Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Eagle Scouts Protest BSA Policy Banning Gays

The Boy Scouts of America announced on July 17, 2012 that the organization would continue its policy of excluding individuals - both youth Scouts and parent leaders - who identify as gay or lesbian. Here’s the statement from the BSA Chief Executive:

“The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting,” said Bob Mazzuca, Chief Scout Executive, Boy Scouts of America. “While a majority of our membership agrees with our policy, we fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society.”Link to full press release

The Boston Globe on August 27, 2012 ran an in-depth story about Eagle Scouts protesting the Boy Scouts of America policy banning gays from the organization. Many Eagle scouts are returning their hard-won Eagle Scout badges. But several are organizing others using the Internet and Facebook to take more useful steps to protest the policy. The step of returning a badge is remarkable and heartfelt gesture -- my eldest brother is an Eagle Scout and I know how hard it is to gain that title. A scout must earn 21 merit badges and then lead a major community service project (recruiting, motivating and directing a number of other volunteers in the process). I have received one C.V. with Eagle Scout listed as an achievement and it certainly made me sit up and take notice. I am sure it is a qualification that makes a difference in a guy's resume for any job.

The scouts who return the badge in protest do so because they feel the Boy Scouts of America have betrayed the values enshrined in the badge: honesty, trustworthiness and tolerance, top among them. According to the Globe article,
Jerry Hegarty, the scoutmaster in Reading, said that many of his Scouts do not support the policy on gays.

“It’s at odds with some of the points of the Scout oath,” he said, and, by sending back their awards, Eagle Scouts are “exposing an archaic perspective on certain policies.”

He added: “I’m not disappointed in them. It’s to be applauded.”

Leo A.P. Giannini, who became an Eagle Scout with Troop 1 in Pittsfield in 2005, called the policy a “serious contradiction” of Scout teachings. (snip) Another scout, Bill Thomas, who became an Eagle Scout in 2003 with Troop 702 in Reading, added: “The first point of the Scout oath is “Trustworthy” and they’re not allowing people to be open and true to themselves and true to others.”

Giannini and Eagle Scout and activist Zach Wahls have created a website, Scouts for Equality, where people can share videos, sign a petition and donate. This also links to Change. org. More than 475,000 people have signed two different petitions on the site. One is a petition asking BSA to allow the Board to vote on whether they want to end the ban on gay scouts and leaders. That petition has garnered nearly 150,000 signatures The other petition, by far the most popular, has received 328, 725 signatures as of 5:30 PM EST today, and requests the BSA to reinstate a cub scout leader who was removed for being openly gay. This was Jennifer Tyrrell, a den mother from Ohio.

Many of the scout protests have showed up on social media sites like Facebook. One scout went through the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation GLAAD, which has begun collecting petitions. There is a Tumblr site, Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges. You should read the open letter there to understand how at least one scout feels about the hypocrisy in this policy. There are 150 letters so far affiliated with this site. There are also links to 8 articles from around the U.S. covering Eagle Scouts protesting the policy by returning their badges, the oldest appears to be from July 25, 2012. Another is from the Atlantic. There is another social media site linking Eagle Scouts protesting the policy on Boing Boing. The letters are both brave and heart breaking. These guys learned how to be leaders and they are leading! It's hard to count, but at least 12 letters here from Eagle Scouts sending back their badges. And the best explanation of what it means to be an Eagle Scout.

The decoration for this page is from the Tumblr site, Roger Chenard's letter and returning memorabilia. http://eaglebadges.tumblr.com/page/2 (scroll down to Aug. 13, 2012). I have to admire the heck out of these guys' principles!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Next threat on the Internet Horizon: Watch the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT)

The World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT)is a global treaty conference hosted by the International Telecommunication Union where the national governments will be coming together to discuss and modify the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs). The Conference will be held December 3 - 14, 2012 in Dubai.

