21 February 2012

Straight From the Grinder

These aren't "link sausages" because I've run out of casings — time to slaughter a few more sacred cows sheep!

An author started a bookstore, then pwned Bezos on the Colbert Report — and she's from Nashville, no less. Sorry, Vandy folks, but go a klick off campus and you might as well be in Oklahoma City: There's more culture in the average 8 ounce 6 ounce plastic tub of national-brand quasiyogurt. Worse yet, there's what passes for a (particularly rapacious) music industry center there... and the author in question completely ignores the role of libraries. In any event, from last night's show: 

Turning the crank a little farther, we find Reed-Elsevier's chairman trying to mislead everyone about the academic quasiboycott of his immensely profitable, monopolistic academic journals. OK, try these factual statements for nonmisleading criticisms, and "work with the stakeholders" (more than stockholders and authors, but the entire academic communities over which you exert monopoly power): Your academic journals are vanity presses (with "page fees" charged to the authors for the dubious privilege of appearing there) that further engage in a copyright grab... and you then make them electronically available only through the highest-cost provider of electronic database systems, Lexis-Nexis, which further persists in including inaccurate copyright, trademark, and authorship information on both printouts and the basic screen. Fix all of that, Mr Engstrom... and then we'll have a reasonably level bargaining table. Until then, Occupy Reed-Elsevier!

At least that bit of hypocrisy is from a clear foundation, unlike the head of the Getty Museum's. Part of the problem here is that Americans simply do not recognize "nationalism" in the Med, the Levant, and Southwest Asia — much less sub-Saharan Africa — as an outgrowth of tribalism and distinct cultural bases (thanks, in large part, to the colonial practices of the French, and to a slightly lesser extent British and Belgian, governments in the 18th through early 20th centuries). Exhibit A: Rwanda. In short, Mr Cuno, you are wrong as a matter of fact and of theory, and your self-interested rationalizations do not advance your position. There is a case to be made for ownership, or at least extended-term display, of artifacts in foreign museums... but you haven't made it, and in fact have undermined that case by misstating it. Try again.

The Bundesverfassungsgericht (Germany's equivalent to our Supreme Court) has held that links to software that inherently infringes copyright are not, themselves, copyright infringements because the constitutional reportage principal (parallel to our free-press right) outweighs the copyright interest. If you read German, it's worth reading — it's both remarkably concise and relatively jargon-free. If you don't read German, you can safely rely on that feline across the Pond's summary. The interesting thing here is that the German court essentially discounted the "inducing infringement" theory of Grokster for links to the tools to do the infringing... but may well have reached a different result if the links had been to actually infringing content instead of the tools to create such files (tools that have legitimate uses, such as file backup and transcoding for unsupported display hardware/software).