Update on cell phone unlocking


Who says that Republicans and Democrats can’t work together? Last week, bipartisan legislation was passed by the Senate! The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act (S. 517) allows cell phone users—once their contract term with a service provider expires—the right to circumvent technology in order to use their existing phone with a new service provider. But wait, there’s more. The House passed bipartisan legislation (H.R. 1123) on the same topic on February 29th.Now we await the House to pass the Senate bill and on the way to the President for signature. Who said nothing gets done in Washington?

That’s the glass half-full story, now for the half-empty accompaniment. This legislation was only necessary because the Librarian of Congress, under the advisement of the U.S. Copyright Office, did not renew the exemption that allowed such circumvention in 2010. Instead the exemption was limited to “legacy” phones—those purchased before the rulemaking, making unlocking of newly purchased phones a violation of the anti-circumvention provision. The Register of Copyrights considered changes in providers’ policies that often allow unlocking as evidence that the unlocking provision was no longer necessary.

Now you might be saying, “Why the hell are we even talking about this?” Bear with me because there is a library connection.

Due to a provision in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA), people who can demonstrate that technological protection measures—used by rights holders to limit piracy—prevent lawful uses of digital content or technology can get a three-year exemption to circumvent. Hack away, my friend! Recently, the libraries have successfully proved that there is an adverse effect due to a technological protection measure—specifically the “content scrambling system” (CSS)—used by rights holders to lock DVDs, preventing faculty from extracting clips for use in the face-to-face classroom.

Again, you might be saying, “Why the hell are we even talking about this?”

Why do we spend so much time, energy, and money arguing for these tiny exemptions that are so detailed, prescriptive, and only last 3 years? Well, ALA and many others are saying much the same thing. I can’t imagine that anyone—even rights holders—involved in this process can think it is worthwhile. Consider the fact that piracy has not been deterred by the technological protection provision. Contemplate the absurdity of arguing for an exemption that you haven’t even exercised because, if you did so, you would be violating the law. Imagine going through this process every three years even to retain exemptions that were previously accepted. And after this long drawn out process—including a week-long public roundtable deliberation and a reply comment period, you have to wait another year for the Librarian of Congress to make his recommendation. It’s insane!

But, back to the glass half-full: The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Court, Intellectual Property, and the Internet is conducting a wide scale review of the copyright law. One can anticipate that this loony triennial review process will be discussed and surely, improvements will be made. One can hope. I know I do.

Posted in Copyright, Legislation, Public Libraries, School Libraries Tagged with:

Libraries call for fix to remedies

Today, the House Judiciary Subcommittee for the Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet held another copyright review hearing—this one on copyright remedies. The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), of which the American Library Association (ALA) is a member, submitted comments that focused on §504(c)(2), a provision in the copyright law exempts libraries from statutory damages under certain conditions. For non-profit educational institutions, libraries, and archives, 504(c)(2) excuses some remedies for copyright infringement under certain conditions:

If an employee working in a non-profit, educational institution, libraries and archives believes and “has reasonable grounds for believing that his or her use of a copyrighted work is a fair use,” rights holders cannot turn to statutory damages ($750 to $30,000 per use) as a remedy. Hot dog!

But this “safe harbor” only applies to the reproduction right, and not to the other exclusive rights of copyright—public performance and display, the creation of derivative works, and distribution to the public. In the digital environment, these other rights, especially public performance and display, are more likely to occur.

In addition, the LCA said that this safe harbor “should be expanded to include museums. For these entities to perform their critical public service missions in the 21st century, the safe harbor must be amended to apply to innocent infringement by these entities of all exclusive rights with respect to all kinds of works.”

Posted in Copyright, Legislation, OITP Tagged with: ,

Nearly 100 percent of libraries offer tech training and STEM programs, study finds

According to a new study from the American Library Association (ALA), nearly 100 percent of America’s public libraries offer workforce development training programs, online job resources, and technology skills training. Combined with maker spaces, coding classes, and programs dedicated to entrepreneurship and small business development, libraries are equipping U.S. communities with the resources and skills needed to succeed in today’s – and tomorrow’s – global marketplace.

The Digital Inclusion study website includes an interactive state map.

The Digital Inclusion study website includes an interactive state map.

President Obama and Congress recently acknowledged the vital contributions of libraries by enabling them—for the first time—to be considered One-Stop partners and eligible for federal funding to support job training and job search programs. The bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act also authorizes adult education and literacy activities provided by public libraries as an allowable statewide employment and training activity.

“Senator Jack Reed and I led the effort to include public libraries in this important new law because they are often the first places Americans go for skill development and job search assistance,” said Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ). “I’ve seen this firsthand with NJWorks@yourlibraryproject, which used federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) funding to help get job seekers back to work with access to online job resources and training in every community in New Jersey.”

Overall, libraries report technology improvements—including nearly ubiquitous public wi-fi, growing mobile resources and a leap in e-book access—but the ALA’s 2014 Digital Inclusion Survey also documents digital differences among states and an urban/rural divide.

“Until the Digital Inclusion Survey, no national study has shown in such detail the extent to which libraries complete education, jumpstart employment and entrepreneurship, and foster individual empowerment and engagement, or the E’s of Libraries™,” said ALA President Courtney Young. “The study also begins to map new programs and technology resources that range from STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) maker programming to 3D printing to hackathons.”

