How We’re Celebrating the Sweet Public Domain

This is a guest blog by the amazing Kaylen Dwyer, a GA in Scholarly and Communication Publishing

Collage of the Honey Bunch series

As William Tringali mentioned last week, 2019 marks an exciting shift in copyright law with hundreds of thousands of works entering the public domain every January 1st for the next eighteen years. We are setting our clocks back to the year of 1923—to the birth of the Harlem Renaissance with magazines like The Crisis, to first-wave feminists like Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf, and Dorothy L. Sayers, back to the inter-war period.

Copyright librarian Sara Benson has been laying the groundwork to bring in the New Year and celebrate the wealth of knowledge now publicly available for quite some time, leading up to a digital exhibit, The Sweet Public Domain: Honey Bunch and Copyright, and the Re-Mix It! Competition to be held this spring.

A collaborative effort between Benson, graduate assistants, and several scholarly contributors, The Sweet Public Domain celebrates creative reuse and copyright law. Last year, GA Paige Kuester spent time scouring the Rare Book and Manuscript Library in search of something that had never been digitized before, something at risk of being forgotten forever, not because it is unworthy of attention, but because it has been captive to copyright for so long.

We found just the thing—the beloved Honey Bunch series, a best-selling girls’ series by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. The syndicate become known for its publication of Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, and many others, but in 1923 they kicked off the adventures of Honey Bunch with Just a Little Girl, Her First Visit to the City, and Her First Days on the Farm.

Through the digital exhibit, The Sweet Public Domain: Honey Bunch and Copyright, you can explore all three books, introduced by Deidre Johnson (Edward Stratemeyer and the Stratemeyer Syndicate, 1993) and LuElla D’Amico (Girls Series Fiction and American Popular Culture, 2017). To hear more about copyright and creative reuse, you can find essays by Sara Benson, our copyright librarian, and Kirby Ferguson, filmmaker and producer of Everything is a Remix.

If you are a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, you can engage with the public domain by making new and innovative work out of something old and win up to $500 for your creation. Check out the Re-Mix It! Competition page for contest details and be sure to check out our physical exhibit in the Marshall Gallery (Main Library, first floor east entrance) for ideas.

Logo for the Remix It competition

A Beautiful Year for Copyright!

Hello, researchers! And welcome to the bright, bold world of 2019! All around the United States, Copyright Librarians are rejoicing this amazing year! But why, might you ask?

Cover page of "Leaves From A Grass House" from Don Landing

Cover page of “Leaves From A Grass House” from Don Landing

Well, after 20 years, formally published works are entering the public domain. That’s right, the amazing, creative works of 1923 will belong to the public as a whole.

Though fascinating works like Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room are just entering the public domain Some works entered the public domain years ago. The holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life”, entered the public domain because, according to Duke Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain (2019), its copyright was not renewed after its “first 28 year term” (Paragraph 13). Though, in a fascinating turn of events, the original copyright holder “reasserted copyright based on its ownership of the film’s musical score and the short story on which the film was based” after the film became such a success. (Duke Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain, 2019, Paragraph 13).

An image of a portion of Robert Frost's poem "New Hampshire"

An image of a portion of Robert Frost’s poem “New Hampshire”

But again, why all the fuss? Don’t items enter the public domain ever year?

That answer is, shockingly, no! Though 1922 classics like Nosferatu entered the public domain in 1998, 1923’s crop of public domain works are only entering this year, making this the first time in 20 years a massive crop of works have become public, according to Verge writer Jon Porter (2018). This was the year lawmakers “extended the length of copyright from 75 years to 95, or from 50 to 70 years after the author’s death” (Porter, 2018, Paragraph 2).

Table of contents for "Tarzan and the Golden Lion"

Table of contents for “Tarzan and the Golden Lion”

What’s most tragic about this long wait time for the release of these works is that, after almost 100 years, so many of them are lost. Film has decayed, text has vanished, and music has stopped being played. We cannot know the amount of creative works lost to time, but here are a few places that can help you find public domain works from 1923!

Duke Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain has an awesome blog post with even more information about copyright law and the works now available to the public.

