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Copy Parties and Blackouts

Here in the United States librarians might be ignoring my advice to convert to the new religion of Kopimism, but I’m a genius in France, at least if we go by a group of French librarians who are encouraging people to visit public libraries and copy the books and DVDs they get there.

Apparently, the French government is as wild as the American government, or at least American publishers, to fight Internet piracy, and at least one librarian is fighting back.

30-year-old blogger Silvae is a librarian and calls on members to copy borrowed material. On his blog Bibliobsession, he encourages readers and librarians to launch “copy parties” in public libraries and says others share his views.

“Copy parties”? Instead, they should call them “copy services” as they practice Kopimism. On second thought, if they called them “copy services” someone might confuse them with Copytop.

According to the article:

“The concept of the copy party is simple, members bring computers, cameras, laptops and go on a copy fest inside the library and copy the contents of DVDs, books and CDs. “Do you find this shocking? Well, what is the first objective of a library? It’s to distribute books and works of art,” he writes.

Is that the first objective of a library, to distribute books and works of art? The phrase that American librarians usually fall back on is “access to information,” which is pretty close. Distributing books has been the main way that libraries have allowed people to access information from time immemorial.

The Bibliosessed one “writes that he bases his proposal on the findings of LIonel Maurel, a librarian at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Maurel argues that recent changes in the legislation on copyright in France means members of public libraries are legally allowed to copy works in public libraries.”

That might not be true for American libraries. It’s illegal to copy DVDs regardless of what you want to do with them, but it would be difficult to convict anyone of copying printed books if the files weren’t shared. Just something to think about.

Regardless, Americans embracing Kopimism can claim an exemption based on their Constitutional freedom of religion. The ALA promises to pay all your court costs.

I tried to do my due journalistic duty and verify this, but the Bibliosession blog was having a “Stop SOPA” blackout at the time of writing. That Bibliosession guy is just unhappy about everything, I guess.

The copy parties and the opposition to SOPA are linked. The way publishers have set up the battle, it’s the publishers versus the pirates, and anyone trying to improve access is a potential pirate, and a potential pirate should be treated like an actual pirate. That would explain publishers not allowing libraries to lend ebooks, a story that is increasingly making the national and not just the library news.

Wikipedia (in English) and others are supposed to be blacked out today as well, and The Ubiquitous Librarian speculated on what might happen if academic libraries shut down their electronic sources for the day to make a statement about their often invisible value to the community.

I haven’t seen anyone calling for a public library “blackout” today, though I’m sure people did. Libraries blacking out to protest SOPA seems less supportable than Wikipedia doing it, but libraries blacking out to protest the lack of ebooks might.

Despite the good press, librarians have been way too quiet in the battle to lend ebooks, and it’ll probably hurt them in the end. They should be putting announcements on their websites saying, “You want to check this book out as an ebook? Then contact these publishers and complain about their anti-library lending policies,” with a list of the offending publishers.

A national campaign like that might be effective, especially if it became obvious so many readers want books from libraries that they can’t all be “pirates.” For that matter, even “pirates” probably buy books.

The ALA could coordinate a campaign like that, though now that I’ve suggested it they can use my support for the initiative as a reason for inaction.

Public libraries could also shut down for a day with the same message, but they probably won’t. “Access to information” is more important that fighting to make sure libraries can still lend books in the future.

In the meantime, maybe your local library can host a copy party.

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Comments

  1. The Librarian With No Name says:

    The idea of directing library patrons to contact publishers requesting ebook versions of print materials could be an effective one. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that if you give old ladies the ability to easily request the purchase of library books for the collection, they’ll happily fill out hundreds of request forms per year.

    So all we need to do is give our patrons a way to contact the publishers directly and give all our grandmothers a Kindle for Christmas. Maybe load them up with the first two books of a series where a sassy retired post office clerk solves mysteries with her equally sassy cat.

    I predict the total surrender of the publishing industry by the following February.

  2. drunklibrarian says:

    How am I supposed to do my job if Wikipedia is blacked out?

  3. Elena says:

    Just became a member of the Kopimism church, although I am also the Copyright enforcer in the library. A sinner of the church! But they still accepted me.

  4. Techserving You says:

    Librarian with No Name… I think I love you. Did we once work at the same library? :-)

    • The Librarian With No Name says:

      Well, I’ve only been a real librarian since October. Maybe you’re thinking of the paint desk at Lowe’s.

  5. librarEwoman says:

    NPR did several stories in relation to the SOPA blackouts of sites such as Wikipedia. Since Wikipedia was blacked-out, they were offering a temporary “reference” service in cooperation with the Washington Post and The Guardian. (If you look up “NPR social reference desk,” you should find an article about it.) I was pretty ticked that they didn’t say, “Call your local library for reference help.” Noooo, instead, NPR, The Washington Post, and The Guardian had to try to re-create the wheel by creating their own temporary reference service. Ironically, a reporter from the Washington Post wrote an article about how to survive the SOPA blackout; one of his suggestions was to go to a library. That reporter must have seen the stupidity of re-creating the wheel, too.

    • Hi – my query on “NPR social reference desk” returned an NPR blog post that led with an endorsement of the Washington Post’s recommendation:
      Go to a library.

      The Washington Post article was library-friendly and showcased a fun publicity campaign from the Milwaukee Public Library spoofing social media logos.

  6. librarEwoman says:

    The NPR blog post does mention going to the library; I just wish they had also mentioned that on-air. When the NPR Social Reference desk was announced on the radio, however, not a peep was mentioned about libraries. The radio announcer seemed to think that since Wikipedia was down (disaster!), the next best thing was for NPR listeners to call a makeshift reference service composed of journalists in order to answer their questions. (…Kind of like the NPR version of ChaCha.) In order to figure out that NPR and the Washington Post hadn’t completely failed to mention libraries, I had to take the time to do some digging online. If I had just listened to the radio program and not done any further research (which is what most people probably did), I would have never known that NPR and the Washington Post actually did mention libraries. So, in my opinion, NPR and the Washington Post still get a giant red F in their support of libraries in this case.

