Monthly Archives: July 2009

Canadian Copyright Consultation transcripts online

Just a quick note here tonight – the copyright round tables and town halls are being archived here.

Immediate reaction after skimming the Vancouver transcript: pretty good!  I’m impressed with the guest list, and some really useful things were said!  I also think the gov’t will have a hard time introducing anouther C-61 after all this info sits with the public.  Hope I’m not too optimistic here, but I’m liking these e-consultations (both net neutrality and copyright) so far.

-Greyson

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Copyright Consultation details unfolding

Further to yesterday’s post about the Canadian copyright consultation, here are the details I know so far:

  1. Library associations were among those invited to the roundtables…or at least the BC Library Association was invited to (and attended) the kickoff one in Vancouver.
  2. There will be town hall meetings open to the pre-registered public in Montreal (July 30, 1-3pm) and Toronto (August 27, 7-9pm).  Register by following the link under “Events” in the sidebar on this page.
  3. For the rest of us, there is an e-consultation that appears to be set up similar to how the net neutrality consultation was (and is also facilitated by Nik Nanos, but less visibly so). It’s open till Sept 13.  Here’s the website; there are 5 topics under which to comment.
  4. If you’re a Twitter person (I am not), the hashtag is apparently #copycon
  5. Also, apparently the copyright consultation is running on OSS – cool.

And a few thoughts on the consultation:

  • There’s no giant document you’re supposed to read fist this time, but there are items under “Resources” that might be of interest.  The giant document in the net neutrality consultation was silly, and hopefully the brief blurbs at top of each comment page will be enough to focues the conversation.
  • LOTS of comments already, but heavily weighted toward “copyright and you” and not topics like “digital economy”
  • I’m glad the gov’t largely kept the same format as the last e-consultation, and I’m kind of excited about this new form of input into Canadian government issues!
  • That said, it’d hard to know how optimistic to be about citizen voices actually being heard, since we haven’t seen the outcome from any topic that included an e-consultation process yet.
  • Talking points for those who want to respond but would like some advice: Vancouver Fair Copy, Michael Geist’s Fair Copyright Principles

-Greyson

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Canadian info policy current events: copyright consultation in particular

Wow, there is so much stuff going on with the Canadian federal govt right now, it’s dizzying.  I wonder why this is all taking place in summertime?  Anyone know?

First of all, I don’t have time at the moment to write a long post about it, but Michael Geist has a nice summary of the CRTC’s net neutrality hearings here.

Second, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada issued the results of her investigation into the CIPPIC-filed complaint into Facebook, and found (unsurprisingly) that “Facebook needs to improve privacy practices.”  There’s a list of stuff that Facebook needs to do to be compliant with Canadian law, and we’ll have to see how FB responds.  Verry interesting.  I have a hunch FB will change the wording of a binch of things to make users “aware” of privacy practices, but not actually change much in terms of data collection/use/sharing practices, but we shall see…

Now, on to what I really wanted to post here today!

Michael Geist gave a heads-up a week ago that some sort of “copyright consultation” was going to be launched on July 20.  Those of us who had hoped Geist’s publication of that info would encourage the feds to spill the exact plan have thu sfar been quite disappointed, however.

Today, the CBC has an article reporting that these copyright forums will begin in Vancouver on Monday at 12:45pm.  The article rightly highlights the fact that details on the consultation for those of us not in the loop have been slow in coming.  It also mentions that its sources for the article are Geist, and the following communications from Heritage Minister James Moore:

On Thursday night, Moore sent a notice via the social messaging service Twitter saying, “Copyright consultations begin Monday in Vancouver. This is a substantive and sincere effort to move this issue forward.” It was the first public notice all week from either ministry about the location of the first day of consultations. The next notification to the public was a media advisory on Friday afternoon about Monday’s news conference.

Some quick throughts:

  • The federal government tweets before issuing an official media advisory!?
  • Who will be invited to the round tables? (I haven’t gotten MY invitation yet, that’s for sure)
  • How will the public participate in the process (assuming my invitation not forthcoming)
  • Geist is absolutely right when he says that the secrecy surrounding the process “raises unnecessary concern and suspicion” among the public

More when I have more time…

-Greyson

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Hark – PubMedCentral Canada on the horizon!

Thanks to Dean Giustini for the original heads-up on this:

In a press release titled “Canada joins international effort to provide access to health research,” the NRC (parent organization of CISTI, the de facto Canadian national library of science & medicine)

PubMed Central repository will open new pathway to Canadian health research

July 06, 2009, Ottawa, Ontario

Accelerating the development of discoveries and innovations and facilitating their adoption through free and open access to research findings. This is the aim of an important new initiative that will provide researchers and knowledge users free access to a vast digital archive of published health research at their desktop and connect them to an emerging international network of digital archives anchored in the United States.

