Category Archives: copyright

Publishers, Green OA & Institutional vs Subject Repositories

Back in November, I was among the many authors to receive an email from Emerald Group Publishing, touting the publisher’s “commitment to protecting your work,” and announcing their use of the Attributor service to track down “unauthorized copies” of “my” (really more  theirs, now, as I only retain some limited rights) work and issue “legally-binding takedown notices.” Emerald asked for my cooperation by providing my personal/institutional/corporate web addresses (presumably for exclusion from the search).

This was much discussed in the blogosphere while I was busy getting a concussion: see Dorothea Salo (multiple posts), and Charles W Bailey if you need the rundown.  Basically, Emerald decided to use this weird Attributor software that was intended for mass-media use in order to try to clamp down on free-roaming e-copies of their articles. This, while unpalatable to some, is technically their right. Then I guess they decided that they could spin this in a way that would appeal to academics, and sent out that strange email that had some reeling and others just ignoring.

Among the questions in response were: Will anything bad happen if I don’t reply with my URLs? Will anything bad happen if I do? Why are they calling it *my* copyright, when they took it from me? Am I going to get in trouble for self-archiving in my subject repository, since they didn’t ask for those URLs? Should I send them URLs of other places (e.g. course websites, subject repositories) the article is posted, to try to get those excluded from the search since I’m okay with them, or is that just asking for trouble? I’m not sure when the response rate to the Emerald Attributor email was, but I’d guess it was low due to a combination of people being unsure of what it meant and people feeling like it was unnecessary spamminess regarding articles from projects that were long ago “closed out” as far as the authors were concerned.

At the time, I wondered if the omission of subject repositories (e.g., PubMed Central, RePEC, E-LIS) on Emerald’s list of URLs to collect was an oversight. Emerald is, after all, a RoMEO “green” publisher with no embargo period, who states outright, “We do not restrict authors’ rights to re-use their own work.” I haven’t personally published with Emerald in a few years now, but when I did, my friendly editor didn’t seem to balk at my hand-scrawled confirmation of my understanding of my self-archiving rights on the copyright transfer form.

However, about a month later I was advising some authors in copyright negotiation with Elsevier, in which an editor refused to allow archiving in a subject repository (e.g., PubMed Central) without a specific deal between a mandating funding body and the publisher. I was therefore forced to conclude that I was just naive in my reaction to Emerald’s apparent distinction about archiving location and there is some publisher strategy afoot that is accepting deposit in IRs yet creating barriers to use of subject-based repositories.

This is a troubling distinction in my eyes. I work in health research in Canada and our funders are so relatively small (compared with the US NIH) that our needs are often overlooked/left out of publisher policies and deals. Not allowing our authors to archive their articles in PubMedCentral Canada may inhibit discovery of their works, as (unlike items in our IR) PMC Canada articles should be discoverable via any PMC portal. It’s also a potential blow to smaller genre subject repositories that are unlikely to be included in such deals. Further, these distinctions make archiving yet more complicated for researcher/authors to navigate (perhaps this is the point).

In this example, the Elsevier editor pointed to the CIHR policy (which applied to the authors and was used as their rationale for wanting PMC Canada deposit). This policy, however, was written before PMC Canada was up & running and thus does not absolutely require deposit there. Elsevier – among other publishers – seems well aware of what they can get away with, and where. Had this been an NIH-funded project, it would be deposited in PMC. I hope CIHR clarifies their intentions regarding deposit location with a policy revision soon, because the “preference” for PMC Canada does not provide authors with the necessary leverage to convince publishers that they must deposit there, instead of only in their IR.

-Greyson

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Filed under copyright, funding, OA, Other blogs, publishing

4 things about copyright

1) New Canadian “Copyright Modernization Act” bill C-32 (yes, again) introduced yesterday. Lots of commentary on it sprouting up all over. General sentiment, so far as I can tell thus far, is that many things are much improved over past versions of the bill, but the digital locks provision trumps most of them and sets a potentially dangerous “slippery slope” that reaches far beyond copyright.