If you want to know what’s included in this mass public domain-ifying of so many amazing creative works book-wise, you can check out HathiTrust has released more than 53,000 readable online, for free!

Screenshot of the HathiTrust search page for items published in the year 1923.

Screenshot of the HathiTrust search page for items published in the year 1923.

Finally, the Public Domain Review has a great list of links to works now available!

Sources:

Duke Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain. (2019, Jan. 1). Public Domain Day 2019. Retrieved from https://law.duke.edu/cspd/publicdomainday/2019/

Porter, Jon. (2018, December 31). After a 20 year delay, works from 1923 will finally enter the public domain tomorrow. The Verge. Retrieved from https://www.theverge.com/2018/12/31/18162933/public-domain-day-2019-the-pilgrim-jacobs-room-charleston-copyright-expiration

Paywall: the Movie – A Conversation on Open Access

This is a guest blog by the amazing Kaylen Dwyer, a GA in Scholarly and Communication Publishing

Logo for Paywall movie

Help us celebrate Open Access Week by joining us for a free screening of Paywall: The Movie on October 24th at the Independent Media Center from 7 – 9 pm hosted by the Scholarly Communication and Publishing Unit at the University of Illinois Library. The screening will be followed by a discussion moderated by Sara Benson, the Copyright Librarian, with panelists Sheldon Jacobson, Andrew Suarez, David Rivier, and Maria Bonn.

Full information about the event is available at this web address!

Paywall’s director, Jason Schmitt, estimates that scholarly publishing is a US $25.2-billion-a-year industry, a figure bolstered by soaring profit margins of 33% (compared to Walmart’s 3%, as cited by the filmmaker). This for-profit publishing model is further complicated by the fact that while most academic research is funded by the public, the articles remain behind expensive paywalls.

Then, one minute and 58 seconds into the documentary, viewers are hit with a paywall that asks them to pay $39.95 to continue watching. Jarring and unexpected, a paywall in a documentary still irritates. Yet for many of us, the paywalls we encounter for articles are just part of the routine that says, “Find another way.”

Schmitt says, “This profit has an implication—it limits amount of individuals around the globe who can solve the world’s most complex problems, and that affects us all.” The film specifically looks at how paywalls impact the global south, as a 2001 World Health Organization (WHO) survey found that 56% of research institutions in low-income countries did not have any subscriptions to international scientific journals.

In response to his hopes for what Paywall will accomplish, Schmitt says, “Open access is important to accelerate innovation and growth in a worldwide community of scholars, scientists and practitioners…I feel this documentary could play a role in exciting a worldwide conversation about access to scholarship in a digital age.”

We look forward to the screening and we hope you will join us next Wednesday at the Independent Media Center!

About the Panelists:

Sheldon Jacobson is a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, applying research and advanced analytics to address societal issues facing our nation. His recent article, “Push Versus Pull,” in Communications of the ACM looks at some of the problems with open access publishing.

Andrew Suarez is an associate professor of Animal Biology at U of I, focusing on the social organization and developmental plasticity of insects to address the fundamental questions in ecology, evolution, and behavior. His article, “The Fallacy of Open Access,” in the Chronicle of Higher Education addresses solutions we should be seeking in addition to open access publishing.

David Rivier, associate professor of cell and developmental biology at U of I, brings expertise in bioinformatics and scholarly publishing within the sciences.

Maria Bonn, an associate professor at the ISchool, previously served as the associate university librarian for publishing at the University of Michigan Library and was responsible for initiatives in publishing and scholarly communication. Her research remains focused in that area as well as networked communication and the economics of information. Among her contributions to the open access conversation are, “Free exchange of ideas: Experimenting with the open access monograph” (College and Research Library News, 2010) and “Maximizing the benefits of open access: Strategies for enhancing the discovery of open access content” (College and Research Library News, 2015).

HathiTrust Research Center Expands Text Mining Corpus

Good news for text and data mining researchers! After years of court cases and policymaking, the entire 16-million-item collection of the HathiTrust Digital Library, including content in-copyright, is available for text and data mining. (Yay!)

