Thursday, August 25, 2011

New book makes pitch for resurgence of the Fair Use doctrine in copyright law

Amazon link

Authors: Patricia Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi

Title: "Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyright"

Publication: University of Chicago Press, 2011; ISBN 978-0-226-03228-3; 200 pages, paper, indexed, five appendices

We hear about copyright infringement allegations by Internet users almost every day now, to the point that a few businesses, especially Righthaven, most recently, have been set up to troll the Internet for possible violators.  We’ve heard a lot about copyright and P2P with all the older RIAA lawsuits, and about the Safer Harbor provision of the DMCA.

This book traces the history of – the decline and recent resurgence of the Fair Use provisions of Copyright law in the United States, particularly by Internet speakers and most specifically by documentary filmmakers.

In earlier times, legal conventions tended to favor the idea that copyright owners or publishers could monopolize the industry and hinder the appearance of critical and competitive materials.

In film, and in other media projects, there are many practical obstacles for obtaining permissions in many cases, which studio or investor lawyers are likely to demand. For example, a license might stipulate that the filmmaker or writer cannot criticize the source of the media used, which would undermine the integrity of the work.

When one claims Fair Use, one does not ask for specific permission from the content copyright owner.
The book maintains that industry codes of best practices are the best way to win both copyright owners and judges over to more support of Fair Use in practice.

In 2008 American University released the Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use, link here. There are similar codes at this site, such as the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video, link

Here is Jaszi speaking the Fair Use Keynote at a USC conference in 2008:

(For some reason, Amazon direct link "gadget" from Blogger is not working for me now.)

Cynthia Close reviews this book in the Winter 2012 issue of "", review not available online yet  (see Bill Boushka blog Dec. 15, 2011).  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Honore: "Survival", family tips for disaster preparedness tag along behind his autobiography: a word of warning, however

Author: Lt. Gen. Russel  K. Honore (US Army, Ret),with Ron Martz

Title: “Survival: How Being Prepared Can Keep You and Your Family Safe

Publication: New York: Atria, 2009; ISBN 978-1-4165-9901-2, 274 pages, paper, also available as e-book; Prologue, Epilogue and 18 chapters, indexed.

Honore achieved some “notoriety” recently with an op-ed inviting members of Congress to take boot camp and learn the meaning of “physical sacrifice” (Issues Blog, Aug. 3, 2011), after their prolonged partisan bickering during the recent debt ceiling crisis.

He describes himself as mixed race of “mutt” Creole and Cajun, born during a hurricane decades ago. He was the unofficial head of military rescue operations after Hurricane Katrina, although he had much less formal authority than people think, or so he says.

The book starts as an autobiography of his military career, where he admits that writing was not one of his skills – and that shows in the book, which seems episodic. Each chapter is an autobiographic segment (most of the chapters deal with Katrina, and then Rita and Wilma later in 2005), ending with a shortlist of specific recommendations for disaster preparedness, which don’t necessarily follow from the content of the chapter.
But the subject matter is, of course, of critical public interest.  Very early, around p 26, he points out that our modern culture of individualistic capitalism is deceptive; we don’t know how to do things for ourselves the way people in earlier generations did, and the market economy doesn’t really take care of everything.

He has an interesting perspective on the behavior of the victims of Hurricane Katrina and other disasters. Most were poor, and left living in vulnerable areas below sea level (and around inadequate levies) after the jobs left. (He doesn’t get into the Army Corps of Engineers’s failures the way he could have.)  And their behavior after the catastrophe was driven by survival, not by a desire to loot.  He makes an interesting point that people who live in crime-ridden areas do not like to leave home frivolously, and may not be as responsive to evacuation warnings as needed.

He does suggest that it is constructive to have better building standards for low-lying or vulnerable areas, but it is not wise to put too much stock in expecting people not to live in hazard-prone areas.  People may have less choice in these matters than others think. Furthermore, the range of disasters that could occur is very great. He mentions the risk pandemics (without discussing the need for vaccines, for example, for smallpox and H5N1), and also talks about the earlier efforts to have the public prepared to survive nuclear attacks (which probably was not very realistic, given the dangers we faced during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962).  The list of other dangers includes not only earthquakes and wildfires, but electromagnetic pulse (from a high altitude terrorist blast or certain other microwave devices) and even severe damage to the power grid from coronal mass ejections on the Sun (related to “solar flares” or geomagnetic storms or “space weather”  -- more could be done to mitigate these risks by electric utilities than is done now).  Other dangers could include a huge East Coast tsunami from the Cumbre Vieja volcano (and undersea landslide) off the coast of Africa, as well as conceivably the Yellowstone or Mono Lake caldera supervolcanoes.  On p 176, he mentions the Defense Authorization Act for 2007 which makes it easier for the president to declare martial law when a state is unable to control an emergency.  It was not declared during Hurricane Katrina.  He also suggests that school teachers should be cross trained as Red Cross workers everywhere. Does this include subs?