2) I cannot fully express how exciting it is to hear mainstream media discussing copyright! This is so different from how the DMCA went down in the US in ’98. It is a huge thrill to hear people on my city bus talking about digital locks and blank media levies!

3) Today, coincidentally, I received an email reply from someone at Industry Canada regarding my missing copyright submission:

Good Afternoon Mr. Greyson:
This is in response to your enquiry below.
First, I would like to apologize for the long delay on responding to you.
Your submission has now been posted.
You can find your submission on our Web site at:
http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/008.nsf/eng/04152.html (in English)
http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/008.nsf/fra/04152.html (in French)
Thank you for bringing this to our attention.
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at the coordinates below.

Yay for that! And to anyone else whose submission might be missing, I encourage you to contact Industry Canada to inquire about your submission’s whereabouts. Although it may seem moot at the moment, I think there are significant future research uses of these submission transcripts.

4) Finally, what’s up with Access Copyright? I heard back in April that they filed a proposal for a significant change in the Post-Secondary Educational Institution Tariff for 2011-201311, but not much follow-up. I’m hoping to learn more about this process, and how it does (or doesn’t?) play with the proposed copyright legislation.

4 things on copyright (for SJL)

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Devon Greyson

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show details 12:52 PM (8 hours ago)
4 things on copyright:

1) New Canadian copyright bill C-32 (yes, again) introduced yesterday. Lots of commentary on it sprouting up all over.

2) I cannot express how *exciting* it is to hear mainstream media discussing copyright! This is so different from how the DMCA went down in the US in ’98. It is a huge thrill to hear people on my city bus talking about digital locks and blank media levies!

3) Today, coincidentally, I received an email reply from someone at Industry Canada regarding my missing copyright submission:

Good Afternoon Mr. Greyson:
This is in response to your enquiry below.
First, I would like to apologize for the long delay on responding to you.
Your submission has now been posted.
You can find your submission on our Web site at:
http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/008.nsf/eng/04152.html (in English)
http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/008.nsf/fra/04152.html (in French)
Thank you for bringing this to our attention.
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at the coordinates below.

Yay for that! And to anyone else whose submission might be missing, I encourage you to contact Industry Canada to inquire about your submission’s whereabouts — although it may seem moot at the moment, I think there are significant future research uses of these submission transcripts.

4) Finally, what’s up with Access Copyright? I heard backin April that they filed a proposal for a significant change in the Post-Secondary Educational Institution Tariff for 2011-2013, but not much follow-up. I’m hoping to learn more about this process, and how it does (or doesn’t http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/Access-Copyright-Is-Deeply-Concerned-Governments-Lack-Support-Remuneration-Creators-1270887.htm ) play with the proposed copyright legislation.

Devon Greyson, MLIS
Information Specialist
UBC Centre for Health Services and Policy Research
201-2206 East Mall
Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z3
ph: 604-822-7353
fax: 604-822-5690
devon@chspr.ubc.ca
www.chspr.ubc.ca

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Was the copyright e-consultation bad for democracy?

According to Michael Geist, Steven Harper’s office has called for a new “Canadian DMCA Bill Within Six Weeks.”  Geist has been “Covering the Return of the Canadian DMCA” lately, giving us all a heads-up that new legislation is coming down the pike. (All this hubub is apparently much to the displeasure of Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore, who would allegedly like us to chill out, push copyright from our minds and wait until he’s ready to unveil the bill.)

While yet another bad Canadian copyright bill will be a disappointment, (and approximately round eight-billion of the same ridiculous fight) what really scares me is the impact of this on participatory democracy.

There were 8,100 submissions to the 2009 copyright consultation! It was pretty amazing, and manyfold the response to previous traditional-format consultations on the same topic. The online consultation format allowed for public participation on a scale unheard of ever before for such a topic.

And if all that participation makes no difference to the bill resulting from that consultation process? If the message the government chooses to give the people is that they laugh in the face of our puny little consultation submissions? That it is pointless to try to contribute our experiences and knowledge to our policymakers?