Previously, only non-copyrighted, public domain materials were able to be used with HTRC Analytics’ suite of tools. The restriction obviously limited ability to do quality computational research on modern history; most out-of-copyright items are texts created before 1923. With this update, everyone can perform text analysis on the full corpus with different tools. HathiTrust is membership-based, so some restrictions apply to non-member institutions and independent scholars alike (Illinois is a member institution). With the passage of this new policy, only one service, the HTRC Data Capsule (a virtual computing environment), retains members-only access to the full corpus for requesters with an established research need. There are over 140 member institutions, including University of Illinois.

Here’s a quick overview of HTRC’s tools and access permissions (from HTRC’s Documentation).

  • HTRC Algorithms: a set of tools for assembling collections of digitized text from the HathiTrust corpus and performing text analysis on them. Including copyrighted items for ALL USERS.
  • Extracted Features Dataset: dataset allowing non-consumptive analysis on specific features extracted from the full text of the HathiTrust corpus. Including copyrighted items for ALL USERS.
  • HathiTrust+Bookworm: a tool for visualizing and analyzing word usage trends in the HathiTrust corpus. Including copyrighted items for ALL USERS.
  • HTRC Data Capsule: a secure computing environment for researcher-driven text analysis on the HathiTrust corpus. All users may access public domain items. Access to copyrighted items is available ONLY to member-affiliated researchers.

Fair Use to the Rescue!

How is this possible? Through both the Fair Use section of the Copyright Act and HathiTrust’s policy of allowing only non-consumptive research. Fair Use protects use of copyrighted materials for educational, research, and transformative purposes. Non-consumptive research means that researchers can glean information about works without actually being able to read (consume) them. You can see the end result (topic models, word and phrase statistics, etc.), without seeing the entirety of the work for human reading. Allowing computational research only on a corpus protects rights holders, and benefits researchers. A researcher can perform text analysis on thousands of texts without reading them all, which is the basis of computational text analysis anyway! Our Copyright Librarian, Sara Benson, recently discussed how Fair Use factors into HathiTrust’s definition of non-consumptive research.

Ready to use HTRC Analytics for text mining? Check out their Getting Started with HTRC Guide for some simple, guided start-up activities.

For general information about the digital library, see our guide on HathiTrust.

European Union Parliament Rejects Copyright Law

The controversial bill, the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, was protested around the world, with websites sending up an alarm over one portion of the proposed law, Article 13.

Article 13 would require users to gain permission of copyright holders, likely through licensing, to upload anything that was copyrighted onto the internet. If they did not have permission, the website would have to block the content. This might seem like a good thing, and was argued by Paul McCartney and 1,300 other musicians that is would protect people from having their work stolen and uploaded illegally. Critics have argued that this law would be so strict it would prevent anyone on sites like YouTube from playing cover songs – which is how the Beatles got their start.

People argued that the article would also stifle fan creations – like fanart and fanfiction – because the law applies to not only music, but all audio, video, and text uploaded onto the internet. Including memes.

While the idea of protecting copyright is noble, to have everything uploaded onto the internet by a human being is literally impossible. The BBC notes that 400 hours of content are uploaded onto YouTube every 60 seconds. Because of this, YouTube has an automatic system that flags and demonetizes videos that thought to be in violation of copyright. Things as innocuous as birds chirping in the background of videos have flagged copyright claims, so to have such a policy not only beefed up, but spread across the entire internet, it is argued, would be detrimental.

In voting this bill down, EU policy-makers have given themselves more time to review and rework these proposed laws, as another vote will happen in September.

Understanding Creative Commons Licenses

It doesn’t matter if you’re a student, a scholar, or just someone with a blog: we all run into issues finding images that you’re allowed to use on your website, in your research, or in an advertisement. While copyright laws have avenues for use, it’s not guaranteed that you can use the image you want, and the process of getting access to that image may be slow. That’s why looking at images with a Creative Commons license are a great alternative to traditional copyrighted images.

