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22 Jun 13:13

Washington Office at Annual 2017: Copyright

by Carrie Russell

Copyright is just as complex as always and librarians are expected to be knowledgeable and manage their institutions’ copyright issues. The Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) presents three programs at Annual 2017 designed to help librarians new to the copyright specialist role find professional guidance:

Life-size female character with glasses a al Peanuts-style "Copyright Help 5 cents" booth at Annual 2017.

At Annual 2017, Look for the life-size “Lola Lola” character in the McCormick Place Exhibit Hall to find the “Ask A Copyright Question” booth. Source: Carrie Russell

“Ask a Copyright Question” Booth (Saturday and Sunday, June 24-25, 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM)

Is copyright getting in the way of effective teaching and learning? Do you have rogue teachers copying textbooks? Can you show a Netflix film in the classroom? Copyright experts at the “Ask a Copyright Question” Booth in the McCormick Place Exhibit Hall will be on hand to respond to questions you need to be answered when addressing copyright issues at your public, school, college or university library. Stop on by while you’re checking out the exhibits and pick up new (and free!) copyright education tools. Our experts are ready to give you an opinion on anything.

You Make the Call Copyright Game (Sunday, June 25, 1:00-2:30 PM)

Don’t miss this interactive copyright program in game show format, where panelists will respond to fair use questions, pop culture and potent potables. Panelists include Sandra Enimil, director of Copyright Resources Center at Ohio State University; Eric Harbeson, music special collections librarian at the University of Colorado; and Lindsey Weeramuni, from the Office of Digital Learning at MIT. Kyle Courtney from the Office for Scholarly Communication at Harvard University will keep us laughing and Marty Brennan, copyright and licensing librarian at UCLA, will be channeling bygone game show hosts like Gene Barry of the Match Game. Remember those long microphones? And yes, attendees will have their own buzzers!

Another view from the swamp: copyright policy update (Monday, June 26,  10:30-11:30 AM)

The U.S. Copyright Office is a unit of the Library of Congress, and now that a librarian had been appointed Librarian of Congress, rights holders have some concerns. Why are they so worried, and how is Congress going to respond? A panel of policy experts will address House Judiciary copyright review, including legislation that would make the Copyright Office Register more independent from the Library of Congress – and proposes that President Trump appoint the next Register instead of the Library of Congress. (Really?!?) Adam Eisgrau, managing director of ALA’s Office of Government Relations, and Krista Cox, director of Public Policy Initiatives at the Association of Research Libraries, will discuss U.S. copyright policy with special guest and international copyright expert Stephen Wyber from the International Federation of Library Associations. (What in the world is the EU up to?!?)

All of this brought to you by the OITP Copyright Education Subcommittee, which strives to make copyright entertaining.

The post Washington Office at Annual 2017: Copyright appeared first on District Dispatch.

22 Jun 13:13

Colorado copyright conference turns five

by Carrie Russell
University of Colorado's campus in Colorado Springs.

University of Colorado’s campus in Colorado Springs.

I had the great honor of being asked to speak about federal copyright at the Kraemer Copyright Conference at the University of Colorado (UCCS) in beautiful Colorado Springs. This locally produced and funded conference is now in its fifth year and has grown in popularity. No longer a secret, registration maxes out at 200, making the conference friendly, relaxed and relevant for all that attend.

And who attends? A growing number of primarily academic librarians responsible for their respective institutions’ copyright programs and education efforts. This job responsibility for librarians has grown significantly – in 1999 there were only two librarians in higher education with a copyright title. Now there are hundreds of copyright librarians, which is great because who other than librarians—devoted to education, learning, the discovery and sharing of information—should lead copyright efforts? (Remember! The purpose of the copyright law is to advance learning through the broad dissemination of copyright protected works.)

The conference is the brainchild of Carla Myers, a former winner of the Robert L. Oakley copyright scholarship and the scholarly communications librarian at the University of Miami who previously worked at UCCS. Funded by the Kraemer Family, conference registration is free – you just have to get there. (For the last two years, ALA has been one of the co-sponsors).

My assignment was to provide an update on copyright issues currently of attention in Congress. Registrants were most interested in pending legislation regarding the appointment of the next Copyright Register, which would move that responsibility from Librarian of Congress to the President. The new administration’s budget proposals for Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has directed more attention than ever to the political environment of the Nation’s capital, and librarians have been more active in library advocacy.

There are rumors afoot that another regionally based copyright conference is being planned, which would be a welcome addition and contribution to the administration and study of libraries and the copyright law.

The post Colorado copyright conference turns five appeared first on District Dispatch.

21 Jun 20:00

Academics fear the value of knowledge for its own sake is diminishing

by Jennifer Chubb, Doctoral Researcher, University of York
Is“useful” knowledge the only knowledge worth knowing? shutterstock

A climate of “anti-intellectualism”, faltering levels of trust in “experts” and an era of “post-truth” provides a rather dreary depiction of the state of academia today.

Compound this with the reorganisation of higher education – where universities are run more like businesses – along with the politics of austerity, and it may be little surprise that the sector is said to be in crisis.

This is all coming at a time when there is an increased expectation for academics to be more accountable for their research by evidencing its economic and societal benefits – known as impact.

This expectation has received mixed responses from many people working in universities. At first, some academics crudely dismissed impact as a nasty government idea. Many researchers could not see how their work could align with it and, fearing a loss of freedom some claimed “science is dead”. This was even accompanied by the arrival of a hearse outside the offices of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council in the UK – sending out the message loud and clear that the impact agenda was problematic and unwelcome. All of which reflected deep emotional and moral concerns within academia about the over management and politicisation of knowledge.

But on the flip side, impact has been welcomed by others for the opportunity it provides academics to make their work more visible and accessible.

The impact agenda

To find out more, our research looked at academics’ emotions in response to the impact agenda – both in the UK and Australia. As part of this, we carried out interviews with 51 professors and senior career-level academics.

Our findings confirm that while pockets of the academic community are deeply concerned about an impact agenda – both in terms of funding and assessment – these reactions do not reflect a lack of willing or sense of duty. Rather academics want to see disciplinary diversity respected and this reflected in terms of research policy.

What makes research valuable? Pexels

The academics we spoke to expressed a range of emotions regarding this increased focus on impact. These ranged from distrust to acceptance, and from excitement, to love and hate. For every academic who spoke of despair, a balance of commitment and even love for their work (and its potential for impact) was also expressed.

As one politics lecturer said:

It’s sort of where my heart lies – quite deliberately and specifically working to apply the research that you are doing to real world political and social challenges across domains of theory and practice.

An archaeology professor also expressed similar sentiments:

We are paid from the public purse and we should be doing research – we are ridiculously privileged to work on whatever we like and it’s wonderful.

To bend your mind a little bit to the fact that some of the stuff you do does have benefits outside the academy, and to put measures in place to make that happen, it’s a minor tax.

Justifying your job

But despite these positive sentiments, academics we spoke to also expressed concerns over their workloads and career security.

Others feared losing credibility and worried about being “exposed” or losing control of their work through public engagement. Though this is perhaps indicative of a lack of skill and confidence in this area. As well as a greater need for academics to understand how to communicate their research appropriately as opposed to “tokenistically”.

Academics also felt the impact agenda challenged them to justify their existence and their academic freedom – something which was felt on a very personal level. A music professor explained:

I don’t feel happy with it, and do I need to justify my job? How many levels do I have to justify it?

Useful knowledge

During the interviews, words such as “scary”, “threat”, “nervousness” and “worry” were used, as many spoke of their “frustrations”, “suspiciousness” and even “resentment” of the focus on impact.

Academics reported feeling sad, unhappy, jealous, anxious, demoralised and disillusioned by the impact agenda. And this sense of vulnerability seemed to be further exacerbated by risks of professional penalisation from their academic peers.

Who gets to decides what’s useful knowledge and what isn’t? Pexels

But it was clear from talking with these academics that these criticisms do not come from a place of entitlement or frustration at having to account for their work. Instead, this was in response to fears about the changing nature of their role and concerns for those whose work does not naturally align with what’s considered to be “useful”. And this increasing pressure to focus on impact at all costs could well damage academic morale, as one theatre professor described:

This agenda reinforces the notion that the only valuable thing in life is money. That is deeply worrying.

Ultimately, our research shows that most academics feel a duty to share their work, they want to make a difference, and they want to communicate their findings to wider audiences. But many are still uncomfortable with this idea of having to “sell” their work, as well as the preoccupation with what is “useful” – because after all how do you really decide what is or isn’t useful to society?

