Saturday, November 05, 2005

Amazon - Selling what's already free? 
Amazon has announced that they are going to offer individual pages of books for sale (on line, of course).


For almost any purpose that someone might want to put a single page from a published book, the fair use provisions of the US copyright law apply. In other words, it's okay to use the contents of the page for scholarly, pedagogical, or review purposes (USC Title 17,Chapter 1, Section 107). The only reason I can see, in my (admittedly myopic) view, is for use in another commercial work - but in that case, the author or publisher would have to buy rights from the copyright owner anyway - they want the right to use the content, not the page, in a derivative work. Same deal if it's an illustration they want to use, instead of the text.

So, if you want to write a paper, or a presentation, or a review, or an article, and cite some text from a copyrighted work, go to the library and make a photocopy of the page, or to a brick'n'mortar bookstore and copy out the passages you need. The law says you can, it's almost certainly cheaper, and Jeff Bezos doesn't really need the money.

(Disclaimer: IANAL)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Has Maplewood lost its political gumption? Or are the Township Committee choices so clear cut this year? The latter, I suspect, but still...

Last night's League of Women Voters' candidates forum for Maplewood Township Committee was so sparsely attended that the only people there were ringers, LWV organizers and their spouses, and the candidates themselves (for the record, that would be Vic DeLuca and Fred Profeta - Democrats, and Bart Albini - Republican). There were no more than 20 people in the audience and I think a quarter of them have been TC members or TC candidates. For me, at least, it was the first time I'd set eyes on Bart Albini. No surprises there, but nice to see he actually exists.

Other than the aforementioned League members (and spice), I didn't see a single person there who hasn't been involved in one way or another as an insider in Maplewood politics. Which is a shame. Even if it was not an event likely to change any minds, it was at least an opportunity to ask the candidates some pointed questions. Too bad no one took advantage.

Nonetheless, thanks are due the Maplewood/South Orange League of Women Voters, who organized this event and so many others.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Harry Reid grows a pair 
Harry Reid forced the Senate into a closed session to embarass Frist and company into finally setting into motion the long-delayed second phase of the Senate's Iraq WMD/Intelligence investigation.

Frist was derisive in his post-session comments, which says to me that the 'publicans are a bit embarassed to be seen as obstructionists when so large a majority of the country has turned against the war and is so distrustful of the Bush Administration.

It looks like
1) The Dems have rocked the R's back on their heels a bit (with a bit of a helping shove from Patrick Fitzgerald), and
2) Democrats are (re-)learning how to play the news cycles - Bush made a speech today - something about funding for avian flu prevention - and Reid's play wiped it off the critical evening news leads.

Reid's office released a statement to the press that blasted the Administration's cooked intelligence and asked some very pointed questions. Without (yet) saying it in so many words, it looks like Senate Democrats are finally coming around to a better answer for the question "If you knew in 2003 what you know now, would you have authorized the Iraq invasion?" Still begs the question of why they were such pushovers in the first place, but it's something...

If Katrina was the turning point for Bush's popular support, Fitzmas might be seen as the point where the Dems started to get their nerve back. At least I hope so.

Very well then... 
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Walt Whitman - Song of Myself
Reading his columns these last few days, I'm guessing that Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times must be a Walt Whitman fan, because it sure doesn't seem like he's concerned about contradicting himself.

In his 10/25/05 column(paid registration required), Kristof wrote, apropos Patrick Fitzgerald's anticipated TreasonGate indictments
...I find myself repulsed by the glee that some Democrats show at the possibility of Karl Rove and Mr. Libby being dragged off in handcuffs. It was wrong for prosecutors to cook up borderline and technical indictments during the Clinton administration, and it would be just as wrong today.
That passage earned Kristof a well-deserved "Wanker of the Day" citation from Atrios last week. After all, perjury and obstruction of justice are NOT simply "technical," they are themselves felonies, usually committed while trying to hide other, even more serious, crimes.

In the 10/30 edition of The Times, Kristof is of another mind entirely
I owe Patrick Fitzgerald an apology.

Over the last year, I've referred to him nastily a couple of times as "Inspector Javert," after the merciless and inflexible character in Victor Hugo's "Les Misérables." In my last column, I fretted aloud that he might pursue overzealous or technical indictments.

But Mr. Fitzgerald didn't do that. The indictments of Lewis Libby are not for memory lapses or debatable offenses, but for repeatedly telling a fairy tale under oath.

Writing of the Vice-President's role in all this, he says
You were right, Mr. Cheney, in your insistence that the White House be beyond reproach. Now it's time for you to give the nation "a stiff dose of truth." Otherwise, you sully this country with your own legalisms.
And this
...If Mr. Cheney can't address the questions about his conduct, if he can't be forthcoming about the activities in his office that gave rise to the investigation, then he should resign. And if he won't resign, Mr. Bush should demand his resignation.
Now, in today's column, he's moved to address this directly to Mr. Cheney

Even when Spiro Agnew was embroiled in a criminal investigation, he tried to explain himself, repeatedly. Do you really want to be less forthcoming than Dick Nixon and Spiro Agnew?

We don't need to try to turn this into Watergate, and we don't need gloating from the Democrats. But we do need straight talk from you. The indictment has left a cloud that impedes governing, and if we're to move on, we need you to clear the air.

So, Mr. Cheney, tell us what happened. If you're afraid to say what you knew, and when you knew it, then you should resign.

Wow - from technicalities to Vice-Presidential resignations, in under a week! Patrick Fitzgerald may have connected the dots a bit better than those of us less in-the-know, but anyone who can read could have figured out that this was a case that went far beyond Ken Starr-style technicality-based persecution. Nicholas Kristof has been in the midst of this story for over two years now and, like the rest of us, has been observing Cheney and the Office of the Vice-President for the past 5 years. None of this should have come as a surprise to him. So what really changed his mind? I'd really like to know. I sure hope it was more than that a person in a position of authority (Fitzgerald) gave him (implied) permission to believe it. That would be a strange place for a reporter to be - but absent some better rationale, all I see is Whitman's "Very well then I contradict myself." That's great for poets, maybe, but not so hot for journalists.

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