A Creative Commons license is a more flexible option than copyright and can be used on images, or basically any other kind of shareable work. When a creator chooses a Creative Commons license, people do not need to ask for their explicit permission to use their work. However, that doesn’t mean that the creator gives up control of the image; rather, they choose one of six current options for their Creative Commons license:

  • Attribution: The most lenient license. The attribution license lets others do what they please with your work, so long as they credit the original creator.
  • Attribution-ShareAlike: Similar to the attribution license, though all derivatives of the original work must be licensed under identical terms to that original.
  • Attribution-NoDerivs: This allows others to use the work as they please, so long as they do not change or manipulate it, and credit the creator.
  • Attribution-NonCommercial: This license allows people to use and tweak the work freely, except for commercial enterprises. The derivative works do not have to be licensed under identical terms.
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike: Same as above except derivative works must be licensed under identical terms.
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs: The most restrictive license. Others may download the work, but they cannot change them or use them commercially.

All-in-all, most Creative Commons works have “some rights reserved.” As a consumer, you have the responsibility to look up license of any Creative Commons work you hope to use (which isn’t very hard – most of the time any limitations are listed).

Here are some examples of images with differing Creative Commons licenses:

The only stipulation on this image is that I must provide proper attribution. “Albert Cavalier King Charles Spaniel” was taken by Glen Bowman on July 21, 2013 and is hosted on flickr.com.

This image of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel only requires creator attribution. It can be used commercially so long as I acknowledge Glen Bowman, the photo’s creator. So if I so chose, I could hypothetically edit this photo to use as a welcome banner on my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel appreciation blog, include it in a PowerPoint I use for my veterinary school class, or copy it in an advertisement for my dog-walking business.

This Creative Commons licensed image requires proper attribution. “Cavalier King Charles Spaniel” was taken by James Watson (kingjimmy81) on August 17, 2013, and is hosted on Flickr.com.

This image of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has a more restrictive license than the above image. You can share the image in any medium or format, but you must give appropriate credit to James Watson, the creator. You cannot use it commercially, and you cannot distribute derivatives of the photo. So I could include this on my Cavalier King Charles appreciation blog with proper attribution, but could not edit it to make it into a banner on the homepage. And while using it in my veterinary school PowerPoint is still okay, I could not use it in an advertisement for my dog-walking business.

If you’re interested in finding Creative Commons works, you can use the Creative Commons Search function, which links up to various search engines, including Google, Google Images, Wikimedia Commons, and Flickr. If you’re interested in learning more about Creative Commons licenses, check out the Scholarly Commons’ Creative Commons basics page, as well as our use/creation of Creative Commons licenses page. If you’re interested in learning more about intellectual property in general, visit the Main Library’s Intellectual Property LibGuide, or get in touch with the library’s copyright specialist, Sara Benson (srbenson@illinois.edu).

Random Facts: Copyright Edition

Source: Openclipart

This post was guest authored by Scholarly Communication and Publishing Graduate Assistant Paige Kuester.


Just in case “Copyright” is one of the categories when you finally make it on Jeopardy!

  1. Facts aren’t copyrightable

Generally, unless there is some creativity in the expression associated with them, facts aren’t copyrightable. Even if you were the first person ever to know that particular fact, unless you express it in a creative fixed way, there’s no way that copyright can attach to facts.

  1. Monkeys have yet to successfully go to court and claim copyright

While this fact seems like a statement of the obvious, if you are not familiar with the Monkey Selfie case, you’ll be surprised to learn that accomplishing this was the goal of PETA recently. It’s probably a good thing that the case settled (though unsuccessfully in the eyes of monkeys that are garnering for copyright everywhere) with the owner of the camera agreeing to donate a percentage of proceeds gained from the picture to habitat protection, because how else would we have gotten access to some of these images? However, it is questionable if images taken by animals are even copyrightable at all.

  1. Just because you can’t find the © symbol, does not mean that a work does not have copyright.

Since 1989, works no longer require a copyright symbol to have copyright attached to them. Which makes having a copyright easier than in previous eras, but makes it less obvious that a work in copyrighted in general. Of course, there are benefits to including one.

  1. Plagiarism doesn’t just plague the lazy.

Apologies in advance.

  1. You own a copyright.

At least, if you have ever written anything creative down in a fixed medium that was your own idea, you own one. Probably more than one, including marker scribbles and grocery lists and papers that you wrote in high school. As long as you don’t transfer your rights, you will hold that copyright for your entire life plus seventy years.

