New Year -- New Resources

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Open Access is not Unlimited or "Free" Use

The Chronicle of Higher Education just reported that Yale University is suing a Chinese University Press for having transcribed and published in a book -- without permission -- material that Yale posts online as "Open Access" video curriculum courses (

Chronicle of Higher Education article

The Chinese book used translations of the lectures and turned them into an written anthology.

The copyright issue here is whether anyone can redistribute for profit or create a "derivative" work based on such "Open Access" posting.  Under the "Terms of License" on the Yale site, no one may do so with these courses.  Any use other than "Non-Commercial Share Alike" -- that is the exact same kind of video display, without editing -- is prohibited under the Creative Commons license Yale is using.  You can't adapt or transcribe the video without additional, specific permission for such use.

"Most of the lectures and other course material within Open Yale Courses are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 license ( Course material under copyright held by a third party may be subject to additional intellectual property notices, information or restrictions." 

I suspect that this is not an  intentional violation of digital copyright, but a misunderstanding.  Even in the US, people often confuse "Open Access" to mean "not copyrighted."  In fact, the Creative Commons licenses were developed precisely to make the distinction clear and to protect both copyright holders and the audiences they want to reach.  Chinese publishers have been made huge strides over the last 25 years in obeying International copyright laws.  In fact, licenses from US and UK publishers for translation into "Simplified Chinese," the written format for printed works in the People's Republic, have become very profitable for commercial and scholarly publishers alike.  Many Chinese publishers negotiate directly with the US.

We should expect this mistake to be quickly rectified.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Another reason to like ebooks

I came out to Seattle to visit my sister and attend her oldest's high school graduation. Being the resident Reader-Geek in the extended family (otherwise full of engineers or math whizzes who are also serious athletes), and knowing she liked math and science, I asked if she had ever read an novel about a scientist?  She couldn't think of one, but I remembered Flatland, Edwin Abbots' quirky, 1880 novella subtitled "A Romance in many dimensions," the story of a two-dimensional world.  I instantly downloaded the 99 cent classic to her mother's Kindle.

Now, I know there's not necessarily any better chance that she will read the book (after finals) than if I had mailed a print copy to her, but at least she knows it's at hand while she may still remember our conversation.  I did think it was hopeful that when I described the story, she immediately asked, "How do they pass each other in only 2 dimensions?"  I had probably read it more for the romance than the geometry, and the question would never occur to me.

Do you have favorite novels about science, math, and non-English major subjects you would recommend to a 16-year old?  Let me know.