6.0706 R: Gopher and copyright (1/83)

Wed, 5 May 1993 18:36:36 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 6, No. 0706. Wednesday, 5 May 1993.

Date: 04 May 1993 14:50:07 -0700 (MST)
From: Chuck Brownson <IACCWB@ASUACAD.BITNET>
Subject: Gopher and copyright

>Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 6, No. 0676. Wednesday, 28 Apr 1993.
>FROM: jod@ccat.sas.upenn.edu (James O'Donnell)
>... By no stretch of the imagination is it "fair use" to take all the
>existing files of a publication (which expresses its claim to copyright with
>each issue, but that claim is superfluous under the 1976 act; and we do have
>an ISSN for the e-version to identify it further) and make them available for
>unsupervised copying by others. It seems to me not only common courtesy, but
>in fact an outright legal requirement, that if you wish to put files on your
>machine for others to consult, you make certain that you have the permission
>of the copyright holder to do so. This will ensure that the copyright holder
>can express very legitimate concerns: for the completeness, accuracy, and
>currency of the data, and for the uses to which the material will be put.
> But in the free and easy world of gopher today, my distinct impression is
>that files fly around very casually. Some gophers are carefully nurtured and
>managed, others are compost heaps. Individual users can and should pay
>attention to how the gopher at their institution that they rely on is managed
>and insist on quality control; and those of us who create material that finds
>its way into gopher holes should not be bashful about insisting -- for the
>benefit of authors, "publishers", and readers alike -- that good management
>and respect for legal rights be a part of the system.

Ann Okerson replies in Humanist to the effect that Mr. O'Donnell's wishes are
well enough founded but his requirements may be unreasonable, especially in
view of the avowed desires of electronic editors to be as widely distributed
as possible. On another list, in replying to a more radical statement, she
took a less qualified position with regard to permission:

>VPIEJ-L <VPIEJ-L@VTVM1.BITNET> Apr 27, 93 2:29 pm
> FROM: Ann Okerson <ann@cni.org>
>In Reply To: LYNCH@jade.bucknell.edu
>Mr. Lynch's comment suggests that anyone should be able to retrieve a full
>file and post or "publish" it anywhere on a public site. That it is the
>editor's or copyright holder's responsibility to make that possible. Surely
>the point of the the BMCR experience and message is that anyone seeking to
>"re-publish" an entire file or work, should ask permission to do it. Even
>apart from copyright law which requires it, ordinary courtesy recommends it.
> It's not clear why people are doing things in the electronic world that
>they would not do in the print world at all. Publishing others' full works
>and files without even notification...surely in this respect we should treat
>information in *any* format (print, electronic, blue cheese) in the same
>thoughtful fashion?

This whole thread, on both sides, makes me uneasy. Surely the point of invent-
ing the gopher was to facilitate retrieval and dispersion? It shouldn't be
necessary to maintain local files -- this must be the residue of libraries'
preference to own rather than borrow. On the other hand, the copyright-based
position which is evolving here leaves much uncertain. Suppose the archival
site hasn't indexed the publication. Am I justified in retrieving the whole
thing in order to WAIS it? (Yes, with permission?) Am I obligated to keep the
thing up in perpetuity as a consequence? (No, so long as I erase the file when
I cease to maintain it?) What about my library's acting as a distribution node
for current issues? And can I let a backfile of these issues build up? (No,
because it will become corrupt?) Can individual issues be obtained from the
official archive (FTPd or gophered) without permission? (Yes ... but not by
a library acting as an intermediary?) Can I piggyback on someone else's gopher/
wais file rather than maintain one myself, with its attendant responsibilities,
without knowing whether the source file has permission? What was simple has
rapidly become complicated. The spirit of Internet and its information managers
(archie, then gopher, then veronica) was to cut through all this by making
everything public and accepting that, humans being what they are... Internet
is an unmanaged pile. The anarchy is intentional. Freedoms were supposed to
flow from this practice of letting the wind take the seeds. Veronica was in-
evitable because of that. But: we maintain the distinction between a journal
and a discussion list (unnecessarily?) in order to identify a class of infor-
mation which is more thoughtful (more stable, fixed) and less ephemeral.
Is it? While these notions (I mean ownership, and the association of volatil-
ity with triviality) weren't brought into being by print, it is certainly
true that print facilitates them and etext doesn't. The present state of
affairs can't continue. It's already hard to navigate Internet and harder to
remember routes -- too hard to fully exploit its resources. Some new methods,
congenial to the medium, will certainly emerge. On the other hand, how would a
simpler convention, resembling the widely known code of etiquette for list
behavior (which is no more than consensus opinion) be enforced? We don't agree,
evidently, even on what counts as courtesy: some believe that the fact of your
choosing to use the network medium entitles me to exploit the text however I
please -- hence commercial publishers' unwillingness to risk their properties.
The future is obscure and consensus is nil and I'm uneasy with all pronouce-
ments. It's premature and hobbles change.

-- Charles W Brownson, Humanities Co-ordinator
___Collection Development, ASU Libraries
___(602) 965-5250 Fax (602) 965 9169
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