LIS 855: Reading Journal Week 4

Reading list:

  1. Harris Licensing Digital Content Chapters 3-8
  2. Russell Complete Copyright Chapter 7 “Walter Clicks ‘Yes’…”
  3. ALA UCITA 101
  4. SERU Hahn, K.L. (2007). “SERU (Shared Electronic Resource Understanding).” D-Lib Magazine, 13(11/12) (
  5. Josh Hadro (8/31/2009) “Texas Attorney General Orders “Big Deal” Bundle Contracts Released” Library Journal

My response to Hadro’s piece: Trade secrets.  Really?  I’m starting to feel like I need a primer of sorts on all the different laws that govern intellectual property.  That a publisher could move to block the release of licensing contracts to the public on the grounds that it was a “trade secret” seems absurd, but yet, there you have it–been done and done again.

It was particularly interesting to me that the Texas Attorney General’s argument specifically limited the sanctioning of such information release to the case of government-funded agencies.  What about private educational institutions?  Would they not be allowed to participate in general sharing of their license contracts?

As for the bits about UCITA by Russell and the ALA, I am still confused as to why folks are going to all the trouble of establishing UCITA to protect the enforceability of shrink-wrap licenses.  I mean, on one level I am not confused–they’re trying to protect practices that would ensure greater profit for software business.  But cases like ProCD vs. Zeidenberg suggest that shrink-wrap licensing terms would be interpreted in court as being pre-empted by federal copyright law.  And since UCITA is intended to be a proposal for state law, and federal law is intended to trump state law, I really don’t understand why the proponents of UCITA think it will protect shrink-wrap licenses at all.  Am I missing something?

So is SERU intended to be some kind of model license?  For a while the article was making me think that it was going to be like the common app for college applications: that they were trying to come up with a general-enough license that satisfied the needs of enough libraries so that a bunch of libraries could all just adopt it.  But then it started to sound instead like it would just be a model license that libraries and publishers would still need to adapt to their own situations.  How does this satisfy SERU’s goals of going “license-less”?

Plagiarism vs. copyright–finally.  Russell does a nice job of summarizing the differences between the two concepts.  It’s interesting to me in academia that “plagiarism” is a well-known concept that everyone has an opinion about, yet “copyright” usually garners blank (or annoyed, uncomprehending) stares.  In a way, codes against plagiarism are even harsher than copyright law, but sadly have little currency in the world beyond academia.  Except perhaps in the case of music copyright.

I hope to find time to read a ginormous book sometime this year by lawyer Ronald S. Rosen called Music and Copyright.  I’ve got it sitting here on my shelf (borrowed from the library), all nice and crisp and published-in-2008-y and costs-$200-on-Amazon-y.  YEAH.  Well, it seems like a pretty amazingly researched book that reflects decades of courtroom experience and a great deal of labor to write, and I understand that it would appeal to a rather limited audience, but really…good grief…$200…even $100 I could still see, and maybe afford in a few months — but $200 puts it on the level of those unattainable boxed-set novelty items, and it shouldn’t be!

Anyway, I brought up this book because it deals with some of the philosophical, epistemological problems of music copyright.  Amongst them being: what’s an expression, what’s an idea? are idea and expression the same thing in music? increasingly, people in the pop music industry are suing each other for “stealing” phrases or other ridiculously tiny amounts of music from each other–and winning!  that’s the problem.  It’s clear in our greater familiarity with analyzing language that language represents ideas.  But what about music?  Can anyone say for sure that a musical element represents another idea?  Not really.  It’s all pretty abstract.  What does a certain melody mean?  *shrug*  Yet it seems wrong to say there are no musical ideas.  So are idea and expression one and the same in music?  If so, how do we apply copyright, which tries to separate idea from expression of idea?  When we apply copyright law to music, do we end up applying codes of honor against plagiarism instead?

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