    • librarEwoman – thanks for clarifying; I hadn’t heard the audio piece. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the omission in audio is bound up in the unstated mandate to support your own brand. Libraries do this as much as any organization based on my observations.

      The written pieces from NPR and Washington Post seemed supportive of libraries and perhaps will have more shelf life than the audio. We can hope :)

  7. librarEwoman says:

    I just have to add one more point: Why didn’t NPR team up with reference librarians in order to provide its social reference desk? Why did they choose journalists, as opposed to choosing librarians, who have a graduate degree with a concentration in doing research and answering reference questions? Many reference librarians have years of experience in answering people’s questions, or showing people the resources to use to answer their own questions. Journalists don’t specialize in answering questions; they specialize in asking them. How does choosing journalists to run a reference service make any sense? So, once again, NPR and Washington Post get a big “FAIL” in this case.

    • The Librarian With No Name says:

      If it makes a difference, the journalists weren’t actually answering the questions. According to the Post article, the #altwiki hashtag was supposed to be a call for other Twitter users to answer the question. It was a crowdsource solution, not a reference desk staffed by journalists.

      Maybe we need to start a #askalibrarian hashtag to create a globally distributed Ref Desk 2.0 in the Twittersphere. Of course, we’d have to come up with some sort of algorithm to scan for avatars containing cats or tweed to make sure genuine librarians are answering the questions.

    • lEw – you’re probably gonna want to throw rotten tomatoes at me for this reply, but … I think there are two key questions here for library professionals:

      1) Why did these leading information organizations reach across mediums and geographies to collaborate with one another, and not consider libraries as collaborators (particularly given that libraries believe they’re so strong in the area in question)?

      2) What got in the way of libraries participating and responding to the Internet blackout in a positive and creative way (again, given that these particular circumstances seemed to be ‘in the library wheelhouse’ so to speak)?

      Jean

    • spencer says:

      Jean,

      I think you already know the real answers to those questions! ;)

    • Hey Spencer! I have hunches, tho not sure they’re answers. It’s a discussion that needs to be had though (IMO). Wanna start it here or offline?

      Jean

    • spencer says:

      Well, my first hunch- and I’m pretty sure it’s the reason- is that librarians in charge typically lack the skills and vision to get a seat at the table. We are barely an afterthought- almost a joke. Who, really, goes to a public library for real research?

      Second is that librarians are more worried about increasing their budgets than improving anything.

      Third, because of the first two, libraries as institutions are anything BUT proactive. We are the most “reactionary” (by that I mean that our policies and proceedures are made in reaction to a problem, instead of not letting the forseen problem arise) professions in the world. “Reactionary” institutions, at their core, always end up missing the boat.

      My two cents.

    • Spencer –

      We agree on the first point: library leaders don’t have a seat at the table. I see two reasons why:
      1) They aren’t showing up. A bunch of players in the knowledge/information sector (publishers, newspapers, broadcasters and others) are disrupted and working through this transition period. They are carefully trying new things and interacting as frienemies, sometimes collaborators and sometimes competitors, to suss out their strengths and weaknesses and scope out their place in the emerging landscape. And where are library leaders and practitioners – ensconced within library walls howling “You guys aren’t playing fair. You SHOULD be doing everything the way you did it before things changed. You SHOULD be promoting our services. You should LOVE libraries!” If library leaders want to be heard, they need to encourage their community to stop the howling and then they need to go out and join the conversation. I know of only one librarian who does this today. Rick Anderson is a regular contributor at The Scholarly Kitchen, a prominent, high-quality blog in the scholarly publishing space. He’s a respected voice among some real heavyweights and represents the profession & library interests very well. We need lots more people like him.
      2) They can’t say what they’re good at and what value they add. Libraries say they do everything and are good at everything … and that just isn’t credible. To remain viable, any organization needs to be the top provider in one thing and runner up in one or two others. Libraries are no exception.

      I think you make a great second point, Spencer. My hunch was going to be that libraries are really slow followers. They produce copies and knock-offs of things after the real moment has passed. This is true of videos in the Old Spice vein and send ups of social media icons. It’s also true of management techniques like mission/vision, BHAGs, etc. Libraries can be slow and steady in many things, and I’d argue that refining their service offering and positioning themselves as oases in disruptive times is a winning strategy. Library leadership, however, needs to be smart & confident & creative & quick … and I’m seeing just the opposite.

  8. Librarian-with-no-name that suggestion of Ref Desk 2.0 is a good one, but we would probably be too busy manning actual reference desks to pay attention to the slew of questions that would flood the Twittersphere ;)

  9. Donny Keithley says:

    Just have a choice of ALAC downloads. Then obtain a set of speakers that meet your standards, depending on how much of an audiophile you happen to be, and there we have it.Not everybody needs a $100,000 group of speakers, and also for the few who can hear the main difference (and the even fewer who are able to reasonably afford it), have advertising online. Not everyone can hear the difference between 320 kbps and ALAC, don’t assume all speakers can reproduce a change, and not everyone cares; that’s okay.Music is surely an art, just like artwork itself. If you possibly could be content to view a 4 megapixel image of the Birth of venus on your computer, that’s fine. Others may not be content until they notice in person.So I sort of trust him that digital music is shuffled around inside a degraded state, but it doesn’t have to be, as well as for those who care enough, it isn’t. As for piracy, Baby, Get the Head Screwed On