The fear is that the ITU which are calling the meeting and planning the update of the regulations are less than transparent and are in the pocket of copyright/IP lobbyists.
(see blog posts at Electronic Frontier Foundation here, and here and from Milton Mueller for the Internet Governance Project here.

According to the EFF, the ITU is inimical to the Internet's model and ethos:

the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a bureaucratic agency made up of 193 member states and corporate “associate” members that include some of the world’s most powerful telecommunications companies. When it hashes out treaties, the ITU epitomizes many of the worst traits of Internet policymaking -- it is an exclusive, government-directed process that is hostile to the distributed decision-making model that has fostered the Internet’s growth. (snip)

One dangerously problematic provision in the ITU Constitution, [f]or example, includes a State’s "right" to stop or suspend access to telecommunications services in order to address any communication that is dangerous to state security. In other words, the ITU Constitution permits “kill switches”— it allows governments to cut off the lifeline of communications networks in times of political protest, as the world witnessed states doing during the recent event in Egypt and Libya.

In an effort to remain relevant, the ITU has already issued a number of technical standards (ITU-T) and reports relating to various aspects of Internet policy, including on cybersecurity and cybercrime. However, these have not been binding, nor have they witnessed broad adoption or been elevated to the level of international regulations.

This coming December, the ITU’s underlying core regulatory instrument, the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), will be revised at a gathering of global governments known as the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT). This meeting is particularly significant because it’s the first time the treaty will be revised since the Internet was widely adopted. And given concerns about the problematic Internet-related provisions already in place, considerable attention has been directed at the ITU’s upcoming meeting in December, when its 193 member states intend to vote on whether to regulate certain aspects of Internet policy at an international level.

Just as with other international treaties or trade agreements, the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) are legally binding on all the ITU’s Member States. This means that while it’s still up to lawmakers to decide whether, or to what extent, they should implement the updated ITRs into domestic law, democratic countries, including those with weak democratic institutions or a lack of robust advocacy organizations will be more likely to adopt any flawed provisions that make their way into the treaty.
This will bear watching and the folks who care about Internet growth and health being ready to lobby their legislator

Monday, August 20, 2012

Accessible Publicly Funded Research

The Chronicle of Higher Education, in a lengthy Hot Type article by Jennifer Howard, "A Push Grows Abroad for Open Access to Publicly Financed Research," covers a lot of interesting territory.

In Britain, the Finch Group Report recommended methods to broaden access to published research. David Willetts, British minister for universities and science announced that the government had accepted nearly all the Finch Group's recommendations. They then issued a Research Councils UK Policy on Access to Research Outputs. In exchange for publishers making individual articles available on Open Access (OA), the policy agrees that publishers should be able to charge extra money added onto subscriptions. The policy has been criticized by Stevan Harnad from the University of South Hampton (see keynote address), posted by the speaker at SPARC OA in Google Groups.

The European Union, on July 17, 2012, announced that it would make open access "a general principle of Horizon 2020" which is their framework for supporting research and innovation.

Denmark actually had their group of government councils make a statement strongly in favor or Open Access in June, 2012.

In Australia, Aidan Byrne, the new head of the Australian Research Council has spoken to newspapers claiming a "particular interest" in Open Access. This is a turn-around from his predecessor, Margaret Sheil, who "dismissed repeated calls to embrace open access," according to the Chronicle article.

The Chronicle article is definitely worth a read, but my link will probably require you have a subscription to read it online. If you want to find it in print, it is at page A10, of the Aug. 17, 2012 issue of the the Chronicle. It takes up just one newsprint page.

The Open Access logo on this page was featured at Eloquent Science blog in a post about Open Access.

ABA won't be accrediting non-US law schools

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the ABA has turned down a request from the Peking University School of Transnational Law for accreditation. In the process, they made a policy decision not to begin accrediting non-US law schools.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Vote Fraud! It's real -- but not the way the Republicans expected.

Whoopsy daisy! While there are all these stories going down about the new statutes various states are enacting the try to stamp out supposed voting fraud (see the Republican National Lawyers' website about voter fraud -- but be sure to read the little headlines carefully, because they are not scaring up much news about the sort of voter fraud these statutes are designed for).

