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The Blog on Emerging Academic Technologies


Recently in Copyright Category

The latest publishing sales figures show a sharp rise in the sales of E-Books at the same time that the total number of book sales on all platforms took a minor hit. In their just released January 2011 sales report, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) noted a 115.8% increase in net sales of e-books from the previous year while overall book sales dropped by 1.9%.

In higher education, one of the pressing questions will be how might this change in reading affect the textbook market? Will students and instructors embrace digital texts? The social learning platform Xplana projects that by the end of 2011, 3% of the total textbook market will be digital and that growth will be explosive over the next five years. By the end of 2016, they expect the total sales of digital textbooks to reach 26% of all new textbooks.

The advent of new reading platforms suggests the possibility to develop new ways of interacting with learning material. While some publishers might simply settle to replicate a print product in a digital form, other more innovative developers might embed assessments or opportunities for reflection within the text. User-controlled multimedia might help students replay presentations or simulate experiments. Books that are built for collaboration might help students jointly annotate a text or read annotations by their own instructor. There are many ways a new textbook could evolve, and let's hope that with such stunning sales figures and projections, publishers and authors seize this moment to reinvent rather than replicate the text.

Not all data mining is equal!

In his blog, Bruce Schneier outlines a useful taxonomy of social networking data. He divides all the data that is collected on an individual into six types, each with its own privacy concerns.

I see this as a useful step forward when talking about privacy within the context of a social network. One might release a particular type of data knowingly and willingly and with an eye toward intentionally broadcasting something. Other data, for instance when someone tags you in a photo or when a company traces your browsing behavior, may be information you want to keep more private. Distinguishing among data types, then, can help us conceptualize the larger universe of our data profile and can teach us more about how to shape it, project it, and preserve it.

Recently the Librarian of Congress released the new rules on Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). On Twitter and on many blogs, the main focus of attention was on new rules that now allow people to jailbreak their iPhones. As Jonathan Zittrain explains in this interview, the rule on smart phones is a "key, symbolic victory for the open campaign-- but in many ways, a legal paper tiger." (In the first few moments of the video Zittrain provides a good overview of the DMCA.)

A new rule on using video in the classroom received far less publicity, but for educators should be just as newsworthy. The new rules allow "college and university professors" and "college and university film and media studies students" to incorporate "short portions [emphasis mine] of motion pictures into new works for the purpose of criticism or comment." This is excellent news, as the previous rule granted this exemption only to film and media studies professors. The previous rule was much too narrow given that film and television has so many educational uses across academic disciplines. I appreciate that the new rule is more in tune with the realities of teaching, and that conversations about managing copyright now can be a little more straightforward.

On the other hand, the new rule simply seems to affirm what normally would be fair use if not for that additional layer of digital rights management. Moreover, the new rule on student uses of media once again seems too narrow. Now that all instructors are included, educational uses of motion pictures on DVDs is restricted to film and media studies students. This is baffling to me, especially when I hear about innovative student media assignments across the University.