friends and foes

I have lots of thinks to write about, and no time in which to write them. So, instead, please go read what Kevin Smith has to say about the amicus briefs filed in the GSU copyright case. As always, he is readable and directly on point for academic libraries:

I was interested to see that one of the parties on the amicus brief filed by the Author’s Guild was a group called the “Text and Academic Authors Association,” of which I had never heard.  Was this really an group of academic authors opposed to fair use on campus?  Well, only sort of.  The website of this oddly named group (all authors write text; I think they mean “textbook”) shows that the majority of their leadership council is made up of non-academics or retired professors, who presumably no longer need to rely on fair use for good teaching.  And the strange perspective of the group can best be judged by this article arguing that textbook prices are justified and are not too high to interfere with quality education, a perspective thoroughly debunked by nearly every study as well as by day-to-day experiences on campus.  Indeed, the only sensible way to read the article is to recognize that every “myth” it undertakes to refute represents a demonstrable fact.


Note how clearly these friends of the court break down between those arguing for their own private gain versus those trying to uphold a public good.  Given all the rhetoric about copyright as primarily intended to benefit the public interest in hundreds of precedents, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals cannot help, one would think, but notice this disparity.


The ASERL brief develops this point a bit further, partly by pointing out that the licensing market touted so highly by publishers is already harming the ability of colleges and universities to teach students.  On every campus it is easy to find stories about how the inability to get permission, either because of the prohibitive cost of licensing or because no license for the particular work was available, forced a teacher to changed his or her plans and resort to “plan B” pedagogy.  Most librarians have had to assist such faculty to find other, less optimal, resources in those situations; it is something we do well, but wish we didn’t need to do.

Go forth. Read. Learn. Identify who our friends and allies are. Identify equally well who does not have our best interests at heart as we struggle to build better libraries and better institutions of higher education. And then take that knowledge about the state of our industry and make smarter choices as a result. Please.


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