The case for a Global Digital Public Library Network policy

The case for a Global Digital Public Library Network policy

Summary: By Bill KallmanThis guest blog is penned by Bill Kallman, CEO of Scayl, a direct, unlimited secure email solution, a longtime VC and real estate investor. He was a founding director of Streamcast, one of the defendant's in the landmark MGM v Grokster ruling.

TOPICS: Networking, Google

By Bill Kallman

This guest blog is penned by Bill Kallman, CEO of Scayl, a direct, unlimited secure email solution, a longtime VC and real estate investor. He was a founding director of Streamcast, one of the defendant's in the landmark MGM v Grokster ruling. He holds a M.S. in engineering from Stanford, B.A. in Chemistry from Reed College, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Google is under anti-trust scrutiny for its book publisher dealings. In A Book Grab by Google, Brewster Kahle rightly pleas:

We need to focus on legislation to address works that are caught in copyright limbo, and we need to stop monopolies from forming so that we can create vibrant publishing environments, and that we are very close to having universal access to all knowledge.

  But we must generalize this access argument beyond books. The issue is beyond just music too – which is a central focus of the debate since the advent of Napster, Morpheus, Kazaa, Grokster, Limewire, BitTorrent, and the litany of file sharing library tools. It includes movies, photography, journalism, textbooks, remixing too.

In short, it concerns all forms of creative works under copyright. All content has irrevocably collided with the disruptive innovations of the digital Internet and Web.

Why? Because it involves the natural advent of a global digital public library network on the Web and it is fundamentally at odds with legacy copyright policy enforcement.

The global digital public library network

The physical public library system and the emerging digital public library should be understood to be part of a global digital public library network, or GDPLN ("good plan") -- an open network that allows interoperability of all global DPLs.

Consider the Library of Congress (LOC). It is the nation's oldest federal cultural institution, started with Thomas Jefferson’s personal donation of his own private library. The Library's mission is to make its resources available and useful to the Congress and the American people and to sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations. It’s the largest library in the world, with millions of books, recordings, photographs, maps and manuscripts in its collections. We support it with our taxes.

Libraries and copyright have a long and uneasy relationship. In 1870, Congress centralized the copyright system inside the LOC. The Copyright Office is in charge of administering compulsory and statutory licenses. It required all authors to deposit in the Library two copies of every book, pamphlet, map, print, and piece of music registered in the United States. The place to restructure and rebalance copyright in the digital era is in the LOC & Copyright Office – but it will take administrative leadership, likely Presidential as it did at the advent of radio when President Hoover was involved.

Today a de facto digital public library exists but copyright has not been rebalanced to embrace it. Our physical public libraries may legally have all content under copyright law but our digital public library may not. This is the root of the fundamental policy gap that is leading to the disruption of the content industries.

Rebalancing copyright can establish a thoughtful digital public library network policy, end the failed war on digital piracy, adequately compensate creative artists - from journalists and authors to musicians and movie makers – for their works, and legitimize today's de facto behavior of freely sharing content - under copyright or not - across the Web.

In the absence of a coherent digital library policy, personal home libraries are shared on peer-to peer networks to fill in holes in the GDPLN collection not provided by Google or digital library initiatives. This is not piracy: it is the natural sharing of home libraries which has occurred since Roman times.

The copyright war has failed Legacy copyright is dysfunctional in the Web era because it struggles to create artificial scarcity alongside a digital public library. Despite the efforts at control, all content flows freely. It should -- because the digital library is good for humanity. However, there is no compulsory, subscription or equivalent framework to recognize the existence of the GDPLN that provides a mechanism to collect a pool from its service providers and distribute it to creators of useful arts on the basis of their respective contributions. A similar compulsory solution was somewhat analogously created with the advent of radio.

Enforcement has failed, will continue to fail, and moreover should fail because it literally attacking the digital public library.

Consider the absurdity of music enforcement efforts. Look at China, which now gets free ad-supported music downloads in a label-approved deal with Google, while Americans and Europeans are sued for the natural behavior of sharing their private home digital library collections. The litany of harmful and fruitless litigation of GDPLN innovators and citizens continues go grow.