If Geist is corrent in his assessment thatThe consultation appears to have been little more than theatre,” Who will participate in the next one? Who wants to waste their time crafting letters that will never be read, or used? What is the point?

I fear that the day of the introduction of the new copyright bill will be not only a bad day for Canadian copyright, but a sad day for the future of Canadian participatory democracy.

-Greyson

ps – Near the end of writing this post, I went to the copyright e-consultation website and looked for the record of my submission. It was one of the many that came in on the last few days of the consultation, and the office was so bombarded with the overwhelming response that they annouced that it would take a while before they could make all submisisons public. However, I still can’t find mine. Can you find yours? I have a copy of the email, in my sent mail box, and as you know I posted a copy of it here after I sent it off. However, I can’t find it on the consultation website. ??? Are there others in this same boat, still?

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Filed under copyright, democracy, government

Internet Linking is Analogous to Citation

Everyone with whom I have discussed the issue of Internet linking agrees that Internet hyperlinks are a form of citation. But the subset of the population with whom I discuss these issues is not representative of the entire world, clearly. There are 2 schools of thought that I’ve encountered thus far that substantially differ from the above:

  1. The folks who think you need to obtain permission to link to another website, and
  2. The folks who think the author/owner/host/ISP of a webpage are responsible for any content accessible via hyperlinks on that site.

Neither one of these perspectives makes a whit of sense to me, seeing as I conceive of hyperlinks as akin to footnotes or citations, not republication of the material to which the link directs. Republication would be copying content on one webpage and posting it (in a manner beyond that permitted by fair dealing/fair use) on another page.

Because I can’t really understand how a hyperlink could actually be considered republication rather than citation, I am dumbfounded by people who adhere to – and sometimes threaten legal action in accordance with – either of the above two viewpoints. I actually find myself a bit stymied when pressed to defend my stance that hyperlinking is citation, because the alternative is so ludicrous in my mind. I need to work on this, which is why I’m posting this here.

1. Permission to Link

I have encountered a few individuals who have adamantly insisted that their websites were their property and thus they had the rights to dis/allow linking to their web content. I have actually been threatened with legal action from a blogger (with a PhD – which led me to expect that she’d at least be able to research the actual law) who insisted that I not link to her weblog from a password-protected site, which I found incredible! (In this specific case, although I knew she didn’t have a legal leg to stand on, I removed the link because I liked her writing and didn’t really want to make her mad, and also because I didn’t want to sink energy into a fight, but stopped following her blog lest I accidentally post a link she didn’t approve again.)

Apparently U.S. Judge Richard Posner also did or does think that permission to link to a webpage should be the law. In this blog post from last year, he states that:

Expanding copyright law to bar online access to copyrighted materials without the copyright holder’s consent, or to bar linking to or paraphrasing copyrighted materials without the copyright holder’s consent, might be necessary

in order to save the newspaper industry (from the competition of free news aggregation sites). While I have great sympathy for the difficult times the newspaper industry is experiencing in this era of digitization, the above suggested curtailing of fair use/fair dealing is appalling.

My understanding is that nothing has been legally established in Canada about permission-to-link, but in the U.S. there is a bit of case law establishing that (in the absence of other factors such as defamation or violation of – in Canada – moral rights) as BitLaw states,

“there would appear to be no legal means for preventing someone from including a link in one page to another”

2. Liability of Link-maker

SO, the Supreme Court of Canada has apparently agreed to hear Wayne Crookes’ appeal of a 2008 BC ruling (an appeal that was dismissed from BC Supreme Court) that linking to websites that contain allegedly defamatory material is not in and of itself defamation. Vancouver-based Crookes has sued a bagload of folk for libel based not on things they wrote on their websites but on thinks written on sites they linked to, or sites those sites linked to.

Whoa. Similar to how ISPs should not be responsible for the content of their customers, web authors should not be held responsible for the content on pages they link to! Citing something, in traditional publication, is hardly the same thing as agreeing with it, let alone authoring it. Hyperlinking is like citing – a pointer, a reference.Hyperlinking is not – as I think I clearly distinguished above – republication of content.