Voter fraud involving individual voters seems to be pretty ephemeral and rare (just 10 cases in the last 12 years, nationwide).


There was vote fraud going on right here in my Massachusetts backyard.


It's true. (Another story from local station WGBH) with more detail.

But this vote fraud shoe is on the other foot. An employee in the town clerk's office for the little town of East Longmeadow appears to have changed hundreds of residents' voter registrations from Democrat to Republican, without their request or any notice to them. Then, he issued forged ballots in these folks' names, trying to throw the Republican primary in his own favor.

This story link does not explain, but the whole sorry mess came out when the excellent staff for this clerk's opponent did some investigation after the primary ran. They were surprised at the outcome (though she did not lose, it was closer than expected). So they did some careful exploring, and found enough suspicious stuff to call in the Secretary of State. There were die-hard Democrats, members of the local party apparatus, whose voter registration was switched to Republican. When the individual voters were contacted, they had certainly not requested a switch and knew nothing about, and had not voted in the Republican primary.

Meantime, here is a helpful database about voter fraud put up and maintained by a large group of independent reporters, who have tried to verify the thousands of reports of voter fraud, and only found 10 that were actual, verifiable fraud by voters. They also include lots more great info, tracking cases, and allowing you to sort by type of fraud, or search by name.

Gary Trudeau, in his Doonesbury comic
, has been riding this voter fraud/vote suppression activity hard, lampooning it and drawing devastating parallels to the Jim Crow laws we thought we had left behind with his character Jimmy Crow

Cartoon courtesy of Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury at Slate.com

Right of Publicity Laws

The Boston Globe had an intriguing article in the Ideas section today about a bill pending in the Massachusetts legislature enlarging our current right to publicity: "Life, the aftermarket: New laws to protect celebrities push the bounds of what part of a human life can be considered property." (I gave the title and subtitle from the print Globe. Online as you will see, the title is "Who owns you after you die? A Massachusetts bill opens a window onto a shifting corner of the law.) According to the article by Leon Neyfakh, comedian Bill Cosby, a Massachusetts resident, became concerned about the possibility that his likeness might be used after his death to promote products or ideas he would never approve of. He asked his state legislator to sponsor a bill that would allow celebrities and regular residents alike to protect their images, names, speech patterns and various "signature affectations" even after death. This is a form of Right to Publicity Law (the article does not say so), and so far 13 states have extended the right to control an individual's publicity to post-death, according to Neyfakh. His article focuses on the philosophical issues raised between the individual's interest in controlling use of his or her persona balanced against First Amendment free speech and creative rights of others.

There are some interesting, brief quotes from the Boston College law professor who studies death law, Ray Madoff, author of Immortality and the Law: The rising power of the American dead. There are a few, less investigated issues raised briefly in the article that I wish had gotten more discussion, but perhaps that is asking a bit much of a newspaper article. These are questions that raise the specter of owning the right to human beings, even a "persona," echoes most uncomfortably the law of slavery. The question, what are we giving up by allowing major figures to become monetized assets? The question, isn't there some public right to cultural heritage?

In Massachusetts, the current law on right of publicity is codified at MGLA Chapter 214, section 3A. Citizens Media Law Project has a very nice guide about it. The law in Massachusetts currently does not extend to posthumous control of publicity. There is a handy survey of state laws on Right of Publicity compiled by Prof. Jonathan Faber, an (adjunct?) professor* at Indiana University, Indianapolis and Bloomington. The statutes I checked on very nicely reproduce the text and citation, rather than referring the reader to various states' websites. However, be alert that the statutes and blog may not be more current than say, 2008, when Faber lists some amendments pending for the laws in California and Illinois. The link to the survey of statutes will also link to his very interesting blog that includes commentary, case notes, and some marketing stuff.