The private content industry is at war with the public digital library and the innovative companies providing the tools to build it. Paradoxically, copyright’s present policy is killing much of the content industry in the digital age by failing to codify the digital public library network.

The good of the library outweighs the interests of private library owners, yet we must find balance to compensate the creators of the useful arts.

Google itself is a product of digital libraries (the Stanford Digital Library Initiative). But under the "safe harbors" of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it can spider, index, link to, and exploit innumerable copyrighted works and pay nothing to the creators of the content. Google presently stores and returns much of the world’s journalism, and it is steadily adding books, music, movies and television programming to complete its collection. It is not obligated to comply with the public library privacy guidelines as detailed at the American Library Association.

What is to be done? Consider a "straw-man" for a win-win global digital public library network policy that balances the needs of society and artists by restructuring copyright and extending physical public library principles to the digital age:

  1. Levy Google as an anchor fee producer, as if it were a radio station - but for all content. Level the playing field for all providers to participate in the GDPLN. Alter the safe harbor for search engine portals and require a royalty pool to be collected in a radio-like solution - but for ALL content.  
  2. Establish more uniform privacy policies.  
  3. Be open. Allow absolutely all libraries large and small from the LOC to the personal home shared folder to participate, so that new volumes can be added openly by the populace to the library  
  4. Encourage uniform metadata standards so volumes are better cataloged and retrieved from all nodes on the library network. Institute rare volume archiving standards so the library doesn't lose rare content  
  5. Permit streaming and downloading, recognize they are indistinguishable. Drop the distinction between webcasting libraries of content that stream it and download libraries of content that download for listening, reading and viewing.  
  6. Leverage low cost technology like P2P software instead of suing these important digital library innovations.  
  7. Legalize digital copies and distribution of any and all content types to be shared on the library network  
  8. Allow remixing to occur liberally with a revenue share model for the original creator and the re-mixer, depending on percentage of content used  
  9. Require participants in the library network to provide a slice of their revenue (like the radio model, like Google's free music in China, or their tax support in the case of public libraries offering digital services) so tax-supported entities provide a slice of their tax support to artists. Distribute it fairly and with regard for the cost of creating a work (movies get more than newspaper articles). Exempt home libraries because they will be taxed to support the public library system as they are today.

Time is running out. Work on the GDPLN digital library policy must begin. Engagement of the stakeholders with governmental involvement can and must lead to a truly pragmatic and balanced solution as was achieved after the somewhat analogous invention of radio.

I recognize that a process to achieve such a policy will be arduous. It must involve stakeholders. It does disrupt the status quo and rebalance copyright rather fundamentally. But the status quo is broken. Having dwelled on it for a decade I don't see any better solution to the dilemma presented by the collision of copyright with the open global digital public library network.

Topics: Networking, Google

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  • I vote Kallman

    At last! A decent proposal on ZDNET, more from this guest blogger please. Of course I would think that, having suggested a Global Digital Emporium instead of The Pirate Bay, herein.

    "The good of the library outweighs the interests of private library owners, yet we must find balance to compensate the creators of the useful arts."
    Spot on. I am increasingly of the opinion that enlightened Governments should unite globally to force the current intransigent corporations into what is usually referred to as a 'new business model'. This will include the rights holders, telecommunications giants, ISP's, consumers and the tax office as well.

    "Engagement of the stakeholders with governmental involvement can and must lead to a truly pragmatic and balanced solution "
    A good example of how this could succeed admirably is provided by the transformation of the UK Gambling Industry at the start of the millenium q.v.
    Another simple example: instead of 1,000,000 licensed copies of ADOBE PHOTOSHOP at $300 and 1,000,000,000 pirate copies at $0; 2,000,000,000 at $3.
    I would say 'REbalanced' - the new order will probably not be as beneficial to the current incumbents.

