barabasi open-source fail

over the course of completing our first series of class readings, i did an open-source fail: i forgot that the whole world is not a github repo and i shared a pdf of a section of a copyrighted book with our class. tom asked that i remove the pdf from our class email group out of respect for copyrights. i was surprised that i’d broken a rule and i contacted the nyu library, where i’d gotten the ebook originally, to find out more. here’s the response i got from the library’s legal specialist:


a few link hops away from the one she posted, i found a bunch of stuff about copyright and fair use. there’s my “mass e-mail to your class” right next to the high risk stop light:


this is all very curious to me. what’s the point of having the ability to easily download a portion or an entire book to pdf if it’s not to share the pdf? i know the correct answer is “to read or print out exactly one copy for yourself and yourself only!” but the reality is that sharing digitally is an affordance of having a digital file. counter arguments just don’t make sense.

what makes more sense is admitting that we have a bunch of real mismatches here: between the affordances of digital information and the needs of knowledge producers and distributors to be compensated for their work. surely, there are precedents re: how to deal with this problem. the camera and the printing press are also technologies for copying and sharing the work of a single person. i’d be curious to learn more about the histories of those and this question of copyrights in their wake.

another interesting thing i found:

“Copyright law provides a classroom exception in section 110(1) that allows instructors to display or show entire copyrighted works during the course of a face-to-face classroom session.”

i love a good loophole. would it count as “a face-to-face classroom session” to share a digital copy of a book as long as each page also contained a photo or video of the professor’s face? i’m only partly joking. my point is: how can a rule like that possibly hold up in this era of MOOCs? who is it there for anyway?

anyway. barabasi is brilliant. i’m excited for the next few chapters, which you can rest assured i will never share with anyone ever. these parts of the reading about the google outage were also interesting:

“Google previously suffered a similar outage when Pakistan was allegedly trying to censor a video on YouTube and the National ISP of Pakistan null routed the service’s IP addresses. Unfortunately, they leaked the null route externally. Pakistan Telecom’s upstream provider, PCCW, trusted what Pakistan Telecom’s was sending them and the routes spread across the Internet. The effect was YouTube was knocked offline for around 2 hours.”

“When I figured out the problem, I contacted a colleague at Moratel to let him know what was going on. He was able to fix the problem at around 2:50 UTC / 6:50pm PST. Around 3 minutes later, routing returned to normal and Google’s services came back online.”

update: i sent a snarky question back to the email librarian, to which she graciously responded.

“It’s why we fight so hard for open access. I encourage you and your classmates to make your scholarship OA and to encourage your professors to do the same. In the meantime, we provide access to what we can given the contractual restraints publishers put on us.

Welcome to the world (business) of scholarly publishing. Glad you’re fired up. Join us in fighting to (legally) change it.”

Leave a Reply