The National Research Council’s Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (NRC-CISTI), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and the US National Library of Medicine (NLM) have announced a three-way partnership to establish PubMed Central Canada (PMC Canada). PMC Canada will be a national digital repository of peer-reviewed health and life sciences literature, including research resulting from CIHR funding. This searchable Web-based repository will be permanent, stable and freely accessible.

Yay!

This has been a long time coming, and I know I’ve been but one of a gazillion nags pestering folk at CISTI and CIHR about when PMCCanada was going to actually happen. Between translation issues (the two existing PMC repositories are both English only), funding cuts, and who knows what all else, it’s taken quite a while for PMCC to go from drawing board through discussion to reality.  And to be sure, this is still short of reality, but an official press release gives reason to hope!

PMCCanada could really help Canadian health research funders, many of whom now have OA policies requiring free access to research outputs within 6 months of publication, guide grantees to a specific deposit location if they so desire (or at least offer a clear option to those without institutional repositories). CIHR sort of already guides researchers to PMC, but the CIHR policy came about much more quickly than the Canadian PMC repository did, so this could only be one of multiple options.  I wonder if CIHR will now require deposit in PMCCanada, similar to the NIH’s PMC deposit policy.

I know some Canadian journals have worked to become accepted into PMC by now, and I’m not sure if they will get shifted over, or exactly how the territory between PMC affiliates is divvied up/shared.  It’s a bit of a confusing time for authors these days, with some journals depositing automatically into PMC, some not (or not fast enough to comply with all funder mandates), some not even eligible to do so, and multiple deposit processes still required to deposit into multiple repositories (e.g. a university institutional repository and PMC).

Anyway, kudos to those who have worked long and hard on this project. It will be great in principle to have a PMCCanada, it may make it easier for CIHR (and possibly other finders) to check on compliance with their access policies, and we’ll just have to figure out what the existence of PMCCanada means in practice.

-Greyson

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Conflating OA with other issues we like

At the 2nd International Public Knowledge Project Conference‘s CLA pre-conference, a bunch of librarians and a few assorted others got together to talk about open access (OA).  One thing I kept finding myself coming back to is something I’ve been thinking about for several months now: whether we who are advocating open access should perhaps be more careful about when we are speaking about OA, and when we are speaking about other, related, topics which we may care a lot about but are not at core essentially about open access.

Most definitions of OA I have seen run along the lines of: free online access to scholarly research, which is often also free of many licensing restrictions.

To me, that definition says the primary goal of OA is Access to Read.  The secondary goal, then, is Access to Reuse. To me, that definition does not say anything about disrupting the economics of scholarly publishing.  To me that definition does not say that OA is about resisting the commodification of knowledge.

Radical change in the functioning of scholarly publishers may be a goal many of us share, but is it essentially about OA?  I would venture to say no.

Two topics that are related to changing the status quo of scholarly publishing, and often associated with OA, which came up for me at the preconference were the Serials Crisis & Conflicts of Interest in journal publishing. I’m going to argue that these are not really about OA.  Feel free to counter argue if you wish — I’m hammering this out in my mind yet.

Conflict of Interest

I think that, although some significant OA endeavours have been created in the spirit of general openness and inspired by closed editorial situations that have masked conflicts of interest (particularly in health/medicine; yes I’m talking about situations like the editors who moved from JAMA to Medscape and left CMAJ to found Open Medicine), we can generally agree that OA journals are not essentially in any way impervious to conflicts of interest.

OA journals can be as in-conflict, as corrupt, or as anything-else-you-want as closed access journals.  Why not?  It’s part of the beauty of open access that it is not tied to any one particular business or operating model. It’s about end-user access.  Period. With regard to conflicts of interest, I think we (and especially those of us dealing primarily with health information) just need to be mindful of not conflating OA with conflict-free (or even necessarily conflict-transparent).

Serials Crisis

However, the serials crisis is stickier. A lot of publications and presentations given by librarians about OA (including some presentations I have given) mention the “serials crisis.”  I understand the significance of the shrinking library budget, and the need on the part of librarians to get the word out about this, but I have some doubts about the approach that uses the serials crisis to justify OA.

  • The first one is that use of the phrase “serials crisis” strikes me as one of those signs that one has completed a ML/IS program: once jargon such as this make sense to you automatically, it is time to graduate.  To most of the non-library world, the phrase means nothing and, frankly, sounds a bit hysterical. How is something that we have been living with (some without even knowing about it) for decades now a “crisis”? You tell me how this is a compelling argument to most faculty/researchers.
  • The second doubt I’ve developed is that, while the serials crisis crunching library budgets and forcing cancellations of subscriptions may have been part of the push toward the OA tipping point, I’m not convinced that OA will really make any difference to major research libraries in the end, in terms of their serials budget. Particularly in light of academic libraries and research funders increasingly paying money (via publishing fees or membership schemes) to to pay-for-OA publishers, I see OA – at last gold OA – moving, but not necessarilydoing anything to reduce or eliminate, the cost burden.

