Category Archives: IP

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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Filed under copyright, IP

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

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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Filed under copyright, globalization, IP, privacy, technology

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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Filed under academic libraries, IP, OA, publishing

The Olympic Games & Information Issues (for those who don’t live here)

Most people who live in British Columbia are well aware of the multitudinous controversies surrounding the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, which will take place in Greater Vancouver & Whistler next February. However, when I talk to friends and family from other places, I am reminded what a bubble I live in.  Most people are not hearing about Olympics-related issues on a daily basis, particularly not the information policy related issues. Therefore, I thought I’d just give a little sampler of some of the oft-ridiculous but all-too-serious issues related to privacy, freedom of speech, and access to information issues arising from these games, and the doings of VANOC, the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Game.

Free Expression:

Trademarking

VANOC trademarked not only part of the Canadian national anthem (don’t worry, they say they will still let us sing the anthem before hockey games without a lawsuit :eyeroll:), but also common words that one would think un-trademark-able such as “winter,” “Gold” and “Silver,” thanks to a bill (C 47) pushed through the House of Commons last year, which makes using several such phrases a violation of the law.

VANOC has gone so fas as to take legal action against the pre-existing small local businesses Olympic Pizza and Olympic First-Aid Services.  (Good thing the Olympics aren’t being held south of the border; they might sue the Olympic Peninsula for infringement!)

Curtailing artistic and expressive speech in other ways

The Vancouver city council’s recently passed charter amendment (currently awaiting provincial approval) that, among other things, states that “the city may remove illegal signs from real property with limited notice, and may charge the owner for the cost of such removal.”  Illegal here being about Olympic trademark infringement, of course.  Naturally, artists who create social commentary works are up in arms about this.

Privacy:

We’re now aware that there will be  an unknown (to the public) number of security cameras that will be going up (but possibly not coming down?) by the Olympics, and the Giuliani-style police crackdown on our most vulnerable community members has begun.

One local community centre rescinded its offer to be an Olympic venue, citing privacy concerns for the local community. (Coincidentally, this centre’s bid for facility upgrade funds in the new capital budget was denied, while the neighbouring community centre that allowed VANOC to commandeer their facility had its request fulfilled.) However, this local area remains marked on the official security map, and we can only wait and see what that means.

A new wave of transit ads recently went up around the region, encouraging regular folk to report suspicious behaviour to the authorities. Look here for an example of this “Report the suspicious, not the strange” campaign. The image linked to, in case you can’t get it, is a poster encouraging you to “Call a paranormal investigator” if you see a transparent person taking a picture of a security camera in a public place in an airport, but “Call us” (the transit police) if an actual person is carrying out that same, perfectly legal activity of photographing an object in a public place. Here is a link to a transit representative’s explanation and defense of said ad campaign, with pictures of the other, less offensive, ads.

There’s going to be a conference in the fall of 2009 on “The Surveillance Games” that should prove quite provocative and fascinating to any interested in this type of privacy issues, btw.

Access to Information/FOI

It was identified by the in a “Threat Assessment” as early as 2007 that the “Access to Information and Privacy (A-TIP) can adversely affect the security of the Games…” (PDF here, heavily redacted after being subject of a FOI request by the Vancouver Sun). And VANOC seems to be taking that threat seriously.

Although they spend the public’s money (how much? we don’t know yet…), VANOC is not subject to the BC Freedom of Information Act.  Until early 2008, VANOC did, however, forward its meeting minutes to the Monistry of Economic Development, where they would then be subject to FOI requests.  This stopped abruptly and without explanation when VANOC apparently stopped taking minutes.  Interestingly, the ministry lost track of all back minutes they had received at the same time.

Not that the heavily redacted and sparse-to-begin-with minutes were a huge venue for public awareness, and input, but they were something. The fact that they contained as little information as they did and were still deemed too much to make public is impressive. When the smoke clears, likely in about 2012, one wonders what, if anything, will be left in the hands of the province to account for the billions in public funding that went into these Games.

