As expected, the library copyright giants have stepped in to review the debate at UCLA. ACRL Insider provided a hook for the Library Copyright Alliance’s tantalizing and detailed analysis of the case. Having wrestled with some of this before when I researched the copyright merits of Google’s Book Project in its 2006 form, I was happy to find the familiar words and insight from writers like Jonathan Band, a major copyright analysis figure in the library world. One of the intriguing arguments is the issue of repurposing a movie in the course environment. For those who’ve studied film, just watching the film is only part of the experience as written assignments, background materials, etc. are also additions to the movie experience. Therefore, the full-stream experience repurposes the work and makes the activity covered under fair use. Other interesting arguments are made around the second element of the TEACH Act. Although the section 110(2) stipulates “limited portions” of a work, Section 110(1) provides access to in-person full movie viewing. While I see the logic in the argument, I just wonder if the film companies will overcome the letter of the law and allow full-streaming.
While reviewing the large number of unread posts in my Google Reader, I found Jessamyn’s note about the issues facing UCLA and their use of videos in online courses intriguing, both because I use videos when I teach and the new aspect of the debate regarding electronic media and online courses. While course content — books, articles, essays, etc. — have already been well worked into online courses with the blessing of the copyright deities thanks to passwords and other protections, I have to ask why should videos be different? Granted, ripping a video off a VHS or DVD and uploading to the site is just obviously violating the terms of the video in the first place (the red warning screen does actually say something and is not just a small pause before a movie starts). But, as an individual, I’ve grown accustomed to streaming my Netflix on my computer, my TiVo (if I had one), and soon my Nintendo Wii. Many people have even grown accustomed to streaming videos from their phones thanks to YouTube. So why shouldn’t we be trying to stream videos in online classes? Why should the copyright safeties function differently for videos (or perhaps even other multimedia) than the digitization and uploading of their print counterparts?
I don’t exactly have a lot of answers, so lets start with the questions. Should we instead shift power over to Hulu and have students from political science and history watch select videos from the Biography channel? Should students learn about foreign traditions and cultures via Rick Steves’ Europe? Furthermore, why are vendors like Baker & Taylor not stepping up to the plate to adjust their model of just selling DVDs to Netflix-style renting and streaming? Other providers, such as DeepDyve, a search engine and article renter that helps provide temporary access to information for those unwilling or unable to make the full database licensing commitment, are providing fascinating alternatives to how people perceive, use, and access information and at what cost. Couldn’t videos do the same since usually the video must be watched for a particular week or two of a class before moving on to the next topic? Checkout options for eAudiobooks have been developed for public libraries by other vendors such as NetLibrary; so why are we struggling with videos so badly?
In short, I find the response to pull videos that are using the same protection methods as digitized print materials a wee bit extreme. I can only hope that these other questions might help stimulate the aforementioned into some sort of action to find a better compromise than just saying no. To hear more about the debate, I recommend looking at the Jan. 26 and Feb. 4 articles from Inside Higher Ed.
With a new year, comes new gadgets to learn, to play, and, eventually, with which to get frustrated. At my location, PCTrak, the computer login software started last year, helping limit computer usage to only students via student ID login and limit the amount of time each person spent on the computer. Or, so we thought. Over the last several months, I’ve seen students log out of it incorrectly, blocking the computer from network printing, causing the next student to login indefinitely, or even hack around the system altogether. Even now, I’m befuddled by the fact that, in this interim period between semesters, the computers now register people for unlimited periods of time.
Starting in 2009, we’ll now get to work with the tool LanSchool. While a general teaching tool that allows screen shares, messaging, voting, and testing all through a main computer to a classroom setting, the library intends to use it to help monitor the computer terminal usage. Depending on your viewing choice, you can see a thumbnail set of images that match the layout of the physical computers themselves or just the numerical order assigned to the areas. Having worked the public library side of computer terminals, I have a knee-jerk feeling to say “what about their privacy?” And, again, I remember, I’m in an academic library where the mission is education, not public access. The other features in the software also tend to reflect the same concepts, as you can wipe out someone’s screen if they aren’t cooperating, limit sites, limit printing, limit USB, and limit apps. Even before the semester has begun, our tech staff has found some of the systems limitations, such as the site limitations only apply to Internet Explorer, so you have to limit the Firefox application to really enforce any restricted web surfing. Other issues present to the software relate to the confusion regarding how the system interprets certain commands. For example, some of the commands assume that if you have selected none of the screens you intend to have nothing happen while other commands assume you want ALL the computers to have such said action occur. We have no guideline as of yet on which item matches which working preference.
For my own curiosity, I decided to research a little more about the software. I was a bit dismayed to find “lanschool hack” as one of the top suggested search phrases. Torrets, YouTube videos, and wikis, oh my. The number of suggestions, ranging from how to overtake your teacher’s computer for a few seconds, disconnecting the network cable as a reset option, and how to rewrite the free demo into a full working copy (the details of this one are generally present but I had to give up reading after the 50th spelling error). Aware of the potential dangers in mind, I’m curious to see what my population will bring to me as a challenge.