Hopefully the Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear this in order to set precedent (in accordance with the BC courts decisions) and thus stop the free-expression chill that such SLAPPs create. The alternative is just too ludicrous, right?

Right?

-Greyson

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Filed under censorship, copyright, digitization, Intellectual freedom, Internet, IP, Other blogs, publishing

CMAJ “No longer free for all”

I’ve been thinking about the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ)‘s decision to convert from being 100% free to read online to only partially so, come January.

Access Change

The Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) has been entirely free to read, online, since it first went digital in the mid-1990’s.

This is about to change.

Letters from the publisher and editor inform us that, beginning in January,

“Editorials, news, clinical images, abstracts and previously published articles will also remain accessible to all readers. Access to reviews, analysis, practice, commentaries, humanities and supplements will be restricted [to CMA members and journal subscribers]…although these items will become free of charge 12 months after publication.”

Funder OA Requirement Implications

Research – of key concern to any researcher holding funding from CIHR or the many other research funders who require OA to publications before a year’s embargo is up – will remain free to access. However, authors should be advised that publishing in the “Reviews” or “Analysis” sections will not meet the CIHR OA requirement – and there is no pay-for-OA option to remediate that.

Bucking the Trend?

The reason given for the CMAJ’s access change is that:

We must now adapt our business model to respond to current economic conditions and can no longer provide free access to all of our content.

I think this is interesting, given all the journals that have recently been deciding they cannot afford NOT at least offer an OA option. Is there some sort of OA “sweet spot” that is most profitable in 2009/2010? Or is CMAJ just panicking and hoping to get a bit more cash in a recession here?

I’m also curious as to why CMAJ decided to restrict access to readers, rather than charging publication fees to authors. Author-side fees seem to be the current dominant method for publishers attempting to move from subscription to free-to-read models in biomedicine. (Will this be a later phase for CMAJ, post re-institution of subscriptions, effectively making an early adopter of OA end up as also a late adopter of OA?) My guess is that CMAJ authors are generally better funded than the readers. If anyone reading this has insight in to why CMAJ decided to charge readers rather than authors, I’d love to hear it!

Institutions or individuals requiring immediate access to the entire online journal will need to purchase subscriptions unless they are CMA members. (Haven’t heard much buzz on the library wire yet as far as how this $690/yr is going to affect already-shrinking serials budgets in libraries…maybe there’s nothing to say?)

The journal is also planning to publish more frequently online, and less frequently in print, to speed up publication timetables and save on postage. Wish they could scrap the print all together, but I’m not intimately familiar with the reading habits of practicing Canadian MDs, so maybe there is a reason they haven’t done the obvious yet?

CMAJ will continue to participate in the HINARI and AGORA initiatives to bring free or low-cost access to low-income international readership. They’re also giving “media” free access, and while I am really glad CMAJ’s not planning to limit journalists to lousy “press-release journalism,” I’d be interested to know who qualifies as “accredited” media in 2010.

Effect on Journal Impact?

CMAJ is one of the only Canadian biomedical/health journals to be a serious competitor in the Impact Factor rankings (ISI Journal Citation Reports). Since 1997, it’s IF has grown from 1.6 to 7.5, placing CMAJ within the top 10 general medical journals. This stellar climb in a non-U.S.American journal has frequently (but controversially) been associated with it’s wide availability – particularly since other OA journals – such as PLoS Medicine – have made similar sharp climbs. While research articles (upon which the IF formula is based) will remain free to read, it will be interesting to see whether the journal maintains its high IF ranking or slips in the years following this change. My guess is that it would take a long time to slip, if at all, because it is now fairly widely known internationally, compared with a decade ago.

