from the that's-the-best-you've-got? dept
Last week, we wrote about the exciting decision by President Obama to nominate Dr. Carla Hayden to be the next Librarian of Congress. As we noted at the time, she seemed immensely qualified for the position, having successfully run and modernized the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. She also clearly recognized the importance of open access and access to culture. Given the job, there’s really no honest reason that people can find to criticize the choice. She seems almost perfectly qualified for the position.
But, of course, there are some critics, and boy, are they reaching deep in the depths of inanity to attack this choice. A key issue, of course, is that the Copyright Office is part of the Library of Congress, so Hayden would run the Copyright Office as well. In our original post, we already noted the rather snide statement put out by the RIAA, which basically says “Hayden’s fine for the library, but she better keep her filthy hands off of the Copyright Office”:
?We are gratified that President Obama has chosen a qualified and capable nominee to be the next Librarian of Congress. We look forward to working with Dr. Hayden.
?It is worth noting that the Library of Congress and the U.S. Copyright Office have been mutually respectful of each other?s areas of expertise. We would hope that the new Librarian would continue to demonstrate that respect for the Copyright Office?s expertise in copyright policy and recommendations to Congress.?
This is bullshit, of course. Basically, the Copyright Office has been ignored by the Librarian of Congress, because the last Librarian basically ignored his job, focusing on hobnobbing with rich people in fancy locations, asking them for money. The MPAA’s statement wasn’t quite as bad, but did laughably claim that they hope she’ll honor “the role of copyright as a driver of knowledge and creativity” which is not a particularly accurate statement:
?We congratulate Dr. Carla Hayden on her nomination. The Librarian of Congress plays a pivotal role for the copyright industries and the nation as a whole as the custodian of our intellectual and cultural heritage. We look forward to learning more during the confirmation process about Dr. Hayden?s vision for leading the Library and honoring the role of copyright as a driver of knowledge and creativity, as well as an engine of our nation?s economic growth and positive trade balance.?
The sketchy lobbying group, the Copyright Alliance did something similar to the RIAA, saying “keep your hands off the Copyright Office.”
?We in the Copyright Community hope that Dr. Hayden will demonstrate a deep respect for the value of copyright; appreciate and support the value of authorship to our culture and the laws that protect that authorship; cultivate a direct relationship with the Register of the Copyright Office, Maria Pallante, and continue the deference that the Librarian of Congress has historically demonstrated to the Register of Copyrights.?
But from there, the complaints really stretch the bounds of reality. First up, there’s old friend of the blog, perpetually angrily confused musician David Lowery, who breathlessly announced his horror at the fact that the “former director of [a] P2P Piracy Alliance” had endorsed Hayden. Of course, what Lowery leaves out entirely, is the fact that the individual in question, Adam Eisgrau, works for the American Library Association, the exceptionally well respected organization that represents library interests, and of which Dr. Hayden was once President. So it should hardly be a surprise that the ALA supports Hayden’s nomination.
But, in Lowery’s telling, this is all really about piracy, because well over a decade ago, Eisgrau happened to run the group P2P United, which represented a bunch of P2P applications in lobbying Congress to teach them about the technology and the fact that it had plenty of non-infringing uses. The group once helped raise money to pay off the $2,000 fine that the RIAA forced upon a 12-year-old honor student who downloaded some music. And, as Eisgrau noted at the time, contrary to Lowery’s claim that his group was about supporting piracy, the group had always spoken out against piracy, but warned about the harm of throwing out the baby (P2P technology) with the bathwater of infringement by some users.
But, really, Lowery’s statement is not the craziest one we’ve seen. That award goes to a press release I received yesterday from a group called The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) trumpeting that “Obama nominee to Library of Congress led a pro-obscenity group!” Oh really? Of course, it turns out that the “pro-obscenity group” is also the famous and well respected… American Library Association. NCOSE insists they’re “pro-obscenity” and “pro-porn” because the ALA has long fought against mandatory internet filters in libraries.
President Obama has announced his intention to nominate Dr. Carla Hayden, former president of the American Library Association, to the post of Librarian of Congress. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) believes that the pro-pornography agenda of the ALA raises concerns about Dr. Hayden?s nomination.
“The American Library Association (ALA) has been on a campaign to prevent the use of pornography-blocking Internet filtering systems on public library computers since the 1990s,” said Patrick Trueman, president and CEO of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. “The ALA even filed suit in 2001 against the Children?s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), written by U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). The act was designed to protect children from pornography by requiring the use of Internet filters on computers at public libraries receiving federal funds. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld this statute as constitutional. Yet, the ALA during Dr. Hayden?s tenure as president opposed this common sense measure and distorted the Supreme Court?s decision regarding it, as it continues to do to this day.”
That, of course, is a massive misstatement of history. The ALA opposed mandatory filters not because it’s “pro-obscenity” but because those filters don’t work (both in that they block a lot more than porn, including important educational resources, and in that lots of porn still gets through) and because libraries believe in the importance of freedom to access information. That doesn’t mean that it’s okay for children to surf porn, but that there are better ways to deal with that than mandatory filters on all computers (even ones exclusively used by adults).
To understand the actual positions of the ALA regarding CIPA, why not read the group’s actual statements, such as the explanation of why mandatory filters may not be the best solution by former ALA President Nancy Kranich:
Librarians are dedicated and committed to providing an enriching and safe online experience for children and adults alike. We care deeply about children and all of our library users. We have taken numerous steps to help communities develop policies and programs that ensure that their library users have a positive online experience. Based on our extensive experience working with children and their parents everyday throughout the country, we know what works. More than 95 percent of public libraries have Internet-access policies that were created with community input. These policies set forth the community?s rights and responsibilities for conducting productive, safe Internet use. The vast majority of library patrons use the Internet responsibly, as outlined by their communities? policies….
… Just as every parent is a little different, every local community has its own set of priorities based on its geography, demographics and size – to name just a few of the factors.
This presents a major problem with the Children?s Internet Protection Act. This legislation imposes a one-size-fits-all mechanical solution on libraries that are as diverse as our families and takes away local and parental control, ceding it to unaccountable filtering companies. Blocking technologies come between librarians and their mission – to connect people with a broad range of information to meet their needs.
And another statement by former ALA President John Berry:
The filtering mandate imposed by Congress is unworkable in the context of a public institution because it restricts access to constitutionally protected speech on the users served by libraries. No filtering or blocking technology exists that blocks access only to speech that is obscene, child pornography or harmful to minors. And no filtering technology protects children from all objectionable materials. many of you will have seen the March issue of Consumer Reports evaluating several filtering software products; the best of the products failed to block one objectionable site in five.
We?re concerned that filters give parents a false sense of security that their children are protected when they are not. Not all problems brought on by transformative technological innovation, like the Internet, have technological solutions, at least in the short term. We believe that education is more effective than filters?kids need to make good decisions about what they read and view, no matter where they are. To be sure, this is a collaborative effort between parents, teachers, librarians and many others.
The Children?s Internet Protection Act is a misnomer. The legislation does not strictly limit access for minors, but for adults and all Internet users in a library.
If this is the best that people can come up with, hopefully it means that Hayden’s nomination will sail through. But, boy, people are reaching deep to argue that the American Library Association is either “pro-piracy” or “pro-pornography” by misrepresenting events from over a decade ago, and magically tying them to Dr. Hayden.