Make sure you share your winnings with us.

For more information about copyright, check out this undergraduate journal library guide, this Author’s rights guide,  or contact our copyright librarian, Sara Benson.

Sources:

Bailey, Jonathan. (2010). 5 Things that Can’t Be Copyrighted. Plagiarism Today.  Retrieved from https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2010/01/08/5-things-that-cant-be-copyrighted/

Bailey, Jonathan. (2015). 5 Great People Who Plagiarized. Plagiarism Today.  Retrieved from https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2015/02/10/5-great-people-who-plagiarized/

New Media Rights. (2011). II. What Can and Can’t Be Copyrighted? New Media Rights. Retrieved from https://www.newmediarights.org/business_models/artist/ii_what_can_and_can’t_be_copyrighted

Post, David. (2017). No Monkey Business Here: The Monkey Copyright Case is Over–For Now. Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2017/09/17/no-monkey-business-here-the-monkey-selfie-copyright-case-is-over-for-now/?utm_term=.1624b07a5524

Public Domain and Creativity

This post was guest authored by Scholarly Communication & Publishing Graduate Assistant Nicole Moriah Rhodes.


The first American copyright law protected works for fourteen years after they were published and gave the copyright owner the opportunity to renew the copyright for another fourteen years. Few did, and works passed quickly into the public domain.

The copyright term is much longer now–it varies, but you, a human, will likely own many copyrights until 70 years after you die. Some people argue that a long copyright term increases the incentive to make creative work.

However, despite the longer term, statistical analysis of the number of copyright registrations through changes in population, economy, US law, and available technology doesn’t find that increasing copyright protection increases the number of copyrighted works. Raymond Shih Ray Ku, Jiayang Sun, & Yiying Fan (2009) find that the people advocating for broader copyright laws probably aren’t advocating for an increase in the amount of creative work: the best indicator of the number of new creative works among the variables in their study is population. Their data suggest that “Laws that reduce or otherwise limit copyright protection are actually more likely to increase the number of new works” (1673) than laws granting more protection.

Such a long period of copyright protection leaves a lot of content unusable to other creators. This comic about documentary filmmakers demonstrates how stringent copyright protections can prevent creative remixing and impede the accurate representation of the world. Work in the public domain can be shared freely, but our real lives are full of content protected by copyright, and people trying to make documentaries can be inhibited by copyright even on incidental work. When they want to use copyrighted material under the fair use doctrine, the threat of lawsuits can have a chilling effect.

Lawrence Lessig (2004) uses the phrase “Walt Disney creativity” to describe “a form of expression and genius that builds upon the culture around us and makes it something different” (24). Disney’s Cinderella, Disney’s live-action Cinderella, fanfiction, and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries could all be considered examples of Walt Disney creativity. But Disney had access to fairly recent work in his time. As Lessig writes:

“Thus, most of the content from the nineteenth century was free for Disney to use and build upon in 1928. It was free for anyone— whether connected or not, whether rich or not, whether approved or not—to use and build upon.

“From 1790 until 1978, the average copyright term was never more than thirty-two years, meaning that most culture just a generation and a half old was free for anyone to build upon without the permission of anyone else. Today’s equivalent would be for creative work from the 1960s and 1970s to now be free for the next Walt Disney to build upon without permission. Yet today, the public domain is presumptive only for content from before the Great Depression.” (24-25)

Michael Hart, the creator of Project Gutenberg and a longtime Urbana resident, viewed copyright law as impeding the abundance that technology could create, beginning with the very first copyright laws after the invention of the Gutenberg Press. While Ku, Sun, & Fan (2009) do find that copyright law helps create and protect both wealth and jobs and allows creators to be rewarded for their work rather than requiring sponsorship, they advocate for reducing copyright protection where it impedes distribution or creativity.

“Because copyright law works in the negative—effectively saying ‘do not use this work, do not copy this work, do not imitate this work’—we are not sending a message that society values the creation of new works. We are only sending the message that we should stay away from those works already created” (1722).