Open vs Free

A couple years ago, back in July 2007, the editors of CMAJ published a commentary congratulating the editors of Open Medicine (OM) on establishing a new journal. While this congratulatory note was interesting in light of the historic editorial schism at CMAJ that gave birth to OM, the letter itself looked nice and innocuous enough. In said letter, CMAJ wrote:

Like CMAJ, Open Medicine is an open-access journal, available free to all who wish to read it and free for all who wish to contribute to it. As open access remains disappointingly rare among general medical journals (Table 1), this is both commendable and of great significance. The birth of Open Medicine thus provides us with a valuable opportunity to remind our readers why open access to the medical literature is important and necessary.

OM’s editors responded a few days later with their own letter, which struck some as less than gracious. In it, they wrote:

Although the endorsement by CMAJ’s editors of open access medical publishing is welcome, we would like to take this opportunity to clarify several points raised in their commentary.1 First, there is an important distinction between open versus free-access publication. Open Medicine has not only adopted the principle of free access, that is, making content fully available online, but endorses the definition of open access publication drafted by the Bethesda Meeting on Open Access Publishing.2 This definition stipulates that the copyright holder grants to all users a free, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual right of access to, and a license to copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work publicly and to make and distribute works derived from the original work, in any digital medium for any responsible purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship. Given that CMAJ holds copyright and charges reprint and permission fees, it is not in fact an open access journal.

It’s significant to note that these letters were written before the Suber-Harnad agreement on the terms gratis OA and libre OA to indicate free-to-read/access vs free-to-read/access/reuse/redistribute. There was more talk about what was and wasn’t “real” OA just a couple years ago. Even taking into consideration the context of the day, though, the OM response could be read as a bit snitty.

However, in light of this recent “Access change” by CMAJ, the OM letter suddenly seems more relevant, almost prescient. Another difference between gratis, free-as-in-no-money OA and libre, free-as-in-freedom OA emerges when journals highlight their ability to take their toys and go home. CMAJ is not saying they’re moving anything that is currently freely available back behind subscription barriers, and they are currently planning to make everything free to read 12 months after publiciation, BUT…we are reminded that CMAJ’s articles are CMAJ’s articles. Whereas Open Medicine’s articles are ours.

-Greyson

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Filed under copyright, digitization, funding, Health, OA, publishing

My copyright consultation submission

Jumping on the blogger bandwagon, I am posting the text of my copyright consultation submission here. Nothing much here that others haven’t said better already, but it seems like this type of public recording may be a good idea.

-Greyson

To Whom it May Concern,

Thank you for providing this special opportunity for Canadians to make our voices heard by our lawmakers. Please find below my responses to the questions posed on the Copyright eConsultation Website:

1. How do Canada’s copyright laws affect you? How should existing laws be modernized?

As a librarian, university instructor, researcher, writer, musician and parent to an avid young media consumer, copyright affects me in multiple ways, every day.

As a librarian I frequently instruct others on legal use and re-use of books, articles, music, video, and other media. One thing I notice all the time is how confusing and unclear copyright is to the average person. People need to be able to understand the basics of copyright; no one should need a law degree to understand if they are acting within the law while watching a video or photocopying a poem.

As a university instructor I experience the frustration of my students as they face long waits for inter-library loans that their friends at U.S. schools do not experience, and when they cannot access materials that would benefit their work. My students and I need to be able to access various types of media for educational use and re-use. Copyright law should encourage open dissemination of scholarly research and fair dealing for educational use of media.

As a researcher and writer I publish both scholarly and creative works. These works are very different in terms of my copyright needs as a creator, as my scholarly works benefit me not by paying me royalties for copies sold, but rather by raising my reputation and profile in the scholarly community; thus as a scholarly writer I aim for maximum dissemination, not maximum profit.

As a media consumer and parent to a burgeoning media consumer, I am wary of legal threats by large recording companies, and at the same time wary of wasting money purchasing media that will become obsolete or unusable at some point in the future (due to DRM/TPM/digital “locks” that restrict legal use of media). I am also quite concerned about threats to our family’s privacy that are inherent in some technological protection measure. I recoil in horror at the stories from the US about single mums, teens and college students being targeted by lawsuits brought by large media companies because of non-commercial online music sharing, and would hate to see Canada brought down this same ridiculous path.

