06 February 2012

Was There a Football Game Yesterday?

I've been hampered by household business and confidentiality issues over the last few days. The latter continue to prevent my comments on the Hathitrust matter from going public (if this blawg counts as "public"), even now that there's a partially briefed motion for judgment on the pleadings in front of the District Court. That said, it's still a mess with both sides frequently forgetting that there are not one, but two, Copyright Acts at issue... and that makes a huge difference due to the contractual interplay.

  • As usual, PW is a few years late to the crisis over the demise of academic presses that focus on monographs — the academic equivalent of a novelette or novella, which is to say that it's too long for a journal and too short for a bookstore. This has been a visible problem in the core humanities since the early 1990s, and reflects poorly upon the various academic professional associations. There's an obvious solution: Including a once-per-year right to editorial and typesetting services in association dues. Particularly for the larger academic professional associations (such as the ACS, MLA, AHA, and APA), this would scarcely make a noticeable rise in those dues... and it would, as appropriate in this post-Company of Stationers era, cut the broken publishers completely out. Fiction, and to some extent work concerning the performance and visual arts, presents potential censorship problems that make this solution inappropriate in those areas, but then those aren't major sources of academic monographs in the first place.
  • Instead, the performance and visual arts present more than mere hints of censorship, as the firing of a ballerina for revealing even past pressure toward anorexia for young ballerinas at La Scala more than adequately demonstrates. It's also an excellent example of the limits of the First Amendment, or at least would be if it occurred in the US. Presuming that La Scala was in, say, New York City instead of Milan, but had the same structure, there's a decent argument that its quasiprivate structure would insulate it from the First Amendment... which applies only to the government, not to private actors. Of course, then we'd throw in whistleblower acts, and the issue of whether what this whistleblower (although I'm having trouble imagining a prima ballerina with a referee's whistle!) disclosed was unlawful conduct (which would be protected) or merely despicable (which would not)... But it was in Italy, so Ms Garritano is SOL.
  • At least La Scala hasn't been occupied by Marines, like Iraq's once-proud universities. The polite — and even impolite — dissent fostered by university systems is the real foundation of modern democracy, as it is what creates leaders (and intermediaries and followers) who know how to deal with dissenting opinions without use of force. (Perhaps this partially explains the Heffalumps' disdain for "elites"... although that's rather a chicken-and-egg question.) So, in the name of imposing Western democracy upon Iraq, we destroyed the few preexsiting institutions that would form the core of Western democracy. Anybody wonder why democracy is foundering in Iraq?
  • Although there has been substantial progress in stopping (or at least slowing down) SOPA/PIPA over here, the equally evil and misguided ACTA is, if anything, gaining momentum... internationally. The irony that the problem is not with the copyright end, but with the various registrars' failure to verify data for commercial sites, appears to have escaped just about everyone.