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Closing Off the Internet and Tossing Fair Use Over the Cliff
Saturday, October 18 2008 @ 04:53 PM EDT

After reading about the ACAP system that Copiepresse is pushing to regulate access to content, I decided to take a closer look at the system of selling older articles that were free on the Internet when they first appeared. One company alone, Highbeam, says it provides access to 3,500 publications, like the Chicago Tribune, Harpers, and the Washington Post. They also offer older press releases, in case you have too much money cluttering up your wallet and want to buy to read one. Here's how Highbeam describes itself:
HighBeam is an online library and research tool for individuals, students and small businesses. We collect millions of research articles from published sources and put them all in one place.
Library, to me, means you can read for free forever. This is a paid library. I was researching trying out Google's new system for News whereby it makes older articles available by year, and I was using in particular those from the 1990s. Here's a sample results page. Look at how many on that list are press releases now subscription only, 13 out of 14. The last is an article from 1994 you could have read for free at the time. Actually, you still can find some of the materials for free elsewhere. I'll tell you how to find things like that, now that publishers are trying to close off the Internet.

Here's how: Copy and paste, inside quotation marks, the title to the article you want to find or use any distinctive sentence from the article that way. Most times you can find it. For example, you can read the article about SCO buying Vultus for free on CBR. Or, if you are nuts, you can pay Deseret News $2.95 to read all about it.

$2.95 for a single article. You didn't pay that much for the entire newspaper even in print at the time, did you? If it was online, it would have been free. What are these publishers thinking about the value of their content? And what are they doing to the Internet? Trying to subvert it, I'd say, and force it back in time to a world where content was all locked up and all paid for. You know. Like how it worked before the Internet was invented. The goode olde dayes of publishing.

Let me show you how the paid service Highbeam offers works, using an article from 1999 about Santa Cruz Operation adding Linux support to its Vision2K product, which you can pay to read there or you can read for free here, using the system I found using the system I just described.

Here's what Highbeam will show you for free if you are not a member:

It's a press release. A press release. They want you to pay them (eventually) to read press releases.

Basic membership is free with registration, but basic is basic. Look at the chart. If you want to do more than search, you have to pay. Reading the full articles is a paid offering only. You have to pay to get full access, and once you do, it auto-renews, according to the terms and conditions, and it strictly limits what you can do with the articles you read, and it requires you to do things you may not wish to, like agreeing to terms on linking to Highbeam:

3.2 If you operate a Web site and wish to link to the Service, you must link to the Service's home page unless permission otherwise has been granted in writing by HighBeam Research. You can contact HighBeam Research for this permission using this form. HighBeam Research reserves the right to reject or terminate any links to the Service.
I have no clue what the service costs. You have to sign up to find out, as far as I could tell, and I never sign up for anything that auto-renews with a clause saying the price can change after the initial period to an unknown amount.

Highbeam isn't the only such service, so it's the concept I am addressing, not the particular company. And some may think that a paid collection is superior to a free search engine. To each its own. But think about the effect, should such systems become the norm. Not only is their system designed to make the Internet a paid service, it also adds terms and conditions to what you can do with what you find using their service. What happens to fair use?

Here's what Highbeam says you can't do in and with your research:

3.3 You may search, retrieve, display, download to your area on the HighBeam Service, and print content from the Services solely for your personal use. You may not download electronic copies of our content for any purpose other than those permitted by Fair Use or otherwise by law. You shall make no other use of the content without the express written permission of HighBeam. You will not modify, publish, distribute, transmit, participate in the transfer or sale, translate, create derivative works, or in any way exploit other than as set forth herein, any of the content, tools or technology, in whole or in part, found on the Services. Further, you shall not engage in any systematic downloading or other activity directed towards any of the content, in whole or in part, found on the Services that would create any electronic database or archive containing such content. You shall not make any changes to any content that you are permitted to use under this Agreement, and in particular you will not delete or alter any proprietary rights or attribution notices in any content. You also will not "frame" any of the content, tools or technology on the Services or the Services themselves without the express written permission of HighBeam. You agree that you do not acquire any ownership rights in any downloaded content. You further agree that all rights in the Service and any of the content found on the Service not granted to you under this Agreement are expressly reserved to HighBeam and/or its licensors.

