What a universal digital library needs–and how Paul Jones can help now
June 9, 2005 | 5:46 am
So what do we need for a universal digital library in the TeleRead vein?
Below are four requirements, or at least ways to hasten the coming of such a library.
1. Improved copyright laws, with more attention paid to fair use and access in general.
2. Long-term preservation.
3. Linking of libraries and online collections.
4. Sufficient funding.
Hey, Paul, I liked the way you cut to the chase in summing up sentiments at the conference.
Isn’t there a link between (a) enlightened copyright/DRM policies and (b) improved educational opportunities and anti-poverty efforts here and abroad?
Eric Muller at the UNC Law School, Ed Cone and Brian Russell have already spoken out on the need for Prof. Edwards to be a full-service populist rather than ducking the biggest copyright questions. I’ll be grateful if you can do the same and help the poverty-fighting Professor connect the dots.
If Prof. Edwards turns pro-consumer on the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, the DMCA and the rest, then other Democrats may follow. Given his populism and all this talk about his textile-town origins, Prof. Edwards is the one to lean on. Yes, his doing the right thing may cost him some future campaign donations from the copyright interests, but he’ll make it up in voter support, especially as more and more people get fed up with Hollywood-mandated dumbdowns of high-tech gizmos.
Prof. Edwards’ podcasting and vblogging are commendable, but I’d like him to show more interest in protection of such innovations against the Entertainment-Copyright Complex‘s influence in D.C. and elsewhere. We’re not just talking about the rights of the digerati and the immediate effect on K-12, but also about jobs and economic opportunity. The revenue of the U.S. telecom and high-tech industries dwarfs that from content-related industries.
Simply put, The Real Paul Jones needs to encourage Prof. Edwards to act like The Real Johnny Edwards. Prof. Edwards isn’t going to wise up lickety-split if Paul Jones speaks out. But this is a cumulative process, and it will be bizarre if the man behind the wonders of iBiblio remains silent on the Edwards-copyright issue when he is outspoken on so much else.
The money angle: The answer isn’t just attacks on Hollywood greed, but also money for well-stocked national digital libraries to happen in the U.S. and elsewhere. Like copyright reform, the M issue should be part of Prof. Edwards’ agenda, as well as of the Democratic Party’s platform. Far from wanting to cheat publishers and Hollywood, I believe that U.S. schools are not spending enough money on content. I simply want taxpayers to get value for what they do spend and for there to be less difference between the spending levels in rich and poor schools and libraries. If we’re not careful, the Internet will worsen the Savage Inequalities. Hello, Prof. Edwards?
One of my favorite lines in the Jones reports–reflecting his concern and others’: Fear that a focus on big institutions will steal opportunities away from “personal and more unique collections.” I’ve given Project Gutenberg founder Michael Hart some well-deserved hell on the issue of PG’s governance and his personal ownership of the Gutenberg trademark. But that is not to harm Gutenberg–quite the contrary. Rather it’s to encourage Gutenberg to be more fundable and sustainable. While the big boys deserve funding, too, and while I want a well-stocked national digital library system with professional librarians, it’s important to encourage efforts outside the usual bureaucracies. Gutenberg-style collections can undertake experimentation that the big boys might avoid, and they also can help balance out the inevitable stupidities of the usual suspects.
The wiki angle: Paul Jones was right, right, right to call for more attention to the potential here. I myself am excited by the possibilities of both librarian-focused wikis and, more importantly, wiki collaborations between librarians and others. For the latest info? Yes–straight wikis. For more authoritative information? Wikis as filtered through librarians. Let library-users and other readers and surfers decide what’s best for their purposes of the moment.
Update, 12:32, June 9: I’ve left a comment in the Jones blog–with the suggestion that he comment in public on the Edwards copyright situation and also follow up privately with the Professor. Good luck at this, Paul! I’ve tried everything, starting with a gentle suggestion via an Internet-oriented campaign staffer for then-Sen. Edwards. No matter what the tone of the questions–and I’ve been tough, too, noting the massive Hollywood contributions the Edwards PAC received–John Edwards has been been nonresponsive on Bono and the DMCA. That also happened while he was guest-blogging for Larry Lessig. But there in The Southern Part of Paradise, maybe y’all can make a difference. Keep us posted. Thanks, and good luck at this!