The Conversation

Jennifer Chubb consults for FastTrack Impact

21 Jun 19:56

Ancient DNA reveals how cats conquered the world

by Janet Hoole, Lecturer in Biology, Keele University

Humans may have had pet cats for as long as 9,500 years. In 2004, archaeologists in Cyprus found a complete cat skeleton buried in a Stone Age village. Given that Cyprus has no native wildcats, the animal (or perhaps its ancestors) must have been brought to the island by humans all those millennia ago.

Yet despite our long history of keeping pet cats and their popularity today, felines aren’t the easiest of animals to domesticate (as anyone who’s felt a cat’s cold shoulder might agree). There is also little evidence in the archaeological record to show how cats became our friends and went on to spread around the world.

Now a new DNA study has suggested how cats may have followed the development of Western civilisation along land and sea trade routes. This process was eventually helped by a more concerted breeding attempt in the 18th century, creating the much-loved domestic short-haired or “tabby” cat we know today.

While the origin of the domesticated cat is still a mystery, it seems likely the process of becoming pets took a very long time. It seems that, because cats are so independent, territorial and, at times, downright antisocial, they were not so easy to domesticate as the co-operative, pack-orientated wolf. It’s likely that cats lived around humans for many centuries before succumbing to the lure of the fire and the cushion, and coming in from the cold to become true companions to humans.

The ancestors of today’s domestic cats encountered and interbred with various wildcat species. Ottoni et al., 2017/Nature, Author provided

The cat found in Cyprus corresponds to the Neolithic period of around 10,000 BC to 4,000 BC and the agricultural revolution. This was when people were beginning to settle down and become farmers instead of carrying on the nomadic hunter-gatherer existence that humans had followed for the previous 200,000 years or so. An earlier DNA study of other ancient remains confirms that domestic cats first emerged in what archaeologists call the Near East, the land at the eastern end of the Mediterranean where some of the first human civilisations emerged.

Of course, farming brings its own problems, including infestations of rats and mice, so perhaps it’s not surprising that it is at this time that we see the first occurrence of a cat buried in a human grave. It’s not hard to imagine that early farmers might have encouraged cats to stay around by helping them out with food during lean times of the year, and allowing them to come into their houses.

The gaps in the archaeological record mean that, after the Cyprus remains, evidence for domestic cats doesn’t appear again for thousands of years. More cat graves then start to appear among ancient Egyptian finds (although there is also evidence for tame cats in Stone Age China). It was in Egypt that cats really got their furry paws under the table and became not just part of the family but objects of religious worship.

To track the spread of the domestic cat, the authors of the new study, published in Ecology and Evolution, examined DNA taken from bones and teeth of ancient cat remains. They also studied samples from the skin and hair of mummified Egyptian cats (and you thought emptying the litter tray was bad enough).

They found that all modern cats have ancestors among the Near Eastern and Egyptian cats, although the contributions of these two groups to the gene pool of today’s cats probably happened at different times. From there, the DNA analysis suggests domestic cats spread out over a period of around 1,300 years to the 5th century AD, with remains recorded in Bulgaria, Turkey and Jordan.

‘Blotched’ tabby cat genes became more common alongside striped ‘mackerel’ patterns in the later Middle Ages. Ottoni et al., 2017/Nature, Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, Author provided

Over the next 800 years, domestic cats spread further into northern Europe. But it wasn’t until the 18th century that the traditional “mackerel” coat of the wildcat began to change in substantial numbers to the blotched pattern that we see in many modern tabbies. This suggests that, at that time, serious efforts to breed cats for appearance began – perhaps the origin of modern cat shows.

Another interesting finding is that domestic cats from earliest times, when moved around by humans to new parts of the world, promptly mated with local wildcats and spread their genes through the population. And, in the process, they permanently changed the gene pool of cats in the area.

This has particular relevance to today’s efforts to protect the endangered European wildcat, because conservationists often think interbreeding with domestic cats is one of the greatest threats to the species. If this has been happening all over the old world for the past 9,000 or so years, then perhaps it’s time to stop worrying about wildcats breeding with local moggies. This study suggests that none of the existing species of non-domesticated cats is likely to be pure. In fact, cats’ ability to interbreed has helped them conquer the world.

The Conversation

Janet Hoole does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

21 Jun 17:32

Peer Coaching for Professional Learning

by acrlguest

ACRLog welcomes a guest post from Marisa Méndez-Brady, Science Librarian, and Jennifer Bonnet, Social Sciences & Humanities Librarian, at the University of Maine.

Finding the time and resources to devote to professional learning can be a challenge, especially at institutions that are less geographically proximate to the broader library community. The University of Maine is a land and sea grant institution in the rural town of Orono, where opportunities to engage with peers at other colleges and universities take a concerted effort and may require additional financial resources to participate. While these constraints limit our ability to go to as many conferences as we would like, one day a year our department attends a gathering of Maine academic librarians where colleagues across the state present ideas that generate excitement and lead to further exploration.

During the 2016 Maine Academic Libraries Day, Bowdoin College librarian Beth Hoppe made a strong case for using the ACRL Framework to embrace non-prescriptive practices in our teaching, as part of a critical pedagogical approach to working with students.

Following this talk, we couldn’t stop thinking: how might we enhance the delivery of information literacy concepts in our own library instruction by more deliberately incorporating critical pedagogy? Motivated to improve our teaching techniques and extend our professional learning, the two of us embarked on a peer coaching project. Over the course of three months we used a study group model to brainstorm, design, and implement a suite of lesson plans that centered the diversity of student voices and experiences in our instruction sessions.

Peer coaching is commonly used in K-12 learning environments, and is a technique lauded by the instructional design community for its broad applicability. It is a non-evaluative, professional learning model in which two or more colleagues work collaboratively to: design curricula, create assessments, develop lesson plans, brainstorm ideas, problem solve, and reflect on current pedagogical practices (Robbins, 2015).

Although peer coaching can be formalized within a department or unit, we participated in an informal method known as the study group model, where two or more people engage in collaborative professional development for learning (PDL) around a subject of interest. We chose this model because it offers flexibility when it comes to constraints on time or finances, providing a sustainable method for professional development during the hectic instruction schedule of a typical semester. The graphic below illustrates different approaches to utilizing peer coaching for professional learning.


To shape our peer coaching project, we consulted instructional design literature, which (1) emphasizes the importance of creating professional learning that is individualized to the specific learning context and audience for the learning, and (2) focuses on content, pedagogy, or both (Guskey, 2009). We also integrated the three key components of effective peer coaching: a pre-conference to establish the goals for PDL; the learning process; and a post-conference to assess the PDL process.

The pre-conference in the context of peer coaching consists of meeting to establish PDL goals based on participant interest and applicability to one’s praxis. Our pre-conferencing took a two-pronged approach. First, we established an overarching goal to use the ACRL Framework to develop learner-centered teaching outcomes. Then, we held individual pre-conferences focused on the following Frames: (1) research as inquiry, (2) scholarship as conversation, and (3) searching as strategic exploration. We selected three upcoming instruction sessions (i.e., already scheduled in the library) that would be opportune for trying out new pedagogical approaches.

After we set each agenda, we turned from pre-conferencing to the learning process, which involved three study group meetings to design our lesson plans. In advance of each meeting, we selected relevant articles to read and reviewed two to three corresponding lesson plans in the Community of Online Research Assignments. The lesson plans we chose not only engaged with the Framework but revolved around students’ interests and experiences, which helped us consider teaching techniques that were non-prescriptive in practice and drew on critical pedagogical concepts. We then used the scheduled meeting time to adapt these lesson plans to fit the goals of our upcoming instruction sessions.

“When everyone in the classroom, teacher and students, recognizes that they are responsible for creating a learning community together, learning is at its most meaningful and useful.” – bell hooks, Teaching Critical Thinking: Practical Wisdom

The first lesson plan involved a teach-in that asked students to share their decision-making process when searching for information in both open and licensed resources (ACRL frame: research as inquiry), and was targeted at an upper-level undergraduate communications and marketing course. The second lesson plan focused on deconstructing citations and reverse engineering bibliographies, and was designed for an upper-level undergraduate wildlife policy class (ACRL frame: scholarship as conversation). The third lesson plan used one piece of information from a vaguely-worded news article as a jumping-off point for finding related information across various media, which we co-taught for a student club on campus (ACRL frame: searching as strategic exploration). Although these lesson plans were designed for specific contexts, they are broadly applicable across disciplines and academic levels.