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Mara Hvistendahl: "Unnatural Selection": the cumulative effect of preferring males in a low birth-rate environment

Author: Mara Hvistendahl

Title: “Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men

Publication: New York: Public Affairs, 2011. ISBN 978-1-58648-850-5. 314 pages, hardcover, indexed. 4 Parts, 15 Chapters, with Prologue (roman pages) and Epilogue.

Probably the most important benefit of this book is the way if makes us think about individual rights, in a way that extends how we used to think about abortion.  Decisions made for individual or familial personal benefit, when incentivized in certain ways, have enormous global consequences for future generations. Call this a concern about ‘generativity”.  In fact, late in the book she speaks of a balance between the rights of parents and the unborn, not just in the usual sense, but in right of a child to be born with an “open future”, not encumbered by previous familial goals.

The book, of course, deals mainly with the cumulative effects of population control along with social customs in many countries, mostly in Asia, resulting in parents trying their best to have boys.  There are many reasons, of course, based on custom, such as the expense of paying a female dowry.   Many countries have been involved, most visibly China with its one –child policy.  Many techniques are tried by parents, most of all gender-specific abortion, but more recently PGD, or preimplnatation gender diagnosis, for parents who cannot conceive.  Although usually sex selection favors men, there are counter trends: gay and lesbian couples are reported as preferring daughters.  Many countries are trying to make prenatal gender determination illegal, and South Korea has actually become the first country to reverse the trend for too many males. She mentions the group called “Generations Ahead” (link)

Sociologists, going all the way back to conservative writer George Gilder, have written about the dangers of too many unmarried men.  The author goes over ancient history in this regard, as well as conventional anthropology.  She also discusses some interesting biology that I had never heard. Married men, and men with children, generally have been found to show lower testosterone levels than bachelors and/or childless men, even when relatively young adults.  I can remember the jokes about this in Army barracks back in the late 60s. When men got married, they gained weight and grew pot bellies, and maybe even lost some body as well as pate hair, so the conventional bachelor wisdom read. “You’re going to lose hormones”, one guy said.  I still remember that moment.  He may have been right.  I can remember, when growing up, thinking about future emasculation as one of the worst things to fear.

She has a chapter on prostitute and then trade in young women overseas, which increases if there are too many men, as does HIV infection through a process that she calls a “bridging population”. Her work here seems to overlay the effort by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore to fight human trafficking ("real men don't buy girls"). 

On Aug. 7, 2011, the New York Times has an “Economic View” article in Sunday Business, p 4, by Robert . Frank, “Supply, Demand and Marriage”, link here. Chinese bachelors need to how that they have three-story homes to attract brides, and often construct unused attics to show they have spaces for families (which are still to be small).

I could not find a YouTube video by Mara Hvistendahl on the topic, but here is a similar one on sex selection  in China (“Infanticide in China”) by Talia Carner (“Jerusalem Maiden” and “China Doll”).  Try also her report on this in PDF format here

Monday, August 01, 2011

Amazon offers inexpensive downloads of textbooks to Kindle

Amazon is offering students the opportunity to rent many textbooks by downloading them onto Kindle for up to 80% off, link here. The cost of new textbooks has become a nettlesome problem for college students.

I remember carrying my textbooks in a brown leather briefcase, in the days before backpacks. In fact, we did not have lockers in high school in the 50s.

I have a few of my graduate school textbooks in mathematics lying around. Rudin’s “Real and Complex Analysis” from about 1965 (McGraw-Hill), starts out with a definition of the “exp” function (that is, e to the power of the number) as a series, and says it is the function undergirds all of mathematics. Mathematics texts – definition, lemma, theorem, proof, still look very densely written. What’s interesting is how much was known in the 1960s – almost everything (except how to solve the “four-color problem”) of algebraic topology.

1st Picture: Strong Hall, University of Kansas, Lawrence, site of the math department, at least in the 1960s when I earned an MA there.