A “blatant no” from a copyright holder stops vital linguistic research work in Africa

Copyright discussions typically concern texts in just a few languages, and often only in English. In part, that’s because copyright law has evolved most quickly in anglophone countries. But it means that the copyright problems faced by those speaking less well-known languages – particularly languages with limited quantities of textual material available – are completely …

Librarians of the world unite: call for action on ebooks

The terrible lawsuit against the Open Library for daring to increase access to books during the Covid pandemic is not just an attack on the Internet Archive’s selfless work. It is a broader attack on the very idea of the library, and on the vital services that libraries provide to society. These include offering ready …

No big deal: calling the publishers’ bluff on high-price access to publicly-funded research

This blog has written a number of posts about open access, and its difficulties. One important impetus for the move towards open access was the increasing use by academic publishers of so-called “big deals”. Wikipedia explains: In a big deal, a library or consortium of libraries typically pays several million dollars per year to subscribe …

What Professor Litman’s classic open access book “Digital Copyright” teaches us

The central theme of Walled Culture the blog and the book (free digital versions available for download) is how copyright is a bad fit for the digital world. That has become increasingly evident over the last twenty years, as more copyright laws have been passed. But the story begins back in the early 1990s, when …

How to update copyright: Nigeria shows the way for Africa – and the world

Too often the posts on Walled Culture are about the latest copyright madness, or new laws making copyright even worse for the digital world. Against this background, it’s good to read that, as this blog hoped back in 2021, something positive has just happened in Nigeria that is likely to have important ramifications across the …

Why sharing ebooks is good for people – and good for publishers

One of the joys of reading is being able to share your favourite books with friends, family and colleagues. As I am sure is the case for most people, in these circumstances I often go on to buy my own copy of a book I have been lent and like. In this respect, sharing books …

Judge puts corporate profits above public benefits in Internet Archive copyright case

Walled Culture has just written about the selfish and short-sighted lawsuit that four of the biggest publishers brought against the Internet Archive. Unfortunately, following oral arguments last week, Judge John G. Koeltl has rather quickly found in favour of the former. The Internet Archive has already said that it will appeal against the decision, so …

The EU has brought back opt-in copyright for text and data mining: let’s build on that foundation

The central theme of Walled Culture the book (free digital versions) is the clash between copyright, devised for an analogue world, and the Internet, which is inherently digital. There are many manifestations of the the bad fit of the two, but if I had to choose one step that doomed copyright in the online world …

Publishers have long hated libraries; here’s the history, and the next attack

As a Walled Culture post last year noted, publishers hate libraries (well, many of the bigger publishers do, at least.) A handy piece of research entitled “The Publisher Playbook: A Brief History of the Publishing Industry’s Obstruction of the Library Mission” (freely available as a preprint) confirms that the hatred is long-standing: Libraries play an …

Here’s a puzzle: when is the public domain not in the public domain?

Walled Culture is a big fan of the public domain. The amazing artistic uses that people are able to make of material only once it enters the public domain are an indication that copyright can act as an obstacle to wider creativity, rather than something that automatically promotes it. But there’s a problem: because the …

The EU link tax was bad enough, but Canada’s threatens to be even worse

At the heart of Walled Culture the book (available as a free ebook in various formats) is the story of the disgraceful EU Copyright Directive and how it was passed. I won’t go into the details here, except to note that Article 15, aka the snippet tax or the link tax – the idea of …

Research shows that, when given the choice, most authors don’t want excessively-long copyright terms

Last week Walled Culture mentioned the problem of orphan works. These are creations, typically books, that are still covered by copyright, but unavailable because the original publisher or distributor has gone out of business, or simply isn’t interested in keeping them in circulation. The problem is that without any obvious point of contact, it’s not …

How publishers lobbied to “axe the reading tax” on ebooks, won – and then paid it to themselves

One of the (many) villains in Walled Culture the book (free ebook versions) is the publishing industry, specifically in the context of the transition from analogue books to ebooks. What could have been one of the most important expansions of the power and possibility of the book form became instead its opposite – a diminishment …

Finnish Parliament reminds us that copyright should not trump fundamental human rights

One of the key dogmas the copyright industry fights hard to impose on the world is that copyright should trump all other considerations, and in all situations. For its supporters, copyright should even be placed above basic human rights, if ever a clash arises between them. For the most part, legislators and judges have allowed …

Peer review has failed, and that’s great news – for diamond open access, science and society

Over on his Experimental History blog, which he describes as “cognitive sneezing and interior design for your head“, Adam Mastroianni has two great posts about peer review in science. Wikipedia defines peer review as “the evaluation of work by one or more people with similar competencies as the producers of the work (peers). It functions …

A database of public domain works could reduce upload filter overblocking; it’s absurd we need one

One of many problems with the upload filters that Article 17 of the EU Copyright Directive will bring in is that they are likely to overblock. That is, they will stop perfectly lawful materials from being uploaded because of flaws in the filters’ algorithms. Among those blocked lawful materials will certainly be public domain items. …

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