We further engaged with critical pedagogy in a post-conference that succeeded each study group meeting. In the peer coaching context, the post-conference acts as an assessment of the study group experience for us (the learners) and emphasizes the role of self-reflection in gauging our own learning. Building on the work we started in the classroom (via each lesson plan), we took a feminist pedagogical perspective to self reflection that involved open-ended questions about process and practice, and addressed our own PDL outcomes.

“Feminist assessment is inherently reflective, and reflection itself is a feminist act.” Maria Accardi, Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction

We hope to continue using peer coaching in other areas of our praxis. Peer coaching offers a low stakes, low-cost option for professional development that leverages existing resources, draws on the interests and skills of colleagues, and allows for higher frequency contact among participant learners (versus a traditional yearly conference). We also found that the informal structure of the study group model supports flexible implementation and facilitates home-grown continuing education opportunities that are targeted to specific issues we face at our library.

So often, we absorb ideas at conferences, webinars, or through informal conversations. Yet, actualizing these ideas in our own institutional environments can be challenging due to issues like time, motivation, and support. Next time you discover a novel approach or way of thinking about your praxis, we encourage you to try peer coaching! We’d love to hear from you about how you use this professional learning strategy in your own environment.

09 Jun 12:38

It's Out! This is What a Librarian Looks Like

by birdie
From The Huffington Post news of the publication of This Is What a Librarian Looks Like by Kyle Cassidy.

Kudos to the authors and the participants! Tell us your thoughts about participating and the finished product in the comments below.

09 Jun 12:31

How TV cultivates authoritarianism – and helped elect Trump

by James Shanahan, Dean of the Media School, Indiana University

Many gallons of ink (and megabytes of electronic text) have been devoted to explaining the surprise victory of Donald Trump.

Reasons range from white working-class resentment, to FBI Director James Comey’s decision to reopen the Hillary Clinton email investigation, to low turnout. All likely played some role. It would be a mistake to think the election turned on one single factor.

However, a study we conducted during the campaign – just published in the Journal of Communication – suggests an additional factor that should be added into the mix: television.

We’re not talking about cable news or the billions in free media given to Trump or political advertising.

Rather, we’re talking about regular, everyday television – the sitcoms, cop shows, workplace dramas and reality TV series that most heavy viewers consume for at least several hours a day – and the effect this might have on your political leanings.

An authoritarian ethos

Studies from the past 40 years have shown that regular, heavy exposure to television can shape your views on violence, gender, science, health, religion, minorities and more.

Meanwhile, 20 years ago, we conducted studies in the U.S. and Argentina that found that the more you watch television, the more likely you’ll embrace authoritarian tendencies and perspectives. Heavy American and Argentinian television viewers have a greater sense of fear, anxiety and mistrust. They value conformity, see the “other” as a threat and are uncomfortable with diversity.

There’s probably a reason for this. Gender, ethnic and racial stereotypes continue to be prevalent in many shows. Television tends to distill complex issues into simpler forms, while the use of violence as an approach to solving problems is glorified. Many fictional programs, from “Hawaii Five-O” to “The Flash,” feature formulaic violence, with a brave hero who protects people from danger and restores the rightful order of things.

In short, television programs often feature an authoritarian ethos when it comes to how characters are valued and how problems are solved.

Viewing habits and Trump support

Given this, we were intrigued when, during the campaign, we saw studies suggesting that holding authoritarian values was a powerful predictor of support for Trump.

We wondered: If watching television contributes to authoritarianism, and if authoritarianism is a driving force behind support for Trump, then might television viewing – indirectly, by way of cultivating authoritarianism – contribute to support for Trump?

About two months before the party conventions were held, we conducted an online national survey with over 1,000 adults. We asked people about their preferred candidate. (At the time, the candidates in the race were Clinton, Sanders and Trump.)

We then questioned them about their television viewing habits – how they consumed it, and how much time they spent watching.

We also asked a series of questions used by political scientists to measure a person’s authoritarian tendencies – specifically, which qualities are more important for a child to have: independence or respect for their elders; curiosity or good manners; self-reliance or obedience; being considerate or being well-behaved. (In each pair, the second answer is considered to reflect more authoritarian values.)

Confirming our own earlier studies, heavy viewers scored higher on the authoritarian scale. And confirming others’ studies, more authoritarian respondents strongly leaned toward Trump.

More importantly, we also found that authoritarianism “mediated” the effect of watching a lot of television on support for Trump. That is, heavy viewing and authoritarianism, taken together in sequence, had a significant relationship with preference for Trump. This was unaffected by gender, age, education, political ideology, race and news viewing.

We’re not the first to note that entertainment can have political consequences. In a Slate article shortly after the election, writer David Canfield argued that prime-time television is filled with programming that is “xenophobic,” “fearmongering,” “billionaire-boosting” and “science-rejecting.” What we think of “harmless prime-time escapism,” he continued, actually “reinforces the exclusionary agenda put forth by the Trump campaign.” Our data reveal that this was not simply speculation.

None of this means that television played the decisive role in the triumph of Donald Trump. But Trump offered a persona that fit perfectly with the authoritarian mindset nurtured by television.

What we think of as “mere entertainment” can have a very real effect on American politics.

The Conversation

Les auteurs ne travaillent pas, ne conseillent pas, ne possèdent pas de parts, ne reçoivent pas de fonds d'une organisation qui pourrait tirer profit de cet article, et n'ont déclaré aucune autre affiliation que leur poste universitaire.

08 Jun 19:26

SugarHero and the Snow Globe Cupcakes - Copyright and Food Videos

by (Mathilde Pavis)
A Californian Court may soon hear on the copyright infringement of a "Facebook-style" cooking video featuring a cupcake recipe. Last week, internet chef Elizabeth LaBau, aka ‘SugarHero’, filed a copyright infringement claim against Television Food Network before the Central District Court of California. The crux of the dispute: LaBau's cooking video showcasing her flagship recipe “Snow Globe Cupcakes”  (the complaint can be found here in full). 

Snow Globe Cupcakes by SugarHero
(shot of SugarHero's 'how to' video
LaBau’s complaint is clear: it does not seek copyright protection for the recipe embodied in the film, but for the film itself (here). This avenue may be one of the last ones left open to passionate foodies who dedicate their life to creating new recipes, as the US Copyright Office and US Courts have refused to extend copyright protection to recipes (here) or even recipe books (see, Publications International v Meredith Corporation 88 F 3d 473, at 480 (7th Circuit 1996) per Kanne J., contra. see, Belford v Scribner 144 US 488). Consequently, this new crave for 'how-to' cooking videos trending on social media may be more than just a marketing tool, it could also be a strategic legal move (depending on forthcoming the Court’s decision).

The complaint filed on LaBau’s behalf depicts a dispute by the likes of David and Goliath. The plaintiff is described as having dedicated “years of hard work and late nights” to her project ‘SugarHero’, “competing with numerous corporate food websites, often backed by large companies with deep pockets” in a “oversaturated food market place”. To break through, LaBau worked endlessly to develop “eye-catching” recipes paired with an effective social media strategy (para 16). This is where the “Facebook-style video” at the crux of this dispute comes in. 

And one for the road...
(photo by Serenitbee)
In 2014, LaBau developed her “Snow Globe Cupcake” recipe which was first published on the SugarHero website ( (para 21). Though instantly popular, the recipe only went viral when LaBau published the same recipe on Facebook using the regular post format (photo and text) and linking it to the original recipe on her website (para 22). In 2016, LaBau produced a short cooking video of the recipe in “Facebook-style” to increase traffic to her website further (para 24). The complaint describes that this process took two months of production from the shooting to the editing, all of which LaBau performed herself (para 25). Shortly after posting her clip on the internet, SugarHero came across a similar video produced by Food Network, which had been published on December 22, 2016. LaBau contacted the Network to request “credit and attribution for her work, providing a link to her video for reference” (para 30). 

The complaint claimed that the “Food Network video” copied Labau’s work “shot-for-short” (para 35) by reproducing protected elements of her clip such as “the choice of shots, camera angles, colors, lighting, textual descriptors, and other artistic and expressive elements of [LaBau]’s work” (para 28). SugarHero’s complaint argued Food Network of free-riding on her “hard work”, “the time commitment of recipe development and the cost of ingredients, coupled with the time cost of photographing and videoing the cupcakes” which all in all amounted to a significant investment on her part (para 35).