Lynn Copeland gave some historical perspective at thie preconference that helped illuminate for my why librarians associate support for OA with the serials crisis.  I need to read the full 2002 ARL-commissioned report, “Igniting Change in Scholarly Communication: SPARC, Its Past, Present, and Future” (<- link is to PDF), but my understanding is that it recommended encouraging new entrants into the oligopolistic scholarly publishing market as a method of trying to slow/stop the serials crisis.  This makes sense to me: the increasing commodification of knowledge as scholarly publishing has become more of a for-profit business and less of an academic endeavour is certainly a problem in my view.

Open Access, and the general arrival of electronic publishing, has reduced the entrance barrier into the scholarly publishing industry, so in that way I get how can be seen as an enabling factor in tackling the serials crisis. In this way, I see how, for librarians who are aware of this history and are stuggling to stretch shrinking collections dollars, the serials crisis is a motivating factor for some types of OA publishing.

However, I don’t think OA, at core, will solve the serials crisis.  Frankly, as we see more of the big traditional closed-access journals converting (in part or wholly) from pay-to-read to pay-to-publish, and more academic libraries experimenting with paying publication fees in addition or instead of subscription fees, it seems highly likely to me that OA will only “solve” the problem OA is designed to address:  Access.

The price burden/barrier will not dissapear, but rather move from reader-side to author-side (or in academic cases, will possibly just remain within the library budget, just renamed from subscription to membership or publication costs). Large publishing companies are not likely to give up their awesome revenue streams, and as for-profit companies they “should” not, as it’s their mandate to make money (can you tell I’ve bene working with a lot of economists?). And even when we’re talking about “green” OA rather than the “gold” OA that can create significant revenue streams for publishers, there is requisite cost on the researcher-author-institution side, as someone has to manage the repositories, deposits, etc.

Is this a disappointment?

Well, yes and no.  I guess it depends on your perspective.

I would venture that “merely” removing the barrier to read and reuse scholarly content is a HUGE thing, and definitely change for the better.  No, it’s not revolution, but it is progress.  (Call me a sellout, but I’m a Gen-Xer, not a child of the 60’s, and I tend ot think of revolution as more of a process than an event.) When I think of community-based researchers, students, or health practitioners who are unaffiliated with academic institutions or even hospitals, there are so many examples in which “just” open access is very, very important.

I know there’s more to unpack here, but I have to go back to the conference and soak up more interesting stuff! So much rattling around my head right now…

-Greyson

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Unicorns don’t exist; net neutrality is just distastefully fair

The top story on the CBC News website this evening is “Net Neutrality doesn’t exist, CRTC told.

Laugh or cry?

Internet congestion is inevitable and net neutrality does not exist, Canada’s internet regulator was told Monday at hearings on how internet providers control and manage internet traffic and speed.

But here’s the best part:

Congestion is a natural occurrence on the internet, partly due to unexpected events such as Michael Jackson’s death, said Don Bowman, chief technology officer for the network technology company Sandvine Inc.            

Got that?  It is Michael Jackson’s fault that you are being throttled! Hee.

According to the same CBC coverage, Bowman also asserts that deep packet inspection is necessary in order to keep VOIP from breaking up due to congestion.  I’m no ISP, but I have a hunch there are other options here…for example deploying other “shaping” technologies that don’t invade customer privacy, or the radical path of increasing available bandwidth.(On this note, I am quite intrigued by Scott Stevens’ suggestion “that some internet traffic management could be carried out by customers themselves rather than the ISPs” and interested in how that could work!)

What’s disturbing is that Bowman is not only acting as a CTO but speaking at this CRTC hearing, apparently without knowing that net neutrality is.  He is quoted as saying:

“In times of congestion, an unmanaged network is not a neutral network,” he said. “Inequalities in application design and user behaviour mean that an unmanaged network inherently favours certain applications and their users.”

Actually…an “unmanaged” network *is* a neutral network.  That’s pretty much the defninition, if by unmanaged you mean the ISP is not allowed to tamper with or discriminate among the content flowing across their lines.  A neutral network is a highway with no toll roads, no right to pull you over to see if you have pornography or the Little Red Book in your backpack in the passenger seat, and no ability to say that Hondas get a fast lane but Fords have to take the slow lane.

I don’t get how this guy can say net neutrality doesn’t exist.  However, if it works for him, I’m going to start declaring things I find either personally distasteful or bad for my wallet nonexistant.  Like…paying rent.  Rent payments definitely do not exist, you know.  They are but flights of fancy which we should no longer indulge. Also torture —  It doesn’t exist anymore.  And those people who say “liberry” and “I could care less” — totally fictional, you know.

Figments of the imagination.

Unicorns.

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