There are some interesting notes on efforts to pass a federal Right to Publicity law, at International Trademark Association, an article posted online from the Communications Lawyer, vol. 28, no. 2, Aug., 2011, "Why a Federal Right to Publicity Statute is Necessary," by Kevin L. Vick and Jean-Paul Jassy.

Just by happenstance, the Globe also carried a brief opinion piece in the same issue, "Fan Fiction has a Place in Literature," by Cathy Young. She discusses the right and independence of fan fiction authors to riff on beloved characters in previous works. It sort of ties into the Right to Publicity. In a way an author's rights over his or her characters are a bit like celebrities' or even their own interests in their protecting their personal image from exploitation by others. And yet, as the Young points out, Shakespeare used characters from earlier works of all sorts, like The Moorish Captain, an Italian novella, which became the kernel for Othello, according to this editorial. Most of the great plays by ancient Greek or Roman playwrights were based on characters fully lifted from their myths and legends. As with the earlier article, Young raises the question of what creative chains we apply to the future by locking up access to potential mother lodes of inspiration.

* Faber may also (or perhaps, more clearly?) be an associate in the law firm McNeely, Stephenson, Thopy and Harrold -- he is not listed as a faculty member at IU Indianapolis, and may be an adjunct at both IU Bloomington and at IU Indianapolis.

The picture of a child peering through chains is from a blog, "Circles All the Way Down".

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Copyright and Fair Use at Georgia State

Link to this excellent blog note by Kevin Smith at Duke about the ruling in the Georgia State fair use litigation. (Cambridge Univ. Press, et al. v. Mark Becker as President of Georgia State Univ., et al., in the Federal District Court for the N. Dist. of Georgia, Atlanta Div., opinion filed May 11, 2012) Tip of the OOTJ hat to our fabulous colleague, Ron Wheeler at San Francisco U.

The thing was, that in a mixed, complex opinion, more than half the claims were either dropped by the publishers or dismissed by the judge, and then, in the stunning finish, the judge awarded the costs and attorney fees to Georgia State!

There are a number of articles by now on the matter:

Chronicle of Higher Education (with the excellent link to the decision).

Library Journal (includes links to earlier articles in the same journal covering the original filing of the case, and the closing arguments in the case, etc., but no links to original documents, sadly).

Inside Higher Education includes a link to Prof. Kevin Smith's blog post as well as one to the Association of American University Presses website in support of the plaintiffs in the case. This includes an excellent section of original documents in the case, most from the plaintiffs, but some from the defendants as well. Excellent link site!

Educause provides a web page with lots of links original documents:
* Document with links to the decision and analysis by 3 scholars (note from Betsy: this sometimes does not show up on my computer; I am not sure if it's a problem with my computer or their link)

* a memorandum summarizing the key rulings in the case and the implications for libraries (again, the PDF does not show up on my computer and I don't know if it's their glitch or mine)

* policy notes from the ARL (I cannot get this link to work today; I hope it works other times!)

* a collection of blog notes from all over about the case, and more (these work!)

The Digital Reader - very handy because it handily recaps the story of the case up til the decision, and provides some nice links out to blogs and a NY Times story that follows the story through the years from the 2008 filing til now.

Experts figure the story may not be over yet. They expect that the publishers may go on to appeal this district court decision. But it was a huge statement for Fair Use Doctrine defenders in an era when there has been such a drumbeat (at least in the lobbyist-influenced legislatures) in favor of the copyright holders. But it's a complex, nuanced and HUGE decision -- 350 pages! The judge was careful and made decisions on an item-by-item basis.

She laid out clear rules for how universities can and cannot use textbook versus non-textbook materials and still fit within fair use guidelines. But she also gave GSU credit for sincerely trying to develop policies that would honor fair use. That undoubtedly saved them!