SugarHero's shot (left), Food network's shot (right)
Source: BBC
The complaint covers the expected elements of copyright infringement for a cinematographic work, and as such does not put forward anything out of the ordinary. However, the decision may set an interesting precedent for the food industry - should the case reach this stage. If the Californian court sides with LaBau, the decision may re-open the doors of copyright protection in cases of highly-visual or unique recipes recorded in ‘how-to’ videos by their authors. Would that be a welcome development? At any rate, it is a timely conversation to hold as a case on sensory copyright (in the taste of cheese) is making its way to the CJEU, unearthing with it the legitimacy of intellectual property protection for culinary works (here). 

08 Jun 17:44

Major change at work can trigger loss and grief. Organisations must accept this

by Mias de Klerk, Professor: Organisational behaviour, human capital management, leadership development, Stellenbosch University
Employees are often unsettled by change in their organisations. Shutterstock

There is hardly an organisation in the world – big or small – that doesn’t have to adapt to changing circumstances. The pace of development in technology, the quick pace at which new rivals come on the scene, even the rapid turnover of leaders, all require shifts in the way things are done.

But it’s never easy to steer people through change. And, inevitably, there’s resistance. So how can organisations manage it in a way that gets them the outcomes they want?

The default when things don’t go well is to blame employers for being resistant to change. This may be convenient, but it doesn’t deal with the real issues.

Over the last few decades organisations around the world have been pushed into large-scale changes, such as downsizing, outsourcing, mergers and acquisitions, or restructuring. The success rate in large scale changes is around 20%.

Change is inevitable. But forced change is emotionally more intimidating and disturbing than is generally assumed. This predisposes employees to be negative about it. What’s very often missing when organisations announce major change is that they don’t recognise this. In fact they should be concerned with issues such as loss, emotional trauma, grief and mourning.

Leaders, managers and change consultants have a great deal to learn about the ways in which employees experience change and the sense of loss they suffer. Change has little chance of success unless the severity of loss is acknowledged, grief is enfranchised and mourning is encouraged.


Work is central to many people’s lives and their identities. Therefore forced changes to jobs or work structures are experienced particularly intensely.

People become emotionally attached to things, the more important these things are, the more individuals want to hold onto them. The awareness of loss is therefore much more profound and creates more anxiety.

Any change involves some sort of loss. There are tangible losses like loss of income when a person is retrenched or downgraded. And there are abstract losses such as loss of control, status or self-worth.

For the most part, the deeply felt emotional losses are ignored when dealing with change or in debates about resistance to change. Most studies about corporate rationalisation, focus mainly on costs and the performance of the survivors.

Where emotions from change are studied, the focus tends to be on the loss of a job. But the subjective losses and subsequent emotional experiences of individuals tend to be underplayed.


Profound loss is associated with grief – a deep sorrow that causes piercing distress. Although the experience of grief is common, there are marked differences in how intensely and for how long people grieve. It’s more intense when there’s greater degree of attachment to what was lost. The rational size of the loss isn’t relevant – merely the emotional intensity with which the individual experiences the loss.

Organisations tend to be indifferent and reluctant to acknowledge the intensify of loss felt by individuals. Often demonstrating, or talking about emotions is taboo, and when it happens it’s interpreted as resistance to change. The indifference and carelessness of executives can compound the experience of emotional trauma. In the minds of many, grief is associated with weakness, cowardice or even hysterical exaggeration.

As a result, many employees fear that they’ll be seen as weaklings or disloyal if they show their hurt and pain.

When grieving is denied or discouraged, repression or suppression is the only alternative. This leads to individuals being unable to engage with change, and can even cause other pathologies. Research has shown that restructuring, especially downsizings, instils in affected people intense fear, anxiety, distrust, , perceptions of betrayal and rejection. These tend to transpire into lack of focus and higher rates of absenteeism and turnover. And occupational injuries and illnesses are much higher at workplaces that goes through transformations.

A study titled “Healing emotional trauma in organizations” describes how a group of executives were negatively affected. This is after they went through a restructuring that logically should have caused no distress. But they were unable to look forward to plan their strategy as they remained stuck in emotional trauma of the restructuring.

What can be done

Executives can’t expect employees to leave their emotions at the door when they come to work. They must embrace people’s sense of loss and help them adapt to it if they want change to be successful.

Organisations must build systems that ensure grieving and mourning are allowed so that employees can heal and move on through and past the change.

To ease the pain that comes from change, loss and pain must be publicly acknowledged and mourned in the organisation. Sharing destigmatises the loss and grief as the bereaved employees find validation from peers and managers through their narratives.

This must happen in a safe space, without logical explanations, platitudes or superficial suggestions. In the case study, a group of executives felt healed and prepared for the future after the opportunity to tell and share their stories. The anomaly is that nothing has changed rationally or logically to their situation, but psychologically they would be able to move on.

If safe and constructive environments are created, employees won’t find it necessary to vent their emotions in the passages, around the water cooler or in tea rooms.

The Conversation

Mias de Klerk does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

07 Jun 19:46

To smiley face or not: the complexity of email etiquette

by Ken Tann, Lecturer in Communication Management, The University of Queensland
Experts over time continue to disagree on what is the best email etiquette.
The Conversation, CC BY-SA

Emails are ubiquitous in a modern, globalised workforce. However, a well-crafted email can make the sender appear approachable and competent, while a poorly constructed one is less persuasive, and leaves recipients less willing to comply with the request.

Alongside making requests and providing information, emails help us build rapport in the workplace and long-term business relationships. So it’s unsurprising that there’s a sizable market for help with email etiquette.

An internet search for “email etiquette” generates 433,000 results, while a search for books on email etiquette fetches 76 titles (on However, the advice we get is often hazy, lacking justification, and may even be contradictory at times.

A 2003 study suggested that these different opinions on what to write in an email will converge over time, and that rules will emerge. But 14 years later, we still haven’t gone very far in producing or sticking to a standard.

Why there is no standard when it comes to email etiquette

The problem is emails are all written for very different purposes, including personal messages and invitations, advertising and customer inquiries, team announcements and company newsletters among other things. The setting also changes; what is acceptable in an academic’s emails is different from business emails.

The norms in emails also vary between internal and external communication, according to profession and across cultures.

It doesn’t help either that the conventions of email communication are constantly evolving. If there isn’t a one-size-fits-all template that we can apply, what can we rely on to guide email writing?

It’s all about the context

If you look at the context for each email it can give you a guide as to what to write. Take for example greeting and closing an email.

A common point of disagreement between commentators is the need for proper greetings and closings. On the one hand, our guidebooks tell us we should always include an appropriate greeting, while on the other, the emails we often see in the workplace seem to contain no greetings at all.

Openings and closings in emails are used to establish the relationship between the sender and the recipient, so this should be the first consideration. Employees who are addressing a distant colleague or someone with higher authority, for example, are more likely to include a greeting.

However, the relationship between sender and recipient develops as emails form a chain of exchanges. Chances are that most of the internal emails we send are linked to an earlier phone call or other emails. In that case the relationship and context would have been well-established already.

These forms of quick exchanges without a greeting or closing resemble an ongoing spoken conversation stretched over a few emails. So any further greetings would seem repetitive and excessive.

However, a sender may still choose to include greetings and closing expressions such as “Dear Mr X” and “Kind regards” to emphasise or downplay the difference in power or to put some distance between themselves and their recipient. Conversely, inclusive salutations such as “Hi Team” or “Hi everyone” and empathetic closes such as “Well done” could help to invoke solidarity among your coworkers and trigger them to act.

It’s also useful to consider the role that the email plays in the overall activity. Internal emails are often short and succinct, because they are sent to provide instructions or information as part of the daily workflow.

Once the purpose of such messages is identified, details can be summarised in point form and abbreviations, so your team members can easily retrieve the information they need without wading through lines of pleasantries. Keeping the message brief also makes it easier to read on smartphones.

However, when it comes to conducting delicate negotiations with customers, when it is necessary to build trust, assert power and establish relationships, emails would have to be longer. Senders would have to couch sensitive messages in formal language and stock phrases, to strengthen their authority by making the message sound impersonal.

The Conversation, CC BY

To smiley face or not?

Guidebooks also disagree on the use of newer features that deviate from more traditional forms of writing, such as emoticons. However, emoticons provide a useful way to manage solidarity by softening requests and minimising impositions at the workplace.

So let’s face it – regardless of what the guidebooks say, people are going to continue using them. This is because emails lack the non-verbal cues that we rely on in face-to-face interactions, such as facial expressions, and this creates the potential for ambiguity and uncertainty in how messages are interpreted. Emoticons are used to disambiguate the tone of a message where there are more than one way to interpret it.