Among the study findings:

  • 98% of libraries provide free public access to Wi-Fi, up from 89% in 2012;
  • 98% provide technology training, ranging from internet safety and privacy to coding to using social media;
  • 98% provide assistance completing online government forms;
  • 97% provide online homework help;
  • 95% offer workforce development training programs;
  • 90% offer e-books, up from 76% in 2012;
  • 56% offer health and wellness programs regarding developing healthy lifestyles;
  • 50% offer entrepreneurship and small business development programs; and
  • Average number of computers provided by libraries is now 20, up from 16 in 2012

“Changes in technology—whether internet speeds, or new devices or new applications—are racing faster all the time,” said IMLS Director Susan Hildreth. “Libraries are ideally positioned to help everyone in our communities get up to speed. This is the heart of digital inclusion—equitable access to internet-connected devices and online content plus the skills to take advantage of the educational, economic and social opportunities available through these technologies.”

Funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and managed by the ALA Office for Research & Statistics and the Information Policy and Access Center at the University of Maryland, the Digital Inclusion Study provides national- and state-level data. The International City/County Management Association and ALA Office for Information Technology Policy are partners in the research effort.

While most libraries marked progress from the last national library technology study in 2012, advances are uneven. Less than half of rural libraries reported they increased bandwidth speeds in the last 24 months, compared with 64 percent of urban libraries and 56 percent of suburban libraries. Fewer than two-thirds of rural libraries report having access to information technology (IT) staff, far behind their counterparts. A vast majority of all libraries (66 percent), though, agree they would like to increase their broadband capacity, and that cost is the leading barrier to doing so.

“It is increasingly understood that access to broadband is the critical success factor across our society, and we must do more to connect all of our communities,” said ICMA Executive Director Robert J. O’Neill, Jr. “Libraries play an essential role in helping local governments meet their greatest challenges by connecting their services to critical community priorities.”

The study provides a first national look at emerging trends, from STEM maker spaces (17 percent, or about 3,000 libraries), to wireless printing (33 percent) to 3D printers and hosting hackathons or other coding/application development events (about 2 percent each, or roughly 260 libraries). Creation and making activities already are transforming what is possible for communities through libraries. At the Johnson County Library in Kansas, for instance, a library patron printed a mechanical hand for a family friend. High school student Mason Wilde loaded needed blueprints onto library computers and used the library’s 3D printer to create the necessary parts. Wilde then decided to start a nonprofit to make 3D prosthetics for other children, and he is now considering a career in the biomedical field.

“Creating is becoming a new digital competency, and libraries are building and expanding their programs and services to meet these changing community needs,” said Ann Joslin, President of the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies. Joslin also is the state librarian in Idaho, which currently has a pilot program underway to support library maker activities and encourage the use of new technologies and tools.

“Whether it’s a class on internet safety, an entrepreneur who identifies potential customers from databases or a class on digital content creation, libraries continue to establish themselves as digital leaders in communities,” Young concluded. “This study demonstrates how technology investments benefit our libraries and our patrons, and keep our communities thriving.”

Methodology: The Digital Inclusion Survey collected data from a nationally representative sample of public libraries at the branch/outlet level between September 3 and November 30, 2013. The survey was open to all public libraries to participate. However, the analysis conducted used only sampled libraries. The survey received 3,392 responses, for a 70.1 percent response rate. For more information, please visit http://www.ala.org/research/digitalinclusion and http://digitalinclusion.umd.edu/. Past related reports on public library technology are available at www.ala.org/plinternetfunding.

Posted in Digital Divide, Digital Literacy, OITP, Public Libraries Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Libraries as digital learning centers

This week, American Library Association (ALA) President Courtney Young appeared on an episode of Comcast Newsmakers, a national interview program that airs on the Headline News (HLN) network. Highlighting new data from the 2014 Digital Inclusion Survey, Young discussed the plethora of digital learning opportunities available in libraries and detailed the ways that libraries have transformed into tech classrooms for young students and adult learners nationwide.

The news segment, titled “Modern Libraries, will air on HLN from today until July 27, 2014.

Posted in Digital Divide, Digital Literacy, Public Libraries Tagged with: ,

A quick introduction to Creative Commons

Creative Commons buttons

When artists, both amateur and professional, create original works, the Internet is an obvious choice for sharing that work with the largest audience possible. But copyright law is anything but uniform around the world, and the Internet is nothing if not a worldwide forum. Creative Commons (CC) is a nonprofit organization that offers a range of free, internationally recognized, easy-to-use licensing options for making content available on the Internet. The organization provides a “simple, standardized way to give the public permission to share and use your creative work—on conditions of your choice…[changing] your copyright terms from the default of ‘all rights reserved’ to some rights reserved.’” CC licenses are not designed to be an alternative to copyright, but rather work alongside existing laws that vary among countries and regions.

Many CC licenses allow for open use and modification with a caveat of attribution, or allow non-commercial use only, and some include both non-alteration and attribution clauses. The key is flexibility; artists and professionals can mix and match licenses for different projects in several different mediums—photography, music, video, blog post, etc. In turn, users can seek out materials that offer explicit alteration permissions to use for future projects (this is especially helpful when using content that originated in countries that don’t have a Fair Use copyright exception). Each license has three parts: a legalese description, a plain language explanation, and machine-readable text for easy indexing by sites like Google or Flickr. You can read more about each individual license option here.

CC licenses are already being used for several high profile projects. Some of the more famous uses of CC licensing include:

Of course, licensing is simply another part of the copyright toolkit; CC licenses aren’t intended to replace fair use, but rather offer a third option for international sharing and distribution. They offer a solution that is both easy to understand and easy to use by content creators all over the world.

Posted in Copyright Tagged with:


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