Showing posts with label publishing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label publishing. Show all posts

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Public-domain materials take legal education by storm; law librarians trace history from casebooks to 'OERs'

OER Is Sharing by Giulia Forsythe (CC0 1.0)
Law librarians Emma Wood and Misty Peltz-Steele, my brilliant colleagues (and 50% my spouse), have published Open Your Casebooks Please: Identifying Alternatives to Langdell's Legacy.

The work discusses the revolutionary contemporary movement of open-educational resources (OERs), a term, I learned, coined by UNESCO in 2002, particularly in legal education.  Here is the abstract:

Nonprofits, academic institutions, and educators have collaborated, at all academic levels, to create quality Open Educational Resources (OERs) since that term was defined by UNESCO in 2002. These open-source educational materials are in the public domain and published under an open license, meaning that they can be freely copied, used, adapted, and re-shared with the public. They include not only textbooks but supplemental educational materials in various media formats. Their value is such that even federal and state legislatures are taking note and passing laws to incentivize the creation and use of OER in both secondary and higher education. Despite the momentum in academics toward the adoption of open textbooks and supplemental materials, legal academia has been slower to embrace open casebooks. By design, OER offers a great deal of flexibility for educators and the promise of cost savings for academic institutions and students. This paper examines the modern history of casebooks and the OER movement, as well as the various OER platforms ideally suited to create open content for law courses. The authors posit that a greater understanding of OER will give law professors and students a wider range of choice and ownership in course materials.

When I joined my first casebook, published in 2006, it was still important to attach one's project to a prominent publisher, for the purpose of enhancing one's CV and bolstering the tenure-and-promotion application.  Thankfully, legal academia has started to recognize the needlessness of conventional publishing as a gatekeeper for legal educational materials.  The analysis was hastened by student sticker shock at textbook prices, which, I can attest, do not relieve authors of our day jobs.  I myself am, mercifully, no longer at a point in my career at which I need to impress anyone.  So I'm teaching Torts this year with "Tortz," my own OER in progress, at no additional charge to students.

The Wood & Peltz-Steele article will appear in 43 Western New England Law Review (2021).

Friday, April 23, 2021

Publishers put the '©' in World Book Day

The 1885 John Ormsby translation of Cervantes's Don Quijote,
with 1880 illustrations by Gustave Doré, are in the public domain
at Project Gutenberg.

Today, April 23, is the International Day of the Book, or "World Book and Copyright Day," a recognition organized by UNESCO since 1995.  The date was chosen to coincide with the date of death of Miguel de Cervantes, though that date in truth is only an estimate.

Some of the promotional material from UNESCO refers only to "World Book Day," and I've found no clear record of how copyright became attached.  Cervantes was gone for a century by the time the British Statute of Anne came on the scene in 1710.  In fairness to publishers, copyright did contribute to making authorship and printing commercially viable, so it deserves credit for promoting creativity and literacy.  (Read more about the history of copyright and later developments.)

But the skeptic in me suspects that "copyright" as part of our international day of recognition came about at the behest of an industry, which, today, overreaches.  When, ancillary to civil rights-era constitutional activism, the U.S. Supreme Court found some room for the First Amendment to operate even as against the copyright clause of the 1789 Constitution, the publishers took the lead in drafting ungenerous "fair use guidelines," limits on copyright carve-out, that too often are regarded as law, especially by administrators in academia.

Lately, my wife, a librarian, and I have been troubled by the terms imposed on our local library, and all libraries, for the use of electronic books.  Once upon a time in the analog world, a library could lend a book as many times as the book could physically sustain.  Even then, the library could rebind the book and give it a new lending life.  After a single purchase, a book could reach new readers for centuries, well beyond its copyright.

1880 Doré illustration of the Adventure of the Windmills
No longer.  Publishers now self-servingly "estimate" the shelf-life equivalent of an electronic book and permit libraries to lend the book only so many times, say, 52 loans or two years, whichever comes first.  Then poof, the e-book turns into a pumpkin, and the library has to pay for a new e-book again.  Be careful about putting your name to a library service that automatically checks out an e-book to you when it becomes available, but you can then pass it on if you're not ready to read it.  The access apps are supported by publishers, and your pass counts as a full check-out against the license limit.  Our local libraries cannot afford this turnover.  Only time will tell what damage we inflict on public access, collective memory, and incentives to create, not to mention global equity in the distribution of knowledge, when we have fully turned books into inalienable commodities.

If you spare two thoughts for "World Book and Copyright Day," let one be about how you can push back against copyright restrictions so that books, including their electronic equivalents, can be, and forever remain, accessible to all.  That's no windmill.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Shine the light: 'Journal of Civic Information' debuts

There can't be enough research on facilitating the freedom of information, given that today we are a global information society.  A new journal debuted this month from the Brechner Center and partners that strikes at the FOI sweet spot, and as we wish all information projects were, it's open access.  Welcome to The Journal of Civic Information.  Here is its About:

The Journal of Civic Information is an open-access, interdisciplinary journal that publishes peer-reviewed research related to the field of accessibility of public information. We welcome submissions from both scholars and practitioners from all disciplines that involve managing information for public use. 
The Journal is a publication of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida. The Brechner Center is an incubator for initiatives that give the public timely and affordable access to the information necessary for informed, participatory citizenship. The Center is a source of research, expertise and advocacy about the law of gathering and disseminating news across all platforms and technologies. 
The Journal publishes quarterly online, and author submissions will be accepted on a rolling year-round basis. 
Proposals may encompass any research methodological approach (legal, survey, experimental, content analysis, etc.), and should provide insights of practical value for those who work day-to-day in access to government information. Topics may include issues regarding access to public records and meetings, court transparency, access to public employees and elected officials, open data and technology, and other related matters. The Journal gives priority to articles with relevance to the state-and-local levels of government. 
And here is the ToC for volume 1, issue 1:


Submitting authors start here.  The journal is headed by access aces Frank LoMonte, University of Florida; David Cuillier, University of Arizona; and Rachael Jones, University of Florida.  I'm privileged to add the rough edge to an otherwise exceptionally well rounded editorial board.

Bring it on, secrecy!