However, senders may also appropriate and exploit the digital features in emails to pursue complex agendas. While the “CC” function ostensibly provides accountability and allows monitoring of work processes, senders may choose to copy in a colleague in a power-play to strengthen their authority and put pressure on the recipient.

It’s worth mentioning that in these examples, the email senders are not simply observing a set of rules for each context; they are actively shaping their context with each choice they make.

The things we choose to do or not do with emails are social actions. As a part of human interaction, emails are as nuanced and complex as the social world we write them in. It is unlikely that we can rely on a checklist or quick-fix rules to get them right, as appealing as that may sound.

The Conversation

Ken Tann does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

07 Jun 19:34

Modern humans evolved 100,000 years earlier than we thought – and not just in east Africa

by Matthew Skinner, Senior Lecturer in Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Kent
Jean-Jacques Hublin, MPI-EVA, Leipzig

According to the textbooks, all humans living today descended from a population that lived in east Africa around 200,000 years ago. This is based on reliable evidence, including genetic analyses of people from around the globe and fossil finds from Ethiopia of human-like skeletal remains from 195,000–165,000 years ago.

Now a large scientific team that I was part of has discovered new fossil bones and stone tools that challenge this view. The new studies, published in Nature, push back the origins of our species by 100,000 years and suggest that early humans likely spanned across most of the African continent at the time.

View looking south of the Jebel Irhoud site in Morocco, where the fossils were found. Shannon McPherron, MPI EVA Leipzig

Across the globe and throughout history, humans have been interested in understanding their origins – both biological and cultural. Archaeological excavations and the artefacts they recover shed light on complex behaviours – such as tool making, symbolically burying the dead or making art. When it comes to understanding our biological origins, there are two primary sources of evidence: fossil bones and teeth. More recently, ancient genetic material such as DNA is also offering important insights.

The findings come from the Moroccan site of Jebel Irhoud, which has been well known since the 1960s for its human fossils and sophisticated stone tools. However, the interpretation of the Irhoud fossils has long been complicated by persistent uncertainties surrounding their geological age. In 2004, evolutionary anthropologists Jean-Jacques Hublin and Abdelouahed Ben-Ncer began a new excavation project there. They recovered stone tools and new Homo sapiens fossils from at least five individuals – primarily pieces of skull, jaw, teeth and some limb bones.

Composite reconstruction of the earliest known Homo sapiens fossils from Jebel Irhoud (Morocco) based on micro computed tomographic scans of multiple original fossils.

Dating the fossils

Some of the Middle Stone Age stone tools from Jebel Irhoud (Morocco). Mohammed Kamal, MPI EVA Leipzig

To provide a precise date for these finds, geochronologists on the team used a thermoluminescence dating method on the stone tools found at the site. When ancient tools are buried, radiation begins to accumulate from the surrounding sediments. Whey they are heated, this radiation is removed. We can therefore measure accumulated radiation to determine how long ago the tools were buried. This analysis indicated that the tools were about 315,000 years old, give or take 34,000 years.

Researchers also applied electron spin resonance dating, which is a similar technique but in this case the measurements are made on teeth. Using data on the radiation dose, the age of one tooth in one of the human jaws was estimated to be 286,000 years old, with a margin of error of 32,000 years. Taken together, these methods indicate that Homo Sapiens – modern humans – lived in the far northwestern corner of the African continent much earlier than previously known.

But how can one be sure that these fossils belonged to a member of our species rather than some older ancestor? To address this question, the anatomists on the team used high-resolution computed tomography (CAT scans) to produce detailed digital copies of the precious and fragile fossils.

They then used virtual techniques to reconstruct the face, brain case and lower jaw of this group – and applied sophisticated measurement techniques to determine that these fossils possessed modern human-like facial morphology. In this way, they could be distinguished from all other fossil human species known to be in Africa at the time.

Virtual palaeoanthropology is able to correct distortions and fragmentations of fossil specimens.

The high-resolution scans were also used to analyse hidden structures within the tooth crowns, as well as the size and shape of the tooth roots hidden within the jaws. These analyses, which were the focus of my contribution, revealed a number of dental characteristics that are similar to other early fossil modern humans.

And although more primitive than the teeth of modern humans today, they are indeed clearly different from, for example, Homo heidelbergensis and Homo neanderthalensis. The discovery and scientific analyses confirm the importance of Jebel Irhoud as the oldest site documenting an early stage of the origin of our species.

Archaeology versus genetics

As a palaeoanthropologist who focuses on the study of fossil bones and teeth, I am often asked why we don’t simply address these questions of human origins using genetic analyses. There are two main reasons for this. Although incredibly exciting advances have been made in the recovery and analysis of genetic material from fossils that are several hundreds of thousands of years old, it seems that this is only likely to be possible under particular (and unfortunately rare) conditions of burial and fossilisation, such as a low and stable temperature.

That means there are fossils we may never be able to get genetic data from and we must rely on analyses of their morphology, as we do for other very interesting questions related to the earliest periods of human evolutionary history.

The fossils as they were found. Steffen Schatz, MPI EVA Leipzig

Also, understanding the genetic basis of our anatomy only tells us a small part of what it means to be human. Understanding, for example, how behaviour during our lives can alter the external and internal structure of hand bones can help reveal how we used our hands to make tools. Similarly, measuring the chemical composition and the cellular structure of our teeth can tell us what we were eating and our rate of development during childhood. It is these types of factors that help us really understand in what ways you and I are both similar and different to the first members of our species.

And of course, we should not forget that it is the archaeological record that is identifying when we started to make art, adorn our bodies with jewellery, make sophisticated tools and access a diverse range of plant and animal resources. There have been some intriguing suggestions that human species even older than Homo sapiens may have displayed some of these amazing behaviours.

More such research will reveal how unique we actually are in the evolutionary history of our lineage. So let’s encourage a new generation of young scientists to go in search of new fossils and archaeological discoveries that will finally help us crack the puzzle of human evolution once and for all.

The Conversation

Matthew Skinner was asked by The Conversation, as a member of the scientific team that conducted the study of the Jebel Irhoud remains, to summarise the main findings and their significance.

05 Jun 19:52

Canadian Jem and The Holograms Artist Gisele Lagace Denied Entry to the U.S. on Her Way to C2E2

by Charles Pulliam-Moore

While New Brunswick-based artist Gisele Lagace has worked on comics for Dynamite, IDW, Archie, and Marvel, she’s also a freelance illustrator. Like many freelancers, she saw Chicago’s C2E2 as an opportunity to do some important self-promotion and potentially sign on to do some commission work.


14 Apr 12:46

The Reconstruction of Ulysses S. Grant

by Michael Durbin

The Reconstruction of Ulysses S. Grant:

In the second half of the 19th century, few Americans were better known–and revered–than the man whose face looks out today from the $50 bill. Ulysses S. Grant led Union troops to victory in the American Civil War, then thwarted attempts by President Andrew Johnson to suppress fundamental civil rights of newly freed black Americans. […]

12 Apr 12:42

The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824)

by Adam Green
James Hogg's masterpiece — part-gothic novel, part-psychological mystery, part-metafiction, part-satire, part-case study of totalitarian thought.
01 Mar 20:31

Future of Libraries – Need First Sale for ebooks

by Mary Minow

How will libraries hold onto ebooks and other digital files like mp3s so that readers and scholars in the future can still read them?  The current state of affairs relies on license agreements with publishers who in turn license to vendors, who in turn, license to libraries.  Hardly sustainable when files can and do disappear when either the publisher or the vendor no longer offer them.

Libraries rely on the right of first sale to lend print books, and need an analogous right in the world of ebooks and digital music. To that end, the American Library Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries, the Association of Research Libraries and the Internet Archive filed a brief on Feb. 14, 2017 in support of Redigi, a company that sells used mp3 files to music customers.  The brief argues that an evaluation of Fair Use should consider the rationale of the First Sale doctrine, and other specific exceptions. It argues that enabling the transfer of the right of possession should be favored under Fair Use.

It is essential to libraries, and the term existential would not be too great a term to use, to be able to own digital files, and care for them via preservation and library lends (e.g. to one person at a time) just as they do with print.  Can readers count on books being available a year or two or five after publication? The existence of libraries has made this possible from their inception until now.

The flexibility of digital content allows for an endless array of licensing opportunities (e.g. multiple simultaneous users) which is mutually beneficial to both publishers and users.  It is not practical to rely only on first sale for library delivery of econtent. The two modes for libraries to acquiring ebooks, licensing and first sale are not mutually exclusive but mutually dependent.


