Friday, February 23, 2007

All and a Little More

This new extension of the library at Umeå University was opened today.

Many people may follow the email advice sent out by the bots on what they should be reading. Myself, I read based on the 'Please Return this Book Immediately' notices I get from the university library. We have a great system here at Umeå University Library; no fines, unlimited re loaning (all done over the net), a huge collection and (unbelievable) they buy books if I make good suggestions (so far I have not been refused a purchase...maybe 100 made over the last few years). But if someone else has ordered a book then I cannot re loan it and must return it. If I fail to return it they send out one reminder and if that is ignored then I can be shut off for 6 weeks. Which brings me to last night; I was up until 1am reading Yochai Benkler The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, as it must be returned by last Monday. I finished all 473 pages and I am so happy I did. I plan on using section III chapter 11 of the online version in the HUMlab short course Copyright, Commons and Creativity that I will be teaching on 12th April (book now...will be great).

This, in a very round about sort of way (welcome to my mind) brings me back to the seed from which this blog post grew; Steve Jobs crying foul on DRM which I mentioned in a previous post. It seems Steve may not be being completely honest on DRM as it is standard in all iTunes and does not look like changing. He blames the music industry:
the “big four” music companies: Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI.
These four companies control the distribution of over 70% of the world’s
music. When Apple approached these companies to license their music to
distribute legally over the Internet, they were extremely cautious and required
Apple to protect their music from being illegally copied. The solution was to
create a DRM system, which envelopes each song purchased from the iTunes store
in special and secret software so that it cannot be played on unauthorized
Apple doesn't sell music because of DRM -- it sells music in spite of DRM. The
iTunes Store proves that you can compete with free. People have bought billions
of dollars worth of music from Apple because it offered a better user
experience. But no one bought for the DRM. Some people bought in spite of it,
some bought in ignorance of it, but there's no customer for whom DRM is a
selling point. No one woke up this morning wishing for a way to do less with her
And who does Jobs think should be doing something about DRM locking? The Europeans that's who:
Much of the concern over DRM systems has arisen in European
countries. Perhaps those unhappy with the current situation should redirect
their energies towards persuading the music companies to sell their music
DRM-free. For Europeans, two and a half of the big four music companies are
located right in their backyard.
This is a bizarre attempt at "International Harmonization", except in a reverse way. Rather than saying that exclusivity of rights needs to be brought into line over national boundaries, it is saying that "if they stop we could stop". But no one is really going to stop unless the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) changes. A new treaty on IP is not likely. So, my final words are; aren't libraries great. Imagine a world without them. Where everything had to be paid for in order to be experienced. I am going to return my overdue library book right now.....

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