Electronic resources: ebooks, streaming video...

Electronic resources: ebooks, streaming video...

For LIS 644 "Digital tools, trends, and debates" at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Information School.


Dorothea Salo

June 25, 2019


  1. Electronic resources: ebooks, streaming video… LIS 644

  2. Interesting times… • not that they’re ever not, of course

    • Yesterday (24 June 2019), New York Public Library announced it was canceling its subscription to streaming-video provider Kanopy.
  3. None
  4. Twitter went ballistic. • I was scanning the situation, in

    between working on class stuff. Common reactions: • “You suck, NYPL! Give us back our movies!” (Hold that thought.) • “What, NYPL can’t afford $30 a month for a subscription?” (I know, I know. I tweeted a thread this morning debunking this.) • “Why can’t NYC fund its libraries better?” • Question for you: Why wasn’t NYPL transparent about what Kanopy cost? • I have lots of friends at Kanopy-subscribing libraries. The pricing model is per-view with a cap. The costs get real bad real fast. • So why didn’t NYPL just explain that?
  5. It turns out… • Kanopy sent a nastygram to NYPL

  6. Which raises another question… • How did Kanopy get email

    addresses for NYPL patrons? • Not from the library, I hope and believe! That’s a terrible privacy violation.
  7. Let’s pick this situation apart. • Analogous situations around electronic

    content are playing out in many more places than NYPL. • It’s one of librarianship’s defining issues just now. • (And it’s relevant to all of us as consumers of digital entertainment.) • And archives and museums have to decide whether they want to play subscription games with the stuff in their collections. • Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand… e-resource management, library publishing, open access… these are career paths. • They’re also elements of e.g. solo librarianship! • Interested in e-resource management? LIS 755. I’m not a licensing expert. The people who teach 755 are.
  8. First sale vs. licensing • First sale: under US law,

    if you buy a physical object containing copyrighted material, you can still do whatever you want with the object itself. • There is no right of first sale in digital materials. You can’t “buy” them. You can only license them from the copyright owner. • (or service licensed by the copyright owner, e.g. Kanopy) • A license is a legal contract. Remember what I said about contract law a few modules ago? • Contract lets you sign away rights you’d otherwise have. • Contracts can be terrible for you—and still enforceable. You’re supposed to look after your own interests! The other party won’t!
  9. Non-disclosure agreement • (usually abbreviated to NDA) • Contract terms

    that forbid one or both parties from revealing details of the contract. • Do I suspect an NDA is why NYPL’s announcement didn’t mention pricing? Why yes, yes I do! • DO NOT SIGN CONTRACTS WITH NDAs. • In many situations they are illegal. (State laws often forbid them for state agencies, such as state university libraries.) • NDAs silence you—but commonly not the vendor!—in situations like NYPL’s, when you most need to be free to speak out.
  10. I wish this was just an Evil Vendor Thing. •

    But no, we ourselves enable this. • From the ALCTS Principles and Standards of Acquisitions Practice, an acquisitions librarian: • 6. uses only by consent original ideas and designs devised by one vendor for competitive purchasing purposes; • GAH. WHAT IS WRONG WITH US. • “Hi, vendors, go ahead and control what we say about your predatory pricing schemes! It’s fine!” • It’s not fine. It is NOT FINE. I don’t know how that got into this document, but I continue to lean on ALCTS to remove it.
  11. And on Twitter… • … a number of librarians were

    Being Nice to Kanopy. • Stockholm syndrome much? • Vendors are business partners, not friends or allies. We do not have the same mission. We will conflict at times. That’s life. • We have to be businesslike… which is not the same as nice. • ALCTS, you own some fault here, again. From the Principles, an acquisition librarian: • “accords a prompt and courteous reception insofar as conditions permit to all who call on legitimate business missions;” • Even when they’re actively undermining us, apparently. • Our ethics codes should permit us to give as good (and as evil) as we get!
  12. But we can stop.

  13. Those email addresses… • Kanopy allows library patrons to establish

    a separate Kanopy login via their email address. • (Rather than connecting through NYPL directly.) • I’m sure Kanopy dresses this up with extra services: “remember what you watched!” and so on. • But it still enables Kanopy to contact patrons behind the library’s back… and surveil patron use. • Some vendors are actually insisting on separate logins; others are dangling benefits. It’s not good for libraries or for patron privacy. Resist this. • If you must… put a clause in the contract forbidding the vendor to use email addresses for anything but opt-in services.
  14. What’s their game, anyway? • Simple. Con patrons into leaning

    on the library to get the subscription back at whatever cost. • “Fund the library better!” is well-intended, but doesn’t help. The vendors just suck up any additional money! • This is an old game. Academic libraries have been playing it for decades: the “Big Deal.” • Hold that thought; I’ll get to the Big Deal separately. • Public and academic libraries are running into it with ebook-package subscriptions. • The only way to foil it is transparency and communication with patrons. • No NDAs. No NDAs. I really mean it. NO NDAs.
  15. Not just Kanopy…

  16. AIME v. UCLA • At issue: okay to stream legally-purchased

    video for students? Or is that copyright infringement? • There was no license in play for the material; if there had been, the contract terms would govern. • Decision: AIME doesn’t hold copyright, so has no standing to sue over infringement. • Buuuut… the judge also put a quickie four-factor fair use analysis in there… and said that it wasn’t a slam-dunk either way. • So we don’t know that this is fair use—but we also don’t know that it’s infringement.
  17. Game of Thrones? Nah. This is the Game of Libraries.

    Copyright 2019 Dorothea Salo. This slidedeck is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.