So, it's not a broad, clear win for one side over the other. But the awarding of the attorney fees was a pretty strong statement!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Re Respect

I have modified my post titled Respect. I removed a few sentences about the AALL Members' Forum. Upon reflection, after a phone conversation with AALL Executive Director Kate Hagan, I decided I would rephrase the post. Kate read me a part of the transcript of the Forum. I mis-heard, or perhaps mis-remembered, that part of the Forum. I would rather be careful and as truthful as I can be. I do not intend to hurt anybody's reputation with this blog. The point I was trying to make with that section of Respect, was that the moderator mis-spoke (something that I recognized even at the time), into a volatile situation. It was part of a pattern of poor communication between AALL leadership and members, albeit a very understandable one -- I would hate to try to speak off the cuff up there when tempers may be getting frayed!

But one of the things about that Forum that was particularly annoying was that there was a little Greek chorus arranged. If anybody wanted to speak about the Bylaws, there were AALL past Presidents Kay Todd (93-94) and Judy Meadows (97-98) to act as a tag team to present the other side. It did NOT feel like a situation that really welcomed open questions, debate or even comments.

Just my humble opinion.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Professional Association versus Trade Association

Would the AMA be more like a trade association if they suddenly began admitting drug company representatives as AMA members with the full membership rights to vote, be committee members and become members of the executive board? Why not? It’s the “American Medical Association” not the American Doctor’s Association, right? So anybody interested in medical things ought to be able to join, right? So why can’t drug reps and medical supply reps join that organization? Interestingly, the doctors have begun to see the ethical problems posed by their longtime close relationship with the drug company reps, and painfully begun a separation process (see NY Times article from 2007).

Would the AALL be more like a trade association if we changed our bylaws so that vendor reps had all the membership rights that librarians have? Would the antitrust issues that the specialist lawyer spoke about, concerns over price-fixing and rigging markets become more of a concern with an association if the consumers as well as the providers were full members of the association? Maybe we already have become more like a trade association and just didn’t notice.

I don't know if we need a scandal or some big books to wake us up to the problems that we have between law librarians and our vendors and publishers. We depend on each other, just as doctors and drug companies do. But there needs to be a bit more arms' length, and bit more care about the appearance, as well. And it gets difficult to maintain both the arms length and the appearance when everybody is a member of the same association and everybody is on the decision-making, even when they can be pressured, subtly or not, by their employer, against their own better judgement.

I like and I respect as individuals many colleagues who work or have worked for vendors. It does not make a librarian (or non-librarian) a bad person to work for Lexis or Thomson-West or any other vendor or publisher. But I can see very easily that if I worked for one of these outfits and then I were on a committee at AALL, and my boss came to me to lay some pressure on me about an outcome, I might feel a lot of concern about my job and my family! How much more would this affect our association if the position were on the executive board?

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

RESPECT: Musing on AALL Members Forum, 2012

I’ve been thinking about the members’ forum at this year’s AALL. There were a couple issues that came up, seemingly disparate.

1. The Bylaws change

This item was introduced gingerly, with the moderator and executive board members obviously waiting for a bunch of angry responses. They had 2 former presidents of the association all ready primed with prepared statements about why it is such a terrific idea and why it’s the future of the association. They sort of didn’t know what to do when they received very little feedback from a fairly silent audience. I stood up and asked them if they would consider issuing any position statement to explain in more detail than had yet been given the reasons for this dramatic and sudden move. The answer was not exactly a position paper, but FAQs, which seems to be the preferred way to communicate with membership these days. People have lost track of how many changes have already been made to the membership category that includes vendors, and there is actually a great deal of confusion right now about what membership rights vendor-employed AALL members already have, so I look forward to the FAQs. But I still do not understand why we are rushing the way we are doing, and I really feel that the process is being non-transparent and procedurally unfair. I might feel less concerned about the content of the bylaw if the process were less stink-intensive!

2. The AALL takeover of the highly successful PLL Summit
This item was brought up by Steve Lastres, the outgoing chair of the PLL SIS. He was very upset with the change. He felt, and probably represented the feeling of many PLL members, that the SIS had worked long and hard to build up a successful program. And now that it was hugely successful, AALL wanted to take it over. (The author has removed part of this post. She replaced it with the following sentences. BMcK 8/14/12). The moderator in replying to Steve's comments made a statement that could be easily misconstrued. In the heat of the moment, disgruntled, possibly angry listeners could easily mis-hear the statement and believe the statement was making things much worse and more outrageous than Steve's original comments. It was simply an example of making a response off the cuff into an emotionally charged environment.

