July 25, 2014

Digital Firsts

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The U.S Department of Commerce (DoC) has been collecting public comment on the topic of the first sale doctrine and digital files in recent weeks; the agency was scheduled to meet about the issue on December 12 in Washington, DC. First sale doctrine is a set of exemptions to U.S. copyright law that permit consumers to resell used books or DVDs and libraries to loan books without seeking permission from publishers. Yet for reasons examined in more detail below, first sale exemptions have not translated well for digital content. The DoC’s call for public comment could mark the beginning of a campaign to reassess what copyright and first sale mean in the modern digital era, notes one expert.

Court Decision, Levy Defeat Mean Drastic Cuts for WV’s Kanawha County Library

Large-scale staff cuts, branch closures and slashed program offerings are all on the table as the Kanawha County Public Library in Charleston—widely considered West Virginia’s best library system and the state’s largest—works to reshape itself after a state Supreme Court decision permanently altered KCPL’s annual funding mechanism and created a $3 million budget gap that will require the library to cut spending by 40 percent in 2014.

Sacramento Library Regains More than Half of Embezzled Funds

For any library system, getting a check for $480,000 would be a cause to celebrate. In the case of the Sacramento Public Library (SPL), though, that’s particularly true. Instead of the sort of donation every library director dreams of, the influx of money represents a restitution payment that helps the library to recoup some of the estimated $800,000 dollars embezzled by two former employees, bringing a close to an unpleasant chapter in SPL’s history.

Judge Dismisses Authors’ Lawsuit Against Google Books

In what analysts are describing as a big win for scholars and libraries, federal circuit court judge Denny Chin today dismissed a lawsuit against Google brought by the Authors Guild claiming that the company had violated copyrights by digitizing millions of books and making short samples of the works available via its Google Books service. In the decision, Chin stated that Google Books provided “significant public benefits,” and that the digitized works were protected by the principle of fair use.

Tennessee Supreme Court: Library Photo ID Can’t Be Used for Voting

A recent defeat in Tennessee Supreme Court ended any chance that photo identification cards issued by the Memphis Public Library can be used as voter ID—at least for now. But Memphis City Attorney Herman Morris says the yearlong legal battle produced at least one significant victory, and hinted at future challenges to the state law.

Kentucky Library District Gets Temporary Tax Reprieve

Jeff Mando

A northern Kentucky library district won at least a temporary reprieve from wholesale budget cuts last week, after a judge ruled that its tax rate can stay the same until an ongoing lawsuit—which is being watched closely by libraries across the state—winds its way through the appeals process.

Avoiding the Black Swan Approach to Interns | From the Bell Tower

The Black Swan case brings to light a higher education tradition that needs closer examination and possible rethinking. Academic librarians who supervise student interns will want to make sure they follow recommended practices for productive internship experiences.

Judge Eases Proposed Restrictions in Apple Price-Fixing Case

It’s been a long, hot summer for Apple, as the case against the tech company for allegedly conspiring with big-name publishers to fix the price of ebooks in the iBooks Store drew to its conclusion. The company finally got a bit of good news last week, though, as federal Judge Denise Cote mitigated the sanctions originally proposed for the company. The final terms of the injunction, signed yesterday by Judge Cote, take much of the sting out of a series of penalties suggested by the Department of Justice (DOJ), which Apple’s lawyers complained were excessively harsh.

More Kentucky Libraries Challenged in Court

An already nervous Kentucky library community got more unsettling news this summer: two more districts were targeted by lawsuits challenging their right to raise tax revenue without voter approval and seeking massive spending rollbacks. The most recent litigation brings the total number of such cases in the state to five, and could eventually change the way the 79 of Kentucky’s 106 library districts have done business for decades.

MIT, JSTOR Filings Delay Release of Swartz FOIA Documents

Aaron Swartz at SOPA rally

Citing concerns about the privacy of employees and the security of their networks, both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and nonprofit JSTOR have filed motions intervening in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit that seeks to obtain Secret Service documents regarding internet activist Aaron Swartz.