3.4 In searching the Services, you shall not employ any automated search tools, including so called "crawlers," "bots" and "spiders" that programmatically access and extract content in order to repurpose or resell the Services content and tools, nor may you "scrape" and/or reformat any information off the services HTML pages or XML interface, including meta tags, results pages, abstracts, and documents except as permitted by our FAQs without the express written permission of HighBeam. Those seeking more information on permission for systematic access (automated queries, meta-search, etc.) shall go to the FAQ area for each Service.

Personal use only. What's the use of research you can't share? That's not copyright law. They say that they are not restricting fair use. But actually, they are, because you can't fairly use content you can't freely access. Paying first is exactly the opposite of fair use. It wipes it away. Who gave publishers the right to do away with fair use?

How do you like what's happening to the Internet now? Where you pay to read 1999 press releases, which companies released for free at the time, in the hope that as many people as possible would read them, quote from them, and print them.


  


Closing Off the Internet and Tossing Fair Use Over the Cliff | 85 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections here
Authored by: MathFox on Saturday, October 18 2008 @ 05:02 PM EDT
and please indicate in the title what your gripe is about ;-)

---
If an axiomatic system can be proven to be consistent and complete from within
itself, then it is inconsistent.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Corrections here - Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 18 2008 @ 05:17 PM EDT
Off Topic
Authored by: nitrogen on Saturday, October 18 2008 @ 05:03 PM EDT
I've never posted one of the canonical threads; let's see if it sticks.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Newspick discussions
Authored by: MathFox on Saturday, October 18 2008 @ 05:05 PM EDT
keep them organized and disagreements polite; it's PJ's site.

---
If an axiomatic system can be proven to be consistent and complete from within
itself, then it is inconsistent.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Closing Off the Internet and Tossing Fair Use Over the Cliff
Authored by: billposer on Saturday, October 18 2008 @ 05:20 PM EDT
PJ,

Actually, historically, libraries have not been free. The free public library is
something that really developed in the late 19th century. Even now, some
libraries are either available only to a specific group of people (members of an
organization or scholars who have applied for access), or charge for access. The
policy of all of the American private universities that I know about is to give
access to their students, faculty, and staff at no (additional) charge, but to
charge a fee for anyone else. Alumni typically get a substantial discount and
possibly access at no charge for a few days a year.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Too late
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 18 2008 @ 06:22 PM EDT
At times like this it's always worth rereading Clay Shirky's excellent essay: "HELP, THE PRICE OF INFORMATION HAS FALLEN AND IT CAN'T GET UP"

[ Reply to This | # ]

Restricting Fair Use?
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 18 2008 @ 08:15 PM EDT
But actually, they are, because you can't fairly use content you can't freely access.
The implication of this statement is that "fair use" imposes an obligation on copyright holders to make material freely available. Is there really US case law to support this?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Your system doesn't always work
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 18 2008 @ 08:22 PM EDT

For example, a while ago I was linked to a page that had "The El You Say?" available for free. It has since been velvet roped off requiring me to access it from a university computer. I cannot find this article anymore using your method.

If only archive.org didn't suck, we could use it to view news in much the same manner.

[ Reply to This | # ]

1) Find Free Stuff 2) ??? 3) PROFIT!
Authored by: TheBlueSkyRanger on Saturday, October 18 2008 @ 08:30 PM EDT
Hey, everybody!

Actually, the war against Fair Use has been going on a lot longer than that.

IIRC, several years ago, a company in France was coming out with a collectible
sculpture called "The Hunchback Of Notre Dame." Disney had released
its animated Hunchback movie the year before and sued. The company had to
change the name of their sculpture to "The Bellringer Of Notre Dame",
although whether this was court ordered or just to end the legal headaches, I
don't know.

It's a game anyone can play, assuming they can buy in....

