Earlier today, I happened to watch an episode of the excellent Sports Night TV show named Intellectual Property. In it, one of the characters gets fined $2,500 for singing the (very much copyrighted) song Happy Birthday to his on-air co-anchor. Throughout the episode, people express shock that the song is copyrighted. My favorite line, when told that the song is held by Mildred and Patty Hill is someone on the show exclaiming: "It took two people to write that song?" Anyway, I felt the same sort of shock in learning that the ever-popular (actually, increasingly less popular) Dewey Decimal system found in most libraries is not only not in the public domain, but the organization that owns it actively goes after anyone who dares classify things using that system without paying up first. Their latest target is none other than The Library Hotel, a luxury hotel overlooking the NY Public Library, who dared to name their rooms after the Dewey Decimal System, without first buying a license. The owners of the system now want triple the hotels' profits since they opened in 2000. Seems a bit excessive for a set of numbers. The best quote, here, however is from the lawyer of the group who owns the System: "A person who came to their Web site and looked at the way (the hotel) is promoted and marketed would think they were passing themselves off as connected with the owner of the Dewey Decimal Classification system." That assumes anyone in their right mind actually had any clue that there was an owner of the Dewey Decimal System. I'll admit I don't know enough about library science, but surely it's about time that someone came up with an "open source" classification system.
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