The post Future of Libraries – Need First Sale for ebooks appeared first on Stanford Copyright and Fair Use Center.

27 Feb 19:56

This Week's Big New Exoplanet Discovery Is Becoming Science Nerd Fanfic

by Rae Paoletta

On Wednesday, Earthlings were shocked—and certainly relieved—to finally get a push notification about planetary discovery, not political corruption. News broke that an international team of scientists had spied seven Earth-sized planets orbiting the nearby star TRAPPIST-1. Three of those planets are located in the…


15 Feb 21:05

Ursula K. Le Guin Wants Everyone to Know the Huge Difference Between 'Alternative Facts' and Fiction

by Katharine Trendacosta

The word “alternative” appears both in the fun new craze sweeping the government (“alternative facts”) and in a few science fiction staple ideas (“alternate history” and “alternate universe,” for example). Despite that superficial similarity, legendary scifi author Ursula K. Le Guin wants to make sure no one confuses…


15 Feb 20:59

Why Chewing Sounds Make You Want to Flip a Table

by Rae Paoletta on Gizmodo, shared by Cheryl Eddy to io9

The snapping of gum. The slurping of soup (*shudders*). If you, like me, have misophonia, these sounds are more than merely annoying—they’re rage-inducing. Being trapped in a room of snappers and slurpers is enough to make us walk away or set ourselves on fire.


15 Feb 20:45

You Can Now Open Castle Grayskull, or Your Front Door, Using He-Man's Power Sword

by Andrew Liszewski

Running around, bashing down doors with a giant sword in hand is generally frowned upon in modern society. So if you’re dealing with a secret He-Man fantasy you’re dying to live out, why not fill your pocket with a bunch of tiny swords that can open doors without destroying them?


09 Feb 14:26

Jeff builds a midcentury modern TV cabinet for his flat-screen TV

by pam kueber

What do to with the flat screen TV in a midcentury home? Jeff got creative — and designed and built a custom TV cabinet that holds a 32″ LCD TV, BluRay player, and soundbar. Envious? He’s in the Portland/Seattle area can make one for you, too! 

Edited a bit for flow given we had some back and forth, Jeff wrote me:

After looking at hundreds of images of vintage cabinet TVs, I designed and built a retro TV cabinet to house a 32″ LCD TV, BluRay player, and soundbar. It matches my teak credenza, McCobb dining set, and surfboard coffee table. I didn’t work from a set of plans, but looked at a ton of pictures of old TVs and had a pretty good idea of what I wanted it to look like.

I thought your readers might like to take a look at them. Thanks!

I took the photos before Christmas (and before I read your suggestions on taking good pictures!).  The red ribbon is because the unit was a gift for my wife, and the show on the TV is from “Christmas with Bing and Frank.”

The basic case is just 3/4 birch plywood with edge banding screwed together with a Kreg jig (affiliate link). I sized the top rectangle for the new TV that I bought — a 32″ 1080p LED TV, and tried to adjust the bottom two openings for visual scale. The unit is about 34″ tall and 30″ wide.

The gold panel in the center folds down on cabinet hinges and houses the Bluray/DVD player. I cut a big oval out of a piece of plywood and covered it with fabric for the bottom rectangle/speaker grille. The soundbar sits behind the fabric and a wireless sub sits behind the TV. I put a power strip inside so only one cord comes out. And, there’s a remote repeater inside, so you can run the unit without opening the front panel. The back is tempered hardboard (Masonite) that I custom drilled for a clean look. The legs are Waddell legs and plates (*affiliate link) from Amazon. The gold bezel that frames the TV is spray-painted hardboard.

I’m glad you like the unit and the look. Perhaps people will be inspired by the project, so let me know if you’d like to share it on your awesome website.



Awesome, Jeff. I am personally very inspired. So much so that shortly after we started our conversation on line, I went searching and found a week-long woodworking class to take in April. I will learn all the basics about tools, etc., and make a new woodshop project every day. After the basic class, there’s another week on cabinet-making, and I may need to go for that, too. I’ve always been interested in woodworking — my Dad has mad skills — and Kate also inspired me tremendously. Let this be the year of epic DIY — with no sawed-off fingers, though!

Thanks for sharing all these photos! Fantastic!

To contact Jeff:

Want Jeff to make you one of these? Email him at Current pricing: $700 for an empty unit custom to your TV; $1100 for one with 32″ 1080p LCD TV, Bluray/DVD player, and 28″ soundbar with wireless sub. Shipping/delivery would be extra (from Hood River, OR). Jeff also wanted me to note that he currently has a back up, and  anyone wanting one would be looking at May or June.

The post Jeff builds a midcentury modern TV cabinet for his flat-screen TV appeared first on Retro Renovation.

27 Jan 20:08

Amazon Sells Out of 1984 as America Decides to Read a Goddamn Book for Once

by Bryan Menegus on Gizmodo, shared by Cheryl Eddy to io9

George Orwell’s dystopian classic 1984 occupied the number one spot on Amazon’s best-selling books list yesterday, where it remains today. A cautionary tale about a brutal, amoral dictator has evidently felt relevant to people lately. But as of today, Amazon—the world’s largest bookseller—is unable to keep up with…


25 Jan 13:04

The Confidence-Man (1857)

by Adam Green
Published on the day it is set, April Fool's Day 1857, Herman Melville's last novel concerns a group of passengers travelling by steamboat along the Mississippi and their various encounters with the enigmatic conman of the title.
06 Jan 13:44

Please Tea Me

by Aaron Gilbreath
This essay was previously published on The Smart When an anonymous tea drinker named comfortablynumb decided to buy a new electric kettle, he asked Chow Magazine’s community forum for help. He’d owned a Chantal kettle. He’d owned a Wolfgang Puck. Both had broken, with one rusting and the other chipping enough to send bits of lining […]
22 Dec 14:48

Productivity Commission re-ignites copyright wars by recommending 'fair use'

by Nicolas Suzor, Associate professor, Queensland University of Technology
They're still often more expensive overseas than in Australia. HelMet-kirjasto/Flickr, CC BY

The Australian Government has just released the Productivity Commission’s report into Australia’s Intellectual Property Arrangements.

It’s a move that appears to have been designed to avoid some of the controversy of the copyright wars by releasing the report just before most Australians settle into their summer break.

The report does something that is very difficult in copyright debates: it sets out a rigorous, evidence-based case for reform. Academics have praised the “independent and systematic study that has assessed the effectiveness, efficiency, adaptability and accountability of Australia’s IP [intellectual property] laws”.

Good evidence about how well intellectual property laws are working is sometimes hard to come by. Intellectual property laws, including copyright and patent law, have to be very carefully calibrated. If they are too weak, it is difficult for investors to recoup their expenses in bringing new inventions, books, music and films to the market.

But when intellectual property laws are too strong, they restrict innovation and access to knowledge. They prevent people from making new inventions and creating new works, because access to existing materials becomes too expensive or difficult.

For consumers, they can make access to knowledge and culture much more expensive, and they can get in the way of education and the legitimate needs of disadvantaged members of society.

Scholars have pointed out for many years that the optimal balance between protection and access to knowledge is extremely difficult to pinpoint. As a result, intellectual property policy is a deeply controversial and emotional political arena. In the past, decisions about IP policy have been made on the basis of heavy corporate lobbying, gut-instinct, hunch and guesswork.

The Productivity Commission’s report is important because it reviews the available evidence and provides recommendations that we have good reason to think will improve Australia’s intellectual property laws.

After reviewing the evidence, the Productivity Commission’s view is that copyright law is not balanced, and that our laws:

[…] are skewed too far in favour of copyright owners to the detriment of consumers and intermediate users.

Making Australian copyright law ‘fair’

Probably the most significant – and controversial – recommendation is that Australia should introduce a “fair use” exception for copyright infringement.

Fair use allows people to use copyright material in ways that are fair, without asking for permission first. It has been extremely important in the United States for many different industries.

Filmmakers use it to make documentaries, libraries use it to digitise and preserve their collections, scholars use it for important data- and text-mining research, and search engines use it to index the web.

The Productivity Commission’s report is just the latest in a string of reports to recommend that Australia introduce a fair use exception. It found that Australia’s current exceptions to copyright:

[…] are too narrow and prescriptive, do not reflect the way people today consume and use content, and do not readily accommodate new legitimate uses of copyright material.

