March 23, 2009

Pushing the Limit [9:31 am]

(I’d have posted this sooner, but at least one of the subsidiary content sources on the NYTimes home page is hanging browsers, and I had to work though which functionality I could drop — and which I needed — to see the NYTinmes’ page today)

A criminal outbreak, or a problem with the law — pushing the limit like this means we’ll get closer to hearing a real decision, but it also means that there’s going to be a lot of pain in the interim: Rights Clash on YouTube, and Videos Vanish (pdf)

In early December, Juliet Weybret, a high school sophomore and aspiring rock star from Lodi, Calif., recorded a video of herself playing the piano and singing “Winter Wonderland,” and she posted it on YouTube.

Weeks later, she received an e-mail message from YouTube: her video was being removed “as a result of a third-party notification by the Warner Music Group,” which owns the copyright to the Christmas carol.

Hers is not an isolated case. Countless other amateurs have been ensnared in a dispute between Warner Music and YouTube, which is owned by Google. The conflict centers on how much Warner should be paid for the use of its copyrighted works — its music videos — but has grown to include other material produced by amateurs that may also run afoul of copyright law.

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Warner Brothers Trying Something Out [7:38 am]

Warner Bros. brings film vault into digital age (pdf)

Warner Bros. is reaching into its film vaults so it can sell old movies on made-to-order DVDs, in a move it hopes will goose sales of a vital product in a downturn.

Starting Monday, the studio will sell copies of 150 films from the silent era to the 1980s Brat Pack that have never been released on DVD. Internet downloads of the movies will cost $14.95, while DVDs sent in the mail are $19.95. Both can be ordered at http://www.warnerarchive.com.

The initiative, which Warner claims is the first of its kind for a major studio, is an effort by the Time Warner Inc. subsidiary to combat what could be a fundamental decline in demand for DVD purchases — a falloff that can be blamed on market saturation as much as the recession.

[...] Warner’s decision to open up its vault “sounds like it’s a risk-free way for them to generate a little money on some very old content,” Adams said. By making the DVDs only when the movies are ordered by a customer, Warner doesn’t have to worry about filling up a warehouse with inventory that struggles to sell.

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Hal Abelson Continues To Make Headway [7:31 am]

First DSpace, now this — from MIT’s student paper, The Tech: MIT Will Publish All Faculty Articles Free In Online Repository (pdf)

Faculty voted unanimously this week to approve a resolution that allows MIT to freely and publicly distribute research articles they write. MIT plans to create a repository to make these articles available online.

The resolution, effective immediately after it was passed on Wednesday, makes MIT the first university to commit to making its faculty’s research papers publicly available. Though the School of Education at Stanford and several departments at Harvard have already adopted these policies, MIT is the first entire university to make this pledge.

The open-access rule will only apply to articles published since Wednesday. Researchers who wish to opt-out do so by sending a letter notifying the Office of the Provost.

Of course, there’s also this from today’s Boston Globe: Protect our access to medical research (pdf)

IF YOU THINK this is the era of e-government and transparency, it’s time to think again. Hard as it is to imagine, there’s a move afoot in Congress to take away the public’s free online access to tax-funded medical research findings.

[...] Under the current policy, which is similar to practices of other funders worldwide, researchers who accept NIH funds must deposit their resulting peer-reviewed scientific articles in the PubMed Central archive. There the articles are permanently preserved in digital form, made searchable, linked to related information, and offered free to all on the Web. It’s a fair deal: Researchers get financial support for their work; taxpayers get a resource that will further advance science and address the public’s need to know.

But a group of well-heeled scientific journal publishers is trying to turn back the clock. They’ve backed legislation to rescind this widely hailed NIH policy. Elsevier, publisher of The Lancet, for example, is part of the Association of American Publishers, which has joined with the so-called DC Principles Coalition to ramrod the bill in Congress.

The bill, I believe, is HR.801 (HR.6845 in the 110th Congress). From the Congressional Research Service’s Summary:

Fair Copyright in Research Works Act - Prohibits any federal agency from imposing any condition, in connection with a funding agreement, that requires the transfer or license to or for a federal agency, or requires the absence or abandonment, of specified exclusive rights of a copyright owner in an extrinsic work.

Prohibits any federal agency from: (1) imposing, as a condition of a funding agreement, the waiver of, or assent to, any such prohibition; or (2) asserting any rights in material developed under any funding agreement that restrain or limit the acquisition or exercise of copyright rights in an extrinsic work. [...]

Nice name: “Fair Copyright in Research Works Act” — of course, “fairness” is in the eye of the beholder.

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