But there is something that ties these apparently unrelated items together. That is the lack of response and respect for membership. Perhaps I am being too sensitive, but I think that there is a real problem here with the Executive Board and the staff at Headquarters understanding that the membership feels that these decisions and the way they are being made and communicated:

a. lacks any sense that this is a membership organization, run for the members, with membership input, for the benefit of members;

b. lacks any opportunity for members to give input or to even hear in a timely fashion about the decisions. I still say that putting the board books out for member information is NOT transparency! Look at the ALA website and see what they are doing for membership information… All you have to do is just cut and paste to put that stuff out on the website. Or maybe abandon the boardbook concept entirely and use the web minutes concept for the board, who might prefer that, anyway!

c. There is a sense that there is impatience with the slow and clunky workings of democracy. It’s messy and takes time to bring people along. But that’s what it takes – you have to take time to educate people and let them think about the issue. People are not stupid, and they are not malevolent. They need to understand the issue, and if you treat them with respect, usually, they will come to a reasonable opinion. It may not be the same as your own, but it will not be a lunatic position.

d. The lack of respect for members who are not on the executive board, or not in the “inner circle” has a lot to do with the fact that AALL may be losing members or that current members are putting their energies into other associations. I am starting to think that way myself. And that is pretty darned sad.

I think ALA or SLA could very easily win a sizeable chunk of PLL members right now. They are pissed, and I think rightly so. There may be good reasons to centralize the Summit. But you don’t just come in and seize programming that an SIS has worked to build up til it’s the best educational programming that ran at the meeting. There was a reason that it was the best stuff there for the private librarians, and that was because it was sponsored. If they walk out, to form a new association, I might just go with them.

Here is a link to Aretha Franklin singing RESPECT! sing it, woman!
(the image of Aretha Franklin is from http://www.aretha-franklin.com/, and looks to be from the day she sang for President Obama's inauguration in 2008.

Same Sex Marriage News

Viet Nam Government Considering Legalizing Same Sex Marriage

Viet Nam's first gay pride parade will be held in Hanoi on August 5. And even long time gay rights activists in the region were stunned when the Vietnamese government announced it was considering legalizing same sex marriage. Whether the law will ultimately pass remains to be seen.

The Justice Ministry will consider opinions from the public along with government agencies before submitting its draft proposal to the National Assembly next May on whether to recommend same-sex marriage or some other type of legal recognition with rights. Then, it must be approved by a majority of parliament.
(from the NPR story linked in the title for Viet Nam section)

But just the consideration of such a law in Viet Nam is historic in the Asian region, where there is little support for gays and lesbians. The NPR story at the link above gives a thumbnail sketch of the status in various Asian nations, with generally low support, especially in the Muslim nations of the region. But even Thailand, which, to casual visitors may seem to have a vibrant gay/lesbian/transgender life in the cities, actually provides very little beyond the tourism areas where these activities thrive. Viet Nam’s Communist government is distinctive in repressing religious expression that might otherwise press back against the measure.


Maine will have a ballot question in November, 2012, asking voters
"Do you want to allow the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?"

And of course, money is pouring into the state from supporters and opponents.

Washington (state) Referendum 74

But not as much, I think as is pouring into Washington state. In February, the legislature there passed a law legalizing same sex marriage. But opponents collected enough signatures to put the decision to a referendum ballot vote, Referendum 74. The largest single public gift so far has come from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos who gave $2.5 million to help support same sex marriage after receiving an e-mail request from one of Amazon’s earliest employees (no longer working there)!

Democrats Include Same Sex Marriage in Party Platform
And the Democratic National Party seems poised to include a plank for the party platform in support of same sex marriage!