Balancing intellectual property laws is a thrilling challenge. J Mark Bertrand/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Other recommendations

The report is detailed and comprehensive, and covers a lot of ground. The Productivity Commission recommended a raft of other changes to modernise Australia’s copyright laws, including:

  • preventing copyright owners from overriding consumer rights through restrictive contractual agreements

  • allowing Australian consumers to break digital locks on content that prevent lawful activities (like fixing a tractor)

  • fixing a decade-long oversight in our “safe harbour” regime that makes it extremely difficult for home-grown equivalents of YouTube or social media platforms to host content in Australia

  • clarify the law to ensure Australian consumers can use VPNs to access content lawfully available in other countries

  • ensure that the results of publicly funded research are made freely available to the public under Open Access policies

  • remove an exception from competition law that allows software and content companies to create exclusive deals and other restrictive licensing agreements that would otherwise be anti-competitive.

Restarting the copyright wars

The timing of this report seems to be designed to minimise some of the controversy that it will generate. The commission’s report warns that it will be extremely difficult to “pursue change in the face of strong vested interests”.

The Copyright Agency, the Australasian Performing Right Association and the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (APRA AMCOS), prominent players in the book industry and several authors have all issued statements that are highly critical of the commission’s report.

Their essential concern is that the expansion of user rights will result in reductions in revenues and investment in Australian creative industries and Australian creators.

The great difficulty here is that copyright law is extremely complex, and the debate is so emotive that the details often get lost in the heated arguments. What little empirical evidence we do have to guide policy is glossed over in a strong reaction against change.

The reaction of the established copyright industries is understandable. It has been very difficult for publishers and distributors to adapt to the internet, and they are only now beginning to develop business models that work in the digital age. The process has been painful to say the least.

In this context, many publishers, distributors, and creators feel besieged by efforts to reform copyright law for the digital age. But it is too late now to go back to a pre-digital world.

The restrictions on parallel importation, which have kept prices high for books in Australia, are a good example of laws that just don’t work for digital markets. If we expect consumers to obey copyright rules, it is clear that we need to work to make sure that the law and business models treat them fairly.

The great shame about the copyright wars is that sensible, evidence-based proposals for reform get mixed up with highly emotive reactions to “piracy”. The proposals by the Productivity Commission are careful and well justified. The evidence we have is that they are not likely to harm the actual revenues of Australian creators.

There is no doubt that we need new business models – and public funding – to support creators in the digital age. This is the hard work of real practical change that needs to happen to enable our creative industries to thrive.

The good news is that overseas examples show that it is possible for creators to make money in the digital economy. The Productivity Commission’s recommendations are a bet that digital is the future, and that making Australia’s laws more efficient and effective is critical to the health of our future industries.

We’re looking forward to the government’s plans to implement these recommendations, but it looks like 2017 will be a heated year for copyright debates.

The Conversation

Nicolas Suzor is the recipient of an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellowship (project number DE160101542) and receives other project funding from the ARC. He also leads projects funded by industry groups, including the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) and the Australian Digital Alliance. Nic is also the Legal Lead of the Creative Commons Australia project and the deputy chair of Digital Rights Watch, an Australian non-profit organisation whose mission is to ensure that Australian citizens are equipped, empowered and enabled to uphold their digital rights.

Shereen Parvez does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

21 Dec 19:21

This Deep Sea Fisherman Posts His Discoveries on Twitter and OH MY GOD KILL IT WITH FIRE

by Matt Novak on Gizmodo, shared by Cheryl Eddy to io9
A strange deep sea creature captured by fisherman Roman Fedorstov (Twitter)

Roman Fedortsov is a deep sea fisherman in Russia. And he’s been taking photos of OH MY GOD WHAT IS THAT?


15 Dec 20:41

Costume jewelry Christmas trees

by pam kueber


I saw my first framed vintage costume jewelry Christmas tree — pearls, rhinestones, brooches, earrings, bracelets, charms and pins all artfully arranged and glued onto black velvet — about 10 years ago when I visited my Dad’s hometown of Aneta, North Dakota. It was still hanging in the living room of an old friend of the family, who had made it decades earlier. She told me that back in the day, women saved their costume jewelry when it broke. (That explains why you sometimes see jars full of broken costume jewelry at estate sales.) Then, before the holidays, they would all get together and use the bits to make Christmas trees or crosses. I presume they traded its and bits. What a lovely art form.

Of course, absolutely mesmerized, I tried to buy the lovely, gracious woman’s costume jewelry Christmas tree, or the cross, right off the wall. She really seemed to consider my offer, possibly because she had never seen anyone go so crazy over something she’d made. In the end, though, she wouldn’t sell them. Fast forward 10 years, and of course I’ve been collecting lots of broken jewelry and have enough to do my own. Next year: I’m inviting a friend over for tree-making!

I was reminded of all this when several readers uploaded photos of their vintage costume jewelry Christmas trees in our weekend uploader — 375+ photos!!

Above: Naomi’s costume jewelry Christmas tree. She wrote:

“My fiance’s mother made this for him years ago… There are even lights on it!” 

jewelry-christmas-treeAbove, a tree uploaded from a mystery reader, who said:

This is one of my most treasured pieces. It was made by a dear family friend using old costume jewelry from her aunt’s estate. Look closely and you will find old brooches, earrings, and charms that individually aren’t worth much but set together like this becomes an heirloom.


costume-jewelry-christmas-treeAbove: Kristy H. says that her costume jewelry tree also has lights!

vintage-costume-jewelry-christmas-trees-with-lightsAbove: And here they are!

jewelry-christmas-treeAbove: Carolyn’s gorgeous costume jewelry Christmas tree.

jewelry-vintage-christmas-treeAbove: Two from LuAnn, first shared on our Facebook page and used here with permission, who says: 

Here are two that I just saw in a retirement home lobby that a woman that lives there made ! Stunning in person !

christmas-tree-made-from-costume-jewelryAbove: Featured on our Facebook page and used with permission. Lucky Kristi said:

Found mine at a flea market for $1. It’s one of my favorite decorations!

framed-christmas-tree-costume-jewelryAbove: Featured on our Facebook page and used with permission.Teresa said:

I adore these. Anybody who knows me knows aqua is my color so I’m so happy to have found this at a yard sale.

broken-jewelry-christmas-treeAbove: LuAnn’s is a family heirloom. First shown on our Facebook page, used here with permission. She explains:

My grandmother used to make these and she’s no longer with us. So now I cherish mine even more.

christmas-tree-made-from-old-pins-broochesAbove: This one looks to be made entirely from old pins — our grandmothers would have called them “brooches”. Originally featured on our Facebook page and used here with permission, Taylor explains:

I made one out of vintage family jewelry my mom gave me!

costume-jewelry-christmas-treeAbove: Added by a mystery reader in a follow-up uploader. She/he said:

I saw the story about these, and I love the one I found a few years ago, so I thought I’d add to the collection – a little out of focus…

vintage-costume-jewelry-christmas-treeAbove: Featured to our Facebook page and used here with permission. Mary says:

My mother-in-law made one for us utilizing my husbands grandmothers old costume jewelry. I think it’s wonderful! I wish I had one from my grandmother jewelry as well!

broken-costume-jewelry-christmas-treeAbove: Dawn added this one to our Facebook page, now used here with permission. It’s also a family treasure, she says:

My Mom made this one. I will cherish it forever.

costume-jewelry-christmas-treeAbove: Here’s one made of just rhinestones, spotted at an estate sale of a couple who ran estate sales (Take some time to think about that.)


Above, reader Nancy Long said:

Close-up of the jewelry picture. The jewelry picture has tiny Christmas lights I found this at an antique mall about 10 years ago. I see something new every year. 


And above, not a jewelry tree, but an embroidered tree that includes sequins. Such lovely needlecraft. Mystery reader said:

Look closely and you will see little white doves and snow flakes on the silver tree.

The post Costume jewelry Christmas trees appeared first on Retro Renovation.

14 Dec 15:14

The Electoral College could end Trump’s presidency before it begins – but it probably won't

by Rodrigo Praino, Lecturer, School of Social and Policy Studies, Flinders University
One Republican member of the Electoral College has said he will not cast his vote for Donald Trump on December 19. Reuters/Mike Segar

Even though most are treating Donald Trump as America’s “president-elect”, the reality is that until December 19 he is just the Republican nominee who probably will become the president-elect of the United States.

When Americans go to the ballot box during a presidential election they do not cast their vote directly for a presidential candidate. Instead, they choose a group of electors – 538 in total – who in turn have the power to elect the president.

Who are these electors? And what are their actual powers?

Each American state has slightly different rules on how the electors are selected.