Just for giggles

This isn’t strictly information related, but it certainly is social justice-y, so I thought I’d throw in a link here to the “2010 Inclusive Winter Games Commitment Statement.” (pdf here) Why?  Because it includes such a gems as:

  • “Make affordable tickets available for Vancouver’s low-income inner-city residents, including at risk youth and children”
  • “Develop opportunities for existing and emerging local inner-city businesses and artisans to promote their goods and services”
  • “Provide for lawful, democratic protest that is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms”
  • “Ensure people are not made homeless as a result of the Winter Games”

Do you think the people who write those things believe in them, and just get disillusioned afterward, or is it tongue-in-cheek from the beginning?

-Greyson

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Filed under community development, copyright, government information, IP, privacy, privatization

About that blank media levy

This weekend my 6 year old and I made a mix CD of his favourite music. We’re swapping it with a handful of other families we know who value music that is palatable to both kids and parents. This type of thing is how we discovered a mutual parent-child love the pop-punk band ALL (we subsequently bought 3 CDs) and the fact that a young soprano is perfect for singing backup to “Video Killed the Radio Star” (we have not bought, nor are we likely to buy, any Buggles CDs).

Unlike the mix tapes I made in junior high in the US, trying to record Dee-Lite and Billy Joel off the radio without getting too much of the announcer’s voice overlapping the end of the tracks, these CDs are more or less legal, thanks to the blank media levy we have in Canada. The same blank media levy that, as I learned at London Drugs this weekend, just increased by $.08 to $.29/CD, making the right to copy music more expensive than the actual media that was conferring the right. (Okay, apparently it’s actually called the Private Copying Levy, but I’ve always heard it called the blank media levy in casual conversation, so for the purposes of this post that’s what I’m sticking to.)

Sheltered USAmerican that I was, I had never heard of blank media levies before coming to library school in Canada. When I learned about this policy tool – and I wish I could remember what class this was in – I was amazed that someone would try to think of a way to make media copying for not-for-profit use legal rather than just ignore the fact that it happens and/or selectively prosecute to try to make an example of people who are doing what everyone was doing.

How Canadian! Sort of resigning to real life, accepting the futility of trying to enforce absolutist laws, and instead attempting to somehow apologize to those whose rights may have been infringed. Back in the US we just denied that regular people broke the laws and then villified those select terrible rotten apples who did nasty things like download copyrighted music.

Of course, there are problems with the blank media levy. For example, a lot of digital media is used for purposes other than duplication of copyrighted materials. It can be argued that private copying – e.g., backups – should perhaps be legal with no additional fees. Small artists who distribute their own music are generally under- or un-represented in the Canadian Private Copyright Collective, and thus get less than their fair share of the levy.

The levy is clearly an imperfect tool.  But a kind of interesting one, in my opinion, when compared with the blunt axe wielded by the RIAA in the US.

With all the hullabaloo about C-61 last year, I was surprised that a hike of CD levy went so under the radar. Yes, Michael Geist and perhaps a few other bloggers mentioned it, but I didn’t really notice, and neither did mainstream media outlets, to my knowledge.

Perhaps because I was so stricken with the sheer, well, difference of the levy approach, when contrasted with the lawsuit approach, I was disappointed that so few people mentioned the existing levy when discussing copyright reform last year. I admit that I wasn’t even really clear on whether C-61, if passed, would even get rid of the levy, or just add axe to tax.

People here seem not to care much for the blank media levy, and certainly no one in my circles has been discussing extending it to, say, MP3 players, as an alternative to DMCA-style copyright reform. Are we just following CRIA’s example, or is there something else going on that is encouraging copyright folk to ditch rather than reform the levy system? Because, when compared with suing teenaged kids and single mums, the levy seems like a viable option somehow. Perhaps setting up the levy vs. DMCA is a false dichotomy. But will the US let Canada get away with neither? I’m not convinced.

