Sunday, December 18, 2005

WTO | Director-General Blogging!

Via Google News and this Taipei Times article, the WTO Director-General's Ministerial Conference Diary.

- posted by laurie @ 12/18/2005 11:58:00 AM (0) comments

Friday, December 16, 2005

BBC NEWS | Health | Key gene 'controls skin colour'

Emerging from grading to note that this is, for lack of brainpower and analystical function right now, "interesting": BBC NEWS | Health | Key gene 'controls skin colour'

Also falling under the heading of "cool" - the fact that this research is coming out of Penn State, still near and dear to my heart, and that the research involves zebrafish, because they apparently share certain genetic similarities to humans and because their pigmentation mechanisms are similar to ours.

back to grading now. must. finish. soon. getting. r. s. i. symptoms. starting. to. give. spoken. commands. to. mac.

p.s. - any random person out there who feels like giving me a present: I want a wireless ergonomic keyboard for the laptop. the cool split kind. laptop keyboards are becoming a problem for me. Think I need to see a doc about this, perhaps.

- posted by laurie @ 12/16/2005 06:48:00 AM (0) comments

Monday, December 12, 2005 Just Google 'thou shalt not steal'

Here's another news snippet, this one from today's Google Alert for intellectual property and copyright: Just Google 'thou shalt not steal'.

Read it. It's actually got a few valid points, but some of the author's points are - well, let's just say I disagree with some of what she has to say. Like, say, much of this excerpt:

"Most writers don't leave much money when they die, but many of them leave copyrights. My father was a writer, and his estate primarily consists of copyrights that yield enough income to support my 87-year-old mother.

Copyright is generally limited to the life of the writer plus 70 years. After that, the work goes into the public domain and is available to everyone. The Copyright Statute also includes a "fair use" clause, so that a few lines or phrases of a writer's work can be used as illustration by someone else. The amount of words that constitute fair use varies according to court case. At present, it is 400 words.

Enter Google, the hip, incredibly profitable corporation whose motto is "Do No Evil." Google doesn't like the copyright laws as they have existed for centuries. Google wants the rights to store all the books in the world in its Google Library program, and the company doesn't want to pay for that right."

First of all, note the deployment of (composition students, take note) the pathetic appeal here: the writer brings dear mum into the equation when discussing how Google is now copyright evil incarnate.

Secondly, life plus seventy is not a teensie term, a limited period of time - it's not like works are protected for five minutes and then, hey, everyone gets to access them - life plus seventy functionally puts all works created behind the copyright wall for the life of intended readers and their kids and maybe their grandkids. Yep, that's limited and av available to everyone.

Last, but not least, copyright for centuries? I'd like to split the hairs on this point. No I am not a lawyer, and all of my copyright knowledge comes from reading Title 17, Lessig, Litma, Vaidhyanathan, and news articles and accounts of domestic and international IP law and policy (I mean to say, I have no formal training but am a decently knowledgable lay person). Not a lawyer, but I do know that, though copyright has indeed been around for centuries, this life plus seventy thing is pretty darn recent (thanks, Disney) - and also, since this article appears in a US-based context, I also feel the need to add the following reminder: the USA itself was a pirate nation reprinting unauthorized versions of international texts for quite some time. We are relative newbies to this whole protectionist approach to copyright, actually, but we have taken to it like ducks to water. That's American initiative and ingenuity for you.

Ok, that rant went on longer than I had anticipated. As I said in the beginning of this post, I think the author does have some valid points, and I am somewhat with her on her conclusion. I have discussed this with colleagues, and others have published on this: when the law and the common beliefs of average citizens are at odds, there is a crisis, and I think we are there with copyright and online materials. The law says it's illegal, average joe thinks it's legal, and Google argues that even if it isn't legal it should be. Disconnect. Problems. I also, though, would like to know how Google would react if some corporate entity wanted to take their intellectual property, archive it, and make it available online, all without compensating them - and then claim that the effort assists Google.

And now it's getting close to bedtime, and I slept terribly last night, and I want to be well-rested tomorrow: I collect final papers from students, and need to get them graded and all final grades calculated by Friday.

Isn't the end of the semester grand?

- posted by laurie @ 12/12/2005 07:09:00 PM (0) comments

There's no Wikipedia entry for 'moral responsibility' | The Register

Ouch. This Register article is pretty harsh on Wikipedia - and on the larger implications of the false bigraphical entry that has been causing so much furor lately.

I have to admit, I am not a big follower of Wikipedia news, and I haven't read a Register tech article in a while. I am kind of surprised at the tone of this article - and that of other Wikipedia-oriented coverage. I'm also surprised to find the disparaging tone applied to other open-source and open-content projects. A bit befuddled. Not, though, in total disagreement with all that their reportage argues.

Ok, back to my hidey-hole, where I am reading and writing and not blogging.

By the way, anyone out there feel free to answer this: the future of blogging in higher education and the future of academic bloggers - thumbs up or down? Part of my silence here has been because I've been watching the fallout from some school/blog conflicts and related questions (and wondering if being a blogger and an asipring academic is a good mix (and I am speaking practically, not ideally, and I increasingly think those positions are at odds with one another - I know people who blog and have gotten jobs, I know people who stopped blogging and took down blogs when on the market, I know people who have been very wary of blogging in academia generally because of the potential professional fallout).

My two cents. Back to hidey-hole, as promised.

- posted by laurie @ 12/12/2005 10:03:00 AM (2) comments