    "Time is running out."
    Agreed: it has taken 60 years for each of the last 4 industrial revolutions to sweep away the previous incumbents. We are half way through the Information Age transformation.
    So instead of bailing out terminally-ill industries prepare a shutdown plan in parallel to rebuilding the replacement. Don't lament - jobs and industries are going to 'die' anyways. If they are protected then we will all die.

    I vote KALLMAN ... for dissolving the restrictive practices of the major global corporations controlling digital wares ... and a cheap, efficient, environmentally friendly GOOD PLAN.
  • Very nice article

    I absolutely agree with the article. There really needs to be a discussion on copyright in this digital age. Big Content is trying hold on to its old business models through laws such as the DMCA, which simply infuriates consumers. As I said before, you cannot pass laws that go against the grain of natural human behavior, and expect them to be successful. You are just creating another prohibition. We all have to come up with a model of digital content distribution, that most everyone can live with.

    I think there should be a light digital content tax that everyone pays directly to the government, or as part of his ISP service fee. I believe businesses should be free to distribute ad supported content, with a [b]reasonable[/b] portion of their revenue going to content providers - similar to what radio stations are required to do. I believe businesses should also be able to use a variety of business models to distribute premium content for fee. I believe the above would significantly minimize the illegal distribution of digital content, and ensure that content producers are compensated reasonably. The great thing about the above model is that that it would legalize most forms of content distribution, leading to the better accounting of content that is distributed. This would in turn lead to artists being more accurately compensated.

    After the above, content providers could then focus on maximizing their revenue by offering premium services around their content. E.g. someone who buys a high definition version of a movie could be guaranteed to obtain up to 5 copies of the movie per year for the next 20 years. The person could be entitled to promotional items. Content providers could provide a myriad of premium services that consumers (who can afford to) would find compelling to buy. Ebooks, electronic newspapers, magazines, etc., could be distributed DRM free and ad supported at its basic level, but could offer expanded licenses and premium services to allow users to incorporate the content into their own works, do collaboration around the content, synchronize mark ups of the content, gain access to communities around the content, etc.

    The current atmosphere around digital content is pretty bad now. I think computer companies like Apple, Amazon, MS, OEMs, and electronics manufacturers should join in the discussion. Developing a workable solution that lends itself to the easy distribution of digital content to the satisfaction of consumers, will foster the faster evolution of computers and their adoption for this purpose - leading these companies to make more money. Things really do need to get a whole lot better.
    P. Douglas
  • That's the wrong approach

    This proposal appears to assume that the justification for copyright, to encourage production of creative works, actually does so. That is a leap of faith. No one has ever demostrated that is true, and there is lots of evidence, including peer-reviewed academic research, that strongly suggests it works *against* production of creative works.

    A much simpler approach to solving the problem the author mainly seems to be concerned with is simply eliminate copyrights. All of them, past and future. Many would say that's radical, but sometimes the radical approach is the best one.

    Before you dismiss my suggestion out of hand, do some investigation. Try to find any cases where copyright really is promoting production of creative work. And look at all the disincentive it puts in the way of production of creative works. You might surprise yourself.
  • Agree - let the current media industries die.

    I would further add that we should stop letting the current digital media industries extort millions from American citizens with the blessing of the idiots in Congress. We aren't paying taxes to pay for a government which acts as a private police force for private industry to bully us. When are these lawmaking idiots going to start protecting OUR rights?

    If I by the rights to use a piece of media, whether music, video, software, or whatever, I should be able to use it on any device I own. Restricting that right should be against the law. Putting a root kit or other copy protection scheme on my computer when I legally purchase my media should be criminally punishable with prison time. It's the worst kind of malware.
  • RE: The case for a Global Digital Public Library Network policy

    well, I live in the rural Philippines. Unless I go to Manila, I can only buy used books or a limited supply of very expensive new books, mainly best sellers.

    I rely on P2P or reading classic books that are free of copyright.

    In the past, the US had a cheap surface rate for used books...but this was stopped two years ago, so unless I want Amazon to airmail me a book, I'm out of luck.