 countries that Flytxt claims watch the contest. The event's final this year will be Dec. 7 in Nigeria....

Users in Britain, Italy, France, China, Spain and Germany have to pay a 40 cents premium rate for dialing the five-digit short code. Users in the rest of the world typically will pay 8 cents to 19 cents for texting in to a long number." [DM News]

So it will cost most people outside of the U.S. more to vote, but they actually use their cell phones for this kind of thing whereas Americans don't (yet). I'll be interested to see the results of this campaign.

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