May 07, 2007
Fair Use story on NPR
National Public Radio this morning had a story about the Stanford Fair Use Project, which assists authors and other artists in using the Fair Use provision of the U.S. Copyright Law. In recent years the concept of fair use, which allows scholars and artists to quote passages from copyrighted works for the purpose of criticism and parody (among other reasons), has been eroded by ever more aggressive publishers who are demanding royalty payment for even small uses of their copyrighted material. This has had a chilling effect on many artistic endeavors, but especially in the area of documentary film, in which clearing the rights for use of clips has become so onerous that filmmakers are just not touching some subjects, even when their planned use of material is clearly within the bounds of fair use.
The NPR story is a good background about the issues involved. As one lawyer put it to me, "If you don't exercise your fair use rights, they will wither away."
March 01, 2007
"Getting Published" - Tomorrow
I'm appearing tomorrow, March 2, 2007, on a panel as part of the Baker-Nord's series called "Getting Published," which is aimed at scholars of all levels who face the need to publish and adapt to new publishing markets and restrictions. Tomorrow's session is the last in the series and has the title "New Horizons in Digital Publishing." The guest speaker will be William Breichner, journals publisher at the Johns Hopkins University Press. The JHU Press is responsible for Project Muse, one of the leading collections of electronically-published journals. After Mr. Breichner's talk, there will be a panel consisting of Prof. Gary Lee Stonum (English Dept., moderator), Prof. Brian Ballentine (English Dept.) and myself (representing Digital Case).
It should be an interesting discussion. It's in Clark Hall, room 206, 12:30-2:00 PM. Free and open to the public.
March 01, 2006
Lecture at KSL tomorrow--David Saltz, and it's a FUN topic besides
Tomorrow afternoon, Thursday, March 2, 2006, 1:30-3:30 PM, Kelvin Smith Library is sponsoring another of our Digital Library Lecture Series talks by David Z. Saltz, who is Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Theatre at the University of Georgia. He'll be talking about the Virtual Vaudeville project, a web site that attempts to archive aspects of live theatrical performance. The site uses 3D computer animation and motion capture technologies to recreate a rigorously researched and documented nineteenth-century vaudeville performance. Hypermedia is exploited in the extreme to deliver a richness of primary source material not usually found in web sites. The technology behind Virtual Vaudeville relies on heavily on the innovations made in computer gaming. Virtual Vaudeville was funded by NSF.
I heard David Saltz speak several years ago about Virtual Vaudeville as it was being developed, and I can recommend him as an engaging speaker, and his presentation is just plain fun (Dear God--not fun at something so severely titled as a Digital Library Lecture!) Prof. Saltz is adept at weaving the idea of using technology in the service of scholarly endeavor. This talk will provide some provocative ideas, especially to students beginning their research careers, that it is not necessary to be bound by the printed page to deliver effective scholarly content.
You don't have to RSVP--just show up in the Dampeer Room in KSL at 1:30 tomorrow. Seating is limited, however, so it's on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you can't come, the talk will eventually be available as a Freedman Center podcast.
June 04, 2005
Wikipedia is a free open-source online encyclopedia containing over 1.5 million articles in 76 languages, include 576,000+ articles in English. The concept is that groups of people thinking and working on the same topic bring more knowledge than does any particular individual. It is an alluring idea that has a great deal of merit for certain narrowly defined applications. It originated as a mechanism to create online technical manuals for software developers in 1995.
The Wikipedia, however, has serious flaws as a medium of scholarly communication. Here are a few of them:
- Since the very nature of the Wikipedia is that articles are updated, it is impossible to know the state of "completeness" or accuracy at any given stage. If someone has posted a highly inaccurate or incomplete article on an obscure topic of interest to only a few people, that inaccurate information may stand for a long time before it is corrected. The unknowledgeable reader could be seduced into thinking that the information is correct and/or complete.
- Since anyone can add to and edit Wikipedia articles, it is possible for the author of a paper to add his or her own content/conjecture to a Wikipedia article to support that individual's position. Wikipedia does not insist on a standard scholarly apparatus that serious research requires. Assertions can be made without citation.
- Wikipedia articles are written by people who are interested, not necessarily by people who are scholars, in a particular topic. Indeed, most reputable scholars disdain the Wikipedia and expend their energies on more traditional scholarly communication.
- Although Wikipedia could be considered to have the ultimate peer review (i.e., anyone can change content), that is its ultimate downfall: why should I trust anything that is there.
- Like the elephant constructed by committee, there is no overall viewpoint in articles, thus lending to a lack of feeling of authority in the articles and odd holes in the coverage, even within a single article.
I really want to like the Wikipedia. Every few months I go to the site and check out several articles in topics on which I have a great deal of personal knowledge (mostly music). I have to admit that although the content is not outright incorrect, it is very incomplete. For example, the entry on the English composer Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) has a "Selected list of works" that includes a citation for a very early (and decidedly minor) piece of background music for a BBC film of 1936, and the trivial "Fanfare for St. Edmundsbury" but does not include a listing of any of the voice and piano song cycles, such as "Winter Words" based on poetry of Thomas Hardy, or any of the five Canticles, any of which is more significant than some of the other works listed, not just in my opinion, but by any number of more scholarly and authoritative sources about Britten.
The Wikipedia may be an enchanting entertainment for the interested amateur, but I still have to dismiss it as a serious tool for scholarship.