Dobre utka,
The Blue Sky Ranger

[ Reply to This | # ]

Closing Off the Internet and Tossing Fair Use Over the Cliff
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 18 2008 @ 08:33 PM EDT
What are these publishers thinking about the value of their content? And what are they doing to the Internet? Trying to subvert it, I'd say, and force it back in time to a world where content was all locked up and all paid for. You know. Like how it worked before the Internet was invented. The goode olde dayes of publishing.
Umm, don't reporters eat? Or photographers, subeditors, webmasters, server room techs? Free newspapers in the past have been political or religious rags, paid by puppetmasters, or else stuffed to the gills with advertising. On the web this means Flash, banners, popups, or large doses of polemic. Highbeam have got themselves a business model selling yesterday's news to people who didn't keep a copy themselves. Whether it's a sustainable business model is an interesting question. Maybe their sources have a permanent "Don't Cache" order against the Wayback Machine.

This looks like a case of information that is free as in speech, but not as in beer. There must be people out there willing to pay someone else to do their archival research, which is how I look at this. And although it looks free at face value in my local public library, I know that is being paid for by my local taxes.

[ Reply to This | # ]

No closing or tossing here
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 18 2008 @ 09:48 PM EDT
PJ -- you generally do a great job, but I think you got this one wrong.

The press releases were free at the time, and if you kept a copy you can still
do with it whatever you want. But most people don't, and this company hopes to
make money off this approach: they will invest money today into recording press
releases, news stories, and other "free" information. They will store
it, with the hope that 10 years down the line someone will found out they need
the information but didn't have the foresight to record it. At that point this
someone will happily pay.

In fact, their model seems very efficient: rather than everybody keeping a
record of everything, they will keep a record for everyone, and get paid for
doing it. Note that they are only restricting your use of copies you got from
them -- if you kept an archive of WaPo stories from the 80s, you don't need the
service. And if you did, no-one can prevent you from making fair use of these
works, lending them to others, and (eventually) re-publishing them once
copyright expires. Yes, I know copyright currently lasts forever and then some,
but some day that will get fixed.

We all wax eloquent about how current copyright policies prevent third parties
from making use of copyrighted works. But what this company is offering does
not reduce the ability of third parties to do anything they couldn't do before.
It would be nice if the service they offered was not so restrictive, but I
cannot say that the existence of their service removes any options or rights we
possessed before.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Closing Off the Internet and Tossing Fair Use Over the Cliff
Authored by: Tufty on Saturday, October 18 2008 @ 10:00 PM EDT
If large companies with sights set on the interweb need to try and make rules
for people visiting their web site. If they need to tell people where they can
or cannot go. If they have no control over who gets their content. It is time
for their web monkeys to join CITIES, preferably appendix I and new web monkeys
appointed. Unfortunately the bosses in these traditionally minded companies
appear to be technically illiterate and have been sold a pwiitty picture by some
so called consultant or another.

Tufty


---
Linux powered squirrel.

[ Reply to This | # ]

There's other variations on this
Authored by: The Mad Hatter r on Saturday, October 18 2008 @ 10:27 PM EDT


Such as iCopyright and it's clones. Any time someone uses the word "monetize" you should be worried.

---
Wayne

http://sourceforge.net/projects/twgs-toolkit/

[ Reply to This | # ]

Closing Off the Internet and Tossing Fair Use Over the Cliff
Authored by: wvhillbilly on Saturday, October 18 2008 @ 10:32 PM EDT
I have nine words for those who want to sell used information while prohibiting
you from doing anything with it.

"Go take a long walk off a short pier."

I think we can well do without this sort of greed and arrogance.

---
Trusted computing:
It's not about, "Can you trust your computer?"
It's all about, "Can your computer trust you?"

[ Reply to This | # ]

Fair use is disappearing, but not the way you say
Authored by: mattflaschen on Saturday, October 18 2008 @ 11:32 PM EDT
"They say that they are not restricting fair use. But actually, they are,
because you can't fairly use content you can't freely access."

I disagree. Fair use is fundamentally an affirmative defense to copyright
infringement That means if you're accused of violating a copyright, fair use is
a way to defend yourself.

If you can't access an article, you won't be accused of violating a copyright.
I agree that we need to maintain access to articles, which is why we need to
support services like web.archive.org and webcitation.org. These all make
permanent archives without permission, correctly applying fair use.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Charging for someone elses contents, isn't that infringement?
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, October 19 2008 @ 01:01 AM EDT
If i write a press release, you snap it up, and then start reselling that
document for $2.35, without paying the author, isn't that infringement of
copyrights?