Creative Commons is one venture designed to allow creators to share their work for other creators’ use while preserving the level of protection they choose. However, the default is still a system that restricts access to cultural works past the time when the creator might care, and can even keep works from being preserved so they will be usable when they enter the public domain. Creators should be able to benefit from the work they create, but increasing protections does not necessarily increase those benefits. Excessive copyright terms keep us from being able to discuss and rethink our common culture.

Copyright as a Tool for Censorship

This post was guest authored by Scholarly Communication & Publishing Graduate Assistant Nicole Moriah Rhodes.


Copyright should be used to encourage speech and not to silence it. The stories below demonstrate that copyright can be used to limit the rights of technology users and censor criticism.

“In practical terms, the DMCA legalized technical controls on access to electronic works; it renders obsolete traditional rules for reading and sharing print materials and, simultaneously, enables content owners to implement a pay-per-use system that controls who has access, when, how much and from where. So, for instance, you can lend a paperback to friends, but you aren’t allowed to do the same thing with an electronic book.”

“The database shows that Ares Rights has filed at least 186 complaints since 2011, with 87 made on behalf of politicians, political parties, state media, and state agencies in the Americas.” (CPJ)

“They were received by political commentators who used images of Correa, transmitted on Ecuadoran public television, in videos uploaded to YouTube, in order to make visible the resistance of local communities to the onslaught of mining communities in the country’s inland provinces. The same thing happened with videos that used stock footage to illustrate the inconsistencies of the President’s statements together with videos of protests against the exploitation of Yasuní national park, and images of repression against students.” (Derechos Digitales)

  • Electronic Frontier Foundation: To be eligible under the DMCA’s safe harbor provisions, companies must comply with legitimate takedown notices. But many hosts end up taking down content that can be legally shared. Copyright takedown notices can be used to hassle critics. Punishing bogus claims is difficult, and the damages for failing to comply can be severe.

“According to the latest numbers, Twitter does not comply with nearly 1 in 4 takedown notices it receives; Wikimedia complies with less than half; and WordPress complies with less than two-thirds. Each organization explains in its report that the notices with which they don’t comply are either incomplete or abusive.”

Closed Doors or Open Access?: Envisioning the Future of the United States Copyright Office

Copyright Librarian Sara Benson

It’s Copyright Week! For today’s theme of “transparency”, Copyright Librarian Sara Benson discusses her thoughts on the Copyright Office activities to review Section 108.


In 2005, the Copyright Office, under the guidance of the Register of Copyrights at the time, Mary Beth Peters, called for a Study Group to convene and review possible amendments to Section 108. A follow up meeting was held in 2012. These meetings were not unusual, but what followed them, was both strange and unsettling.

The procedures after the Study Group, which took place in the summer of 2016 under the guidance of Maria Pallante, were unusual in that they took place in face-to-face meetings between concerned citizens and members of the Copyright Office rather than in a call for online communications between citizens and the Office. On the one hand, this gave the members of the Office a chance to engage in a dialogue with the concerned citizens. On the other, it meant that generally only those with the resources to travel to Washington, D.C. were privileged with the ability to engage with the members of the Office. However, the Office did note that it would engage in telephone conversations, if necessary. In any event, none of these conversations were ever made public.

At that time, it seemed that the Copyright Office was making an intentional move away from a public debate about copyright to a cloistered room with a privileged few. In my view, that move was undemocratic and should be discouraged in the future. Indeed, although the Copyright Office did publish a list of individuals and organizations it met with to discuss Section 108, but the actual subject and content of those discussions remains a mystery.

Notably, shortly after taking office as the new Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden removed Maria Pallante from her position as Register of Copyrights. Does this signal a move away from the process that was undertaken to review Section 108? Likely it does, as Librarian of Congress Dr. Hayden has recently taken further steps towards listening to the views of the multitude by openly polling the public about what we would like to see in the next Register of Copyrights.

This is an exciting time to engage with the Copyright Office under Dr. Hayden’s leadership. I encourage everyone reading this essay to add your voice to the ongoing discussions about the changes to the Office, including the selection of the new Register of Copyrights and beyond.