In general, state political parties control the selection process by choosing, before the election, a group of people they trust and who have agreed and/or pledged to vote for their party’s nominee.

In most states, all preselected electors of the political party that receives the majority of the state’s popular vote become the presidential electors for their state. According to the Constitution, members of the US Congress, as well as any person “holding an office of trust or profit under the United States”, are not allowed to become presidential electors.

Consequently, the electors are an eclectic group of people. Some of them are well-known state politicians, including current and past members of state legislatures and governors. Others are just unknown private citizens with loose ties to a political party, including at least one teenager involved in politics for the first time.

While there is no federal law or constitutional mandate that presidential electors actually vote for the candidate they have originally agreed or pledged to vote for, 29 states have state laws and regulations that try to restrict their freedom.

The law in each state is, once again, slightly different. But most states with restrictive regulations simply state that electors are “required” to vote for the nominee of the party that selected them.

Electors who go against this “requirement” can face a fine (for example, US$1,000 in Washington), felony charges (in New Mexico), or simply end up immediately replaced by a different elector (Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Utah).

In 1952, the US Supreme Court argued that states and state parties are allowed to require a pledge from their potential electors. The decision said such a requirement was not unconstitutional, even though it was legally unenforceable because it would violate the electors’ assumed constitutional freedom.

Therefore, some believe the Supreme Court would not uphold any state penalty against electors changing their vote.

What will happen on December 19?

If every elector votes as they are supposed to, Trump will be elected president with 306 Electoral College votes, while Hillary Clinton will receive 232 votes. But this is unlikely to happen.

An online petition, which has collected nearly 5 million signatures, is calling on Trump electors to vote for Clinton instead. If only 38 out of the 306 Trump electors decided to do so, Clinton would be elected president.

This, however, is not going to happen. It is extremely improbable that any Republican elector would ever agree to flip and vote to elect the Democratic candidate. But this is not the only option.

A group of Democratic electors who call themselves the Hamilton electors have been trying to convince other Democratic electors to break rank and vote for a Republican president that is not Trump. Their choice would probably be Mitt Romney or John Kasich, but they are open to any suggestion from the Republican camp.

Their hope is to attract enough electors from both sides to gather 270 Electoral College votes and elect a Republican who is not Trump.

This option seems to be gaining some momentum. A Democratic elector from California has filed a lawsuit seeking that Clinton release her electors from their pledge. And a Republican elector from Texas has announced he will not vote for Trump.

What could happen is that 37 out of Trump’s 306 electors decide to either join the Hamilton electors or simply vote for a different Republican candidate.

If at least 37 Trump electors do not vote for Trump on December 19, then no candidate will have the absolute majority of Electoral College votes required to be elected president, and the US House of Representatives will choose the president among the three candidates with most Electoral College votes.

Although even this scenario is a long shot, it is the most likely to happen – if anything at all is going to happen on December 19. It is also, politically, probably the most desirable outcome.

If given a choice, Republican members of the House may be able to reach a compromise with their Democratic colleagues and elect “the other Republican”. This would prevent Trump becoming president, and avoid having an obscure institution such as the Electoral College simply change the election outcome with a move many would perceive as anti-democratic.

Alternatively, should the House decide to elect Trump anyway, they would be assuming all the responsibility of their choice – and their constituents should take note of their action.

What will happen on December 19 is probably a record number of electors breaking their pledge and voting for a different candidate. Whether this will be of any consequence depends on how many Trump electors are persuaded to change their vote.

Why keep the Electoral College?

The bottom line is that even though many Americans have once again started to mock the Electoral College as an undemocratic institution, it does play an important role in the US constitutional design.

As Alexander Hamilton pointed out in his Federalist #68, the Electoral College:

… affords a moral certainty that the office of president will seldom fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.

Every little detail, from having the electors vote about a month after the election to the requirement that they never meet as a whole (but only in their own state capitals), suggests the electors are being asked to ponder, consider, and make a conscious decision.

The Electoral College has survived 227 years and, arguably, has never truly been needed. Now would be a good time to use it.

The Conversation

Rodrigo Praino receives funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and UNICEF.

14 Dec 14:47

Your Periodic Table Is Officially Out of Date

by George Dvorsky on Gizmodo, shared by Cheryl Eddy to io9

Scientists with the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) have officially approved the names of four new elements, completing the seventh row of the periodic table.


13 Dec 18:46

A Monster Prowls a Christmas Tree Lot in the First Clip from YouTube Red Horror Series 12 Deadly Days

by Cheryl Eddy

We’ve all heard of the 12 days of Christmas—but the axe-wielding creature in this first clip from 12 Deadly Days, YouTube and Blumhouse Television’s horror-comedy series, is a far cry from a partridge in a pear tree.


02 Dec 15:50

Water intoxication: are we drowning in advice to drink more fluids?

by Matthew Haines, Senior Lecturer in Health and Wellbeing, University of Huddersfield

A recent BMJ Case Report outlined the story of a 59-year-old woman who went to A&E after experiencing pain when urinating and abdominal pain. Her symptoms were consistent with urinary tract infection (UTI, commonly referred to by some as cystitis) for which she was prescribed antibiotics and painkillers. During her visit to the hospital, she vomited, became shaky, muddled and had difficulty talking. It transpired that she had consumed several litres of water throughout the day based on medical advice to drink lots of fluids that she recalled from previous experience of UTIs. Unwittingly, the patient brought about a dangerous condition known as acute hyponatremia which can progress to seizures, coma and even death, which is related to drinking too much fluid.

Hyponatremia is a clinical condition in which altered brain function is associated with very low sodium concentrations in blood serum (usually below 135 mmol/L) and brain swelling. The severity depends on the overall sodium level and the rate of decline, but the condition is a medical emergency. People at the highest risk of hyponatremia can include those with kidney, liver and endocrine diseases, although specific causes are often divided into those that occur with high, normal or low fluid volume.

When we consider that water is the medium in which chemistry plays out, it is not surprising that our bodies have evolved tightly controlled processes to regulate fluid balance and plasma concentrations of sodium within a normal range. Total body water and sodium are regulated independently. The extent to which hyponatremia can be brought about via excessive drinking with normal kidney function is not clear. But during infective illness, peeing less combined with consciously drinking more fluids – because that’s the received wisdom – could be dangerous.

Healthcare practitioners often encourage patients to “drink plenty of fluids” when they are unwell. Even the well are encouraged to drink lots of water to stay hydrated and keep healthy. Yet the rationale and evidence for these recommendations are equivocal. Timothy Noakes has spoken about the dangers of over-drinking in endurance athletes for some time, where the recommendation has been to drink as much as tolerable, and to drink before thirst.

Hyponatremia can cause the brain to swell. Magic mine/

Several deaths have been caused by exercise induced hyponatremia and excessive fluid intake, and similar concerns have been raised in sports where athletes undergo rapid weight-loss to “make weight”. In relation to UTIs, drinking plenty of water is thought to help flush bacteria out of the urinary tract via diuresis (the excessive production of urine). Other potential mechanisms include maintenance of optimal urine pH and reducing the available surface area on which bacteria can thrive due to a shrinking effect on the bladder brought about by more frequent urination. However, evidence for these associations are conflicting.

The European Food Safety Agency recommends a daily total fluid intake of 2.5 litres for men and a couple of litres for women. It is worth noting that this includes water from all beverages and moisture content of foods (so not simply plain water) and will vary widely between different countries, depending on climate. A person’s fluid needs also depend on how physically active they are.

Water is clearly essential and we tend to think that more is better. Physiologically, though, this is not always the case and it is quite reasonable to consider that excessive fluid intake could have no effect at all, or could in fact be harmful. Drinking more than the body needs is not necessarily wise and, although rare, given the potential catastrophic results of hyponatremia there is a need for further research to identify risks and benefits of frequent drinking so that we can have more precise drinking guidelines.

Using exercise as an example, and to echo Noakes, it is not clear why drinking guidelines for the most intellectual of mammals should be so different. We have a feedback mechanism that has been shaped by evolution: thirst. Whether it is beneficial to drink beyond thirst when you have an infection remains speculative. As others have pointed out, even a simple pragmatic study design comparing antibiotics and high water intake with antibiotics alone, could provide evidence of an effect over a short time-frame.

Fortunately, in the instance outlined in the BMJ Case Report the patient’s hyponatremia was rapidly identified and successfully treated with simple fluid restriction. But given the scarcity and inconsistency of the available experimental and clinical data on drinking guidelines, attempts to address this dearth of information should be embraced.

The Conversation

Matthew Haines does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.