-Greyson

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Filed under copyright, digitization, IP, media democracy

What would it take to get me on Facebook?

In a word: Trust.

Nearly every week, I consider making a Facebook account. I get notices about events for which the full details are on Facebook. I hear stories about people connecting with old friends. My old students and old friends are surprised that they are unable to find me.

I love being in touch with people. I moved around a bit growing up and became quite the correspondent. I have boxes of letters I still move from house to house with me, treasured belongings even though I never look back at them.

Parenthood sucked up the leisure time I used to use for letter-writing, and now I email with some folk, and most years put stamps only on those embarrassing holiday letters we all send out. (Confession: Okay, I actually love reading people’s holiday letters, but I feel very unhip and un-GenX for saying that without irony.)

Friendster seemed interesting (yes, I am really GenX), but in my pre-librarian life I had rural dial-up Internet, and was still writing actual letters. Now I am online all day long, have no time for letter writing, and would be the perfect candidate for Facebook…except that I went to library school and developed this little hangup about privacy.

Privacy…ah, Facebook how you smirk at my privacy concerns. Yes, I know that Beacon was a folly that you now regret, and this week’s terms of service kerfuffle may have been overblown. But to me these moves are indicators that you are a company that doesn’t think through the privacy implications before making changes.

And while actions speak louder than words, your words worry me too, Facebook. Your terms of service (the “old”/”reinstated” ones) make me worry that someday, maybe long into the future, many terms of service later, after you have been bought and the buyer bought and that buyer bought, I will someday see my then-adult son’s young face staring back at me from an advertisement for, well, who knows what. All because my cousin uploaded a photo of him after a family vacation in 2008.

By the way, note that this is not a privacy concern because I am doing anything illicit; it is privacy concern because I would feel violated at this use of my son without my express permission, even though it would be perfectly legal and within the terms of service to which the photo copyright owner agreed.

What can you do, Facebook, to earn my trust?

1) Change your terms of service. I don’t mean leave them as they are/were before you made everyone mad this week.  I mean change them all together. Stop requiring that we:

…automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose, commercial, advertising, or otherwise, on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing.

I don’t care if you say you don’t want to put my son’s photo on a billboard, because what you say on your blog or to a reporter does not outweigh the legal contract you are asking people to sign/click through.

This is just plain creepy. And greedy. AND uncool to boot.

2) Start acting trustworthy. Make your privacy settings comprehensible to the average user. You’ve taken steps in this direction, but it really just isn’t enough.  Your aunt who still types emails in ALL CAPS should be able to understand her setting and their implications. Be clear about the risks and benefits of new apps. Don’t globally implement apps and then require people to opt-out of things; rather allow them to opt-in. Do good in the world.  Please.

Of course, half of me knows it’s a good thing for my own time management and personal life that I am not on Facebook. I could suck up hours tracking down all my teenage crushes and long-losts, and that’s really the last thing I need when I barely have the time for a cup of tea with my here-and-nows.  However, the other half of me – the one that wants to get sucked into staying up too late finding out how many kids so-and-so has and whether the morose violinist from my school bus days is still playing music or at least doing okay – offers these suggestions.  If you don’t take them, well, I’m sure in a few more years there will be a new social networking platform that everyone’s on, and maybe I’ll jump on board that time around.

-Greyson

Full disclosure here: I do *sort of* have a Facebook account. What I mean is that I have a fake Facebook account under a made up name, with virtually no information in it save a made up birthdate. I use this account for the times when I need to look something up that is only on Facebook. I rarely use it, and am forever forgetting my password, and have had to create a fake Gmail account under the same name to deal with the password reset requests…and this is just getting convoluted and complicated. I wish Facebook would just get its act together so I could join in good faith and stop pretending to be a 28 year old male online just to find out when a meeting will be happening.

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