2. Based on Canadian values and interests, how should copyright changes be made in order to withstand the test of time?

Copyright law should be based on strong basic principles, not complicated exceptions and loopholes. It should distinguish between commercial and non-commercial infringement, and promote legal re-use and re-mixing of Canadian material.

People accused of infringement should be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and third party companies such as Internet service providers (ISPs) should not be asked to enforce the law.

Strong fair dealing provisions protecting library/archive/educational use of media are crucial to preserving Canadian national heritage.

In order to encourage use and dissemination of Canadian resources, government publications should be public domain, not subject to restrictive Crown Copyright licenses.

Copyright law should acknowledge that people own a device or copy of media once they pay for it, and any legal use of that media/device is legal, regardless of the technology they use to play or read it.

Finally, in order to stand the test of time, copyright changes should remain technology neutral as much as possible  — For example: while a decade ago we used to exchange “mix CDs” with friends to share and promote our favourite music, today’s youth naturally and natively communicate via the Internet; our old-fashioned understanding of media use should not criminalise our children’s same use of materials using different technology. One element of this involves the “blank media levy” from the late 1990’s, which is inconsistently applied to today’s technologies and should either be expanded as the Canadian solution to dealing with right-to-copy or taken off the books all together.

3. What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster innovation and creativity in Canada?

In order to best foster innovation and creativity in Canada, we should put public (government) publications into the hands of the people by publishing all Canadian government publications directly into the public domain (as in the US), rather than publishing them under Crown Copyright. Similarly, the Berne Convention standard term of life of the author plus 50 years is a sufficiently long copyright period to stimulate new creative works, while keeping them out of the public domain for longer (as some countries have chosen to so) inhibits creativity that can spring from derivative works.

Canada should broaden “fair dealing” to include parody and satire (as in the US), in order to encourage free expression.

Copyright law should allow all legal use of media, without laws specifically targeting DRM/TPM circumvention.  If someone is circumventing digital locks for criminal purposes, that criminal use is already illegal. Criminalizing DRM/TPM circumvention is akin to criminalizing physical lock-picking, even if the lock-picker is merely trying to enter their own house.

Canada should explicitly support a diversity of licensing options, to allow fine-tuning of rights management (I personally like to publish under Creative commons licenses, whenever possible) so creators can freely allow certain uses of their works.

4. What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster competition and investment in Canada?

Copyright law should maintain a “notice and notice” rather than “notice and takedown” (or 3-strikes) rule for potential copyright infringement. Putting ISPs in charge of policing users’ content not only changes the ISPs’ role, making them deal inappropriately with content rather than focusing on infrastructure, but also creates a hostile environment to creativity, innovation, and free expression, discouraging investment and competition in Canada.

Remaining technology-neutral, and basing policy on over-arching principles of copyright, encourages innovation, competition and investment. Specifying particular formats and technologies such as VHS, mp3, or PVRs in copyright law not only makes a law become obsolete very quickly in today’s world, it discourages future innovative use and development of these and other technologies.

Swift dissemination of information facilitates innovation, and encourages uptake and discovery of Canadian innovations in the marketplace. Supporting a diversity of licensing options to facilitate freer and more open communications and reuse of media, and putting government publications directly into the public domain, are ways to encourage openness and quick dissemination of innovations, supporting Canadian innovations.

5. What kinds of changes would best position Canada as a leader in the global, digital economy?

All of the above. To summarize, new Canadian Copyright law should maintain Canadian values and promote Canada as leader in the digital age by:

  • Being comprehensible by “regular” people
  • Limiting fines for non-commercial copyright infringement
  • Being based on longstanding principles, not specific technologies
  • Expanding “fair dealing” to include parody and satire, as well as strong educational/archival/library exemptions
  • Eliminating Crown Copyright, making Canadian government publications public domain
  • Avoiding anti-circumvention measures
  • Avoiding “notice and takedown”/3-strikes measures, functioning rather with “notice-and-notice” provisions when infringement is alleged
  • Supporting finely-tuned copyright options such as Creative Commons licenses, to allow creators to better manage their rights and encourage maximum legal reuse of media

Thank you for this opportunity to respond to these pressing questions via the Canadian Copyright e-Consultation, and for your consideration of all the responses.

