Berkman Center Launches Planning Initiative for Digital Public Library

The link is to the press release directly from the source.

The Berkman Center for Internet and Society today announced that it will host a research and planning initiative for a “Digital Public Library of America.” With funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Berkman will convene a large and diverse group of stakeholders in a planning program to define the scope, architecture, costs and administration for a proposed Digital Public Library of America.

Dave Ferriero, Archivist of the US, has already offered to host an initial plenary session. That will be followed by five tracks of intensive workshops. The model sounds very similar to the work that Carl Malamud did at the start of that project. Here is hoping that this new effort is at least as successful.

Speaking of Carl, he is on the steering committee alongside other academics, librarians, and leaders from various not-for-profits. I volunteer on the FedFlix project run by Carl’s He is responsible for quite a few projects for getting public information online and if the other names, only a few of whom I recognize, are of similar caliber, that also bodes well.

The focus here seems to be at the federal and national level. I’d love to see this expand to include recommendations for local libraries to evolve to embrace the network and remain lively parts of their respective communities.

Berkman Center Announces Digital Public Library Planning Initiative

Piracy More Lucrative than Legal Downloads, Morality’s Role in the Copyright Debate, and More

  • Piracy much more lucrative than legitimate downloads
    Gaven sent me this link which substantiates claims that many rights holders make more from pressing damages against online file sharers than through legitimate sales, often by more than two orders of magnitude. One has to wonder how this is skewing traditional incentives to create and distribute, not just punishing file sharers.
  • Kaspersky chief wants to end online anonymity
    According to The Register, he thinks releasing the internet to the public at large with the capability for anonymous use the same as the original educational and military users was a mistake. Given his stake as a security vendor, I think this says more about his pessimism about effective security solutions more than it does about any architectural or policy mistakes in opening up the internet.
  • Canadian copyright lobby’s pressure to dilute anti-spam bill
    According to professor Geist, what is at stake is a current exemption that lets ISPs and investigators install monitoring software without consent for the purposes of finding infringers. If such a narrow interest guts the potential public good this bill is aiming to achieve, that would be a shame on two fronts, both the erosion of consumer protections and the furthering of the copyright maximalist agenda.
  • The role of morality in copyright
    Mike Masnick clearly frames his own thoughts on the matter in this Techdirt post. He’s definitely more of a utilitarian, not that in this case, with this argument, that that is a bad thing. He uses it to frame his citation of William Patry’s recent posts on the subject which advance the theory that morality is more often brought in as a rhetorical veil to cover the expansion of rights that are not sustainable for any other reason.
  • Questions around the lending of ebooks by libraries
    At Techdirt, Mike Masnick links to a NYT piece on the subject and calls out some of the pertinent questions. As much as I’d like to glibly agree with Masnick’s analysis, unfortunately the question of transfer of ownership for digital works is far from settled, legally, so I don’t think it is enough to cite the first sale doctrine. I think the far more compelling aspect of the argument is around the purpose of public libraries and how best the law and market need to work in order to satisfy that public mandate.
  • Should access to broadband be a right?
    This O’Reilly Radar piece digs into a question prompted by Finland’s recent commitment to that very proposition, the framing of access as a right. Joshua-Michele Ross cites work by Yochai Benkler that examines the effect of policy on broadband adoption and access. Not surprisingly, Benkler’s work suggests our current policies in the US which have stepped away from our past support of open access seem to be a large step in the wrong direction.

Philadelphia Public Libraries Saved

I saw Cory’s post on Boing Boing reporting the happy news. The linked article doesn’t have any details on the contents of the funding bill, just thanks for all of the public action that helped draw attention to the city’s libraries’ plight in particular.

Hopefully my source will have some details about the broader ramifications of the bill both for Philadelphia and the state’s broader budget concerns.

Philadelphia Public Libaries Closing

I saw this remarked on a couple of sites (Boing Boing, Daring Fireball). According to the library system’s own announcement, the closure is due to failure to pass a funding bill in the state legislature in time for the current or upcoming budget cycle. The way the announcement is worded, particular towards the end, it sounds like it may be possible that funding will be secured in time to keep the city’s libraries open.

Cory’s comments are particular evocative, concluding with:

Picture an entire city, a modern, wealthy place, in the richest country in the world, in which the vital services provided by libraries are withdrawn due to political brinksmanship and an unwillingness to spare one banker’s bonus worth of tax-dollars to sustain an entire region’s connection with human culture and knowledge and community.

I don’t know the state politics involved. I’d welcome any of my friends in Philly to contact me and fill me in. I’d really like to know the full story. Whether it is as petty as Cory makes out or not, the consequences are still as lamentable as he describes. Read his full post for the litany of services that will go dark, often for those most in need of public access.

Here in DC, we are no strangers to this sort of legislative bickering through operational budgets. It rarely is easily resolved, usually the sign of other, more palatable compromises being exhausted. The silver lining is that no one is suggesting this is a permanent closure which would be a wanton waste and a true crime against the city’s citizenry.