I wonder what gives them the right to monetize on someone elses rights, without
first negotiating the terms.
Looks to me like this could very well blow up in their face...

[ Reply to This | # ]

I don't think access is key problem
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, October 19 2008 @ 09:07 AM EDT
PJ: "Personal use only. What's the use of research you can't share? That's
not copyright law. They say that they are not restricting fair use. But
actually, they are, because you can't fairly use content you can't freely
access. Paying first is exactly the opposite of fair use. It wipes it away. Who
gave publishers the right to do away with fair use?"

Actually I don't think that the root of the problem is access. Afterall they
have costs to archive stuff and keep them online so that they charge a cost for
access to their copy is not very strange.

On the other hand the rules about what you can use the copy you get is
destroying the very idea of fair use. It is reasonable that buying a copy won't
give me copyright to it so I can enter it into my own similar service. It very
not acceptable that I am forbidden to quote from the document or to crititize
the text just because this company happen to control the copyright.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Right to Read
Authored by: KayZee on Sunday, October 19 2008 @ 09:33 AM EDT
The Right to Read by Richard Stallman
Later on, Dan would learn there was a time when anyone could go to the library and read journal articles, and even books, without having to pay. There were independent scholars who read thousands of pages without government library grants. But in the 1990s, both commercial and nonprofit journal publishers had begun charging fees for access. By 2047, libraries offering free public access to scholarly literature were a dim memory.
Welcome to the future.

[ Reply to This | # ]

This model sort of reminds me of refrerence libraries
Authored by: sgtrock on Sunday, October 19 2008 @ 12:01 PM EDT

For example, I was job searching about 20 years ago. I was going in for an interview for a company that, relying upon the public data available, seemed to be an up and comer. I had two questions that I wanted to have answers for:

1) Was there anything in data sources not generally available to the public that would lead me to avoid the company?

2) If not, I wanted to be as familiar as possible with the company so I could stand out from other applicants.

I found out quite by accident that there was a reference library in downtown St. Paul called the James J. Hill Library that focusses on business information. This is a private institution that at the time would do those sorts of searches for a small fee. I think I spent about $6 US plus gas and 1.5 hours of my time to drive down and get the information. I regarded it as money well spent as I'm convinced the extra prep got me the job.

Now, would I do the same thing today for an online source? I don't know. For occasional use for specific questions, probably. After all, I'm willing to pay $4-6 for a sci-fi ebook from Baen Books. I've considered buying technical ebooks on O'Reilly's site from time to time but always managed to find the information that I needed elsewhere.

Do I think that this should be the _only_ model available? Absolutely not.

Does the model cited here make sense to me? Meh. Hard to say. I do think that it's a bit overpriced for what it offers. However, if the relevant articles and press releases are more easily searchable than a general Google it may be a worthwhile expense for some people.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Closing Off the Internet and Tossing Fair Use Over the Cliff
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, October 19 2008 @ 01:33 PM EDT
Wouldn't the item author's permission be required to
restrict and/or receive renumeration for viewing his work?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Not content with Free as in freedom, you now want free as in beer too?
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, October 19 2008 @ 03:34 PM EDT
Perhaps you are confused. There is no such thing as free.. You go into a library
- You think that costs nothing to maintain? You think you are not paying for
your local library?



[ Reply to This | # ]

Closing Off the Internet and Tossing Fair Use Over the Cliff
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, October 21 2008 @ 09:37 PM EDT
Everyone should be asking, what is the real root condition that causes the aliments your describing here...

That would be the economic system, one of which depends upon the need of creating profit... thus capitalism here.

Remove capitalism, and the need for profit seeking is gone.

Obviously, don't replace capitalism with another, like Communism either... or socialism...

What we need is a sustainable ecology and environmental economy in which serves life, living and our accountability in all things we conduct ourselves...

That's why "Open Source" is the right step in the right direction.

And it's why the Internet can be of help, allowing everyone to contribute, cooperate and collaborate!

[ Reply to This | # ]

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