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Librarianly committments + Privacy improvements = Facebook for me?

In my previous facebook post I said it would take 2 things to get me on Facebook (FB): trust and better terms of service (ToS, which FB now calls “Statement of rights and responsibilities”).

Since then, it has become likely that I will end up using FB as part of a KT (“knowledge trnslation,” aka making research into something that makes sense to regular non-researchy people) project for a health research group I do a bit of volunteer work with. And while I have a hunch I could possibly manage that project without actually having a personal FB account, that seems kind of awkward to me, and I don’t think I’d be able to do it as well. I got my own self into this position because the group was exploring 2.0 KT methods and of course I felt it was my duty as the librarian in the room to volunteer to shepherd such things. The upshot of this is that I’ve been appreciating this irony, and enjoying the special feeling of being someone about to go do something I’m fairly well-known for opposing. It doesn’t taste quite like crow, or my own words, but it does have a somewhat similar flavour.

However, perhaps as the spoonful of sugar helping the Facebook go down, it appears that FB may be making some of the changes I wanted (not in any way due to my request).

Right before I went on summer holidays, I noted that the privacy commissioner of Canada had issued the results of her investigation into CIPPIC’s allegations that FB infringed on users’ privacy, according to Canadian privacy law.

Maybe, just maybe, FB is responding well to the Privacy Commissioner’s requests.

Trust:

If this good response proves to be the case, it will certainly improve the company’s standing in my eyes – not to the level of a firm that sets out to do the right thing from the start, but at least to that of a firm that can be held accountable via legal measures when need be.

According to the CBC coverage,

“Facebook has agreed to prevent an application from accessing information until it obtains express consent for each category of personal information.

It also agreed to make it clear to users that they can either deactivate or delete their accounts, where deleting will remove the information entirely. And for non-users or deceased users, the company promised to change the wording of its terms of use statement and privacy policy to better spell out its practices.”

“Facebook has agreed to a timetable for the changes, and the privacy commissioner said they expect the changes to be put in effect within a year.”

Terms of Service (ToS)

The privacy commissioner’s requests address some of my ToS complaints. Looking at FB today, under “Sharing your content and information” the TOS now includes the following:

“1.  For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (“IP content”), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (“IP License”). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account (except to the extent your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it).

2. When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).”

Of course I’d like to know what exactly is “a reasonable period of time” and I think the Privacy Commissioner of Canada would as well. However, this is great progress, in my view, because it pretty much eliminates the risk that a picture of my kid I might upload could be used for other purposes after I delete it. I’m not really convinced that it eliminates the risk of such a picture my cousin uploads and never deletes, though. However it is a MILLION times better than what was in the TOS when I wrote about this back in February. And, whether or not this is merited, seeing this movement and responsiveness from the company makes me feel like it’s less repugnant to me.

Things in the TOS are not all ironed out yet. Here’s an area where there’s still a privacy/IP problem: “Share Links” is supposedly only to be used to link to your OWN content.  I doubt this rule is being followed, and the way the TOS is written, FB assumes you are following this rule and giving FB permission to “Use such content” (that is linked to) on Facebook. <–Not cool.  Still need to work on that one, guys.

However, I think the “Special Provisions Applicable to Developers/Operators of Applications and Websites” and “Special Provisions Applicable to Advertisers” have improved since I last looked at the TOS.  Good on you, FB for actually tightening this up, saying you will not share user info with advertisers, and starting to limit the access application developers have to users info.

In Summary:

  • FB may be responding reasonably well to the privacy commissioner’s requests
  • FB’s Terms of Service do appear to be improving
  • FB is becoming increasingly difficult for me to avoid, professionally, despite my successful resistance in my personal and activist life for the past several years

The upshot is that I may well end up there, for better or for worse. Weird, eh?

-Greyson

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