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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Harvard P2P lawyer says file-swapping is fair use

Harvard Law professor Charlie Nesson, in a recent conversation with ArsTechnica, argued that file-swapping is fair use. The context for this conversation was that Nesson and others from harvard Law School are defense attorneys in the case of Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) v. Joel Tenenbaum, a case where the RIAA is suing Tenenbaum for allegedly downloaded seven songs from a file-sharing network. In the interview with ArsTechnica, Nesson was laying out his strategy for the case.

While I — admittedly a non-lawyer! — think this is quite an elegant argument, other “free culture” academics seem puzzled by Nesson’s strategy. Wendy Seltzer, who heads up the Chilling Effects clearinghouse and served as an EFF staff attorney, was quoted as saying, “I fear that we do damage to fair use by arguments that stretch it to include filesharing—weakening our claims to fair use even for un-permissioned transformations. I am much more comfortable disagreeing with the law than claiming at this point in time that it already excuses filesharing.”

Yale researchers, Verizon use P2P to speed downloads

Here at FGI, we’ve been interested in [w: Peer-to-peer] (P2P) technologies for quite a while –I wrote a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) backgrounder (PDF) in 2004 for the Librarians Assn of the University of CA. P2P architecture (a structure much like the FDLP!), an extremely efficient method of digital distribution, offers great advantages for libraries in preserving and giving access to government information. Since [w: napster] hit the internet in 1999, P2P has been vilified in the media and by organizations like the [w: RIAA] as facilitating “piracy.”

But now, according to the AP, Verizon is working with researchers at Yale to to build better P2P software to enable faster downloads — and lower costs for ISPs where P2P accounts for 1/3 of all Internet traffic. Other companies, including NBC who wants to use P2P to save distribution costs, are finally coming around to P2P’s benefits. According to the news article, “distributing an hourlong TV show in high definition using traditional delivery systems would cost the network about $1. With P2P technology, that cost can be cut by 75 to 90 percent.”

In a traditional P2P network, if a Verizon customer downloads a file, only 6.3 percent of the data will come from another Verizon customer in the same city, said Doug Pasko, senior technologist at the company. In the “P4P” trial, 58 percent of the data came from nearby Verizon users, vastly reducing the company’s cost of carrying the traffic.

Levitan said the technology might be ready for use by next month, when NBC makes available free downloads of its TV shows using Pando’s software. The shows will be financed by advertising, and P2P technology will be an essential way for NBC to cut costs. Distributing an hourlong TV show in high definition using traditional delivery systems would cost the network about $1. With P2P technology, that cost can be cut by 75 to 90 percent.

[Thanks Boingboing!]

Canadian study: P2P users buy more music

An economic study funded by the Canadian government has concluded that heavy Peer-to-peer (P2P) users buy more music, not less as had been posited by entertainment industry organizations like the MPAA and RIAA. Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, has more background on his blog.

And why, you say, should FGI care about a Canadian study about file-sharing technology like Napster? Because this technology, a fundementally different ‘Net architecture — and one that looks and acts like a library consortium! — is currently the architecture being used in LOCKSS and could be widely employed to much positive effect by libraries to build and share digital collections, that’s why 🙂

However, P2P has been under attack from entertainment industry organizations paranoid about copyright infringement. The attack has been so fierce that some states have begun looking into legislation against P2P (On September 16, 2004, Governor Schwarzenegger signed executive order S-16-04 charging the CA state CIO with the development of a statewide policy on P2P technology. See my P2P backgrounder for more). So legislation against P2P and the perpetuation of equating P2P with "piracy" has a deleterious effect on libraries and other cultural institutions trying to build systems of better digital access and preservation for  the public.

  • When assessing the P2P downloading population, there was "a strong positive relationship between P2P file sharing and CD purchasing. That is, among Canadians actually engaged in it, P2P file sharing increases CD purchases." The study estimates that one additional P2P download per month increases music purchasing by 0.44 CDs per year.
  • When viewed in the aggreggate (ie. the entire Canadian population), there is no direct relationship between P2P file sharing and CD purchases in Canada. According to the study authors, "the analysis of the entire Canadian population does not uncover either a positive or negative relationship between the number of files downloaded from P2P networks and CDs purchased. That is, we find no direct evidence to suggest that the net effect of P2P file sharing on CD purchasing is either positive or negative for Canada as a whole."

The Impact of Music Downloads and P2P File-Sharing on the Purchase of Music: A Study For Industry Canada 


P2P Knowledge low in academic librarians?

As I mentioned in my posting on social psychology for librarians, people tend to follow the “central” route of attitude change only if these three conditions are present:

  1. Relevance to audience;
  2. Audience has knowledge in the domain;
  3. Audience has sense of personal responsibility.

I suggested that items 2 and 3 are weak among documents librarians who hear messages about the importance of building local, but Internet accessible digital collections of government documents like UNT CRS Reports Collection.

A new article:

Hendrix, Dean.
Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Knowledge, Use, and Attitudes of Academic Librarians
portal: Libraries and the Academy – Volume 7, Number 2, April 2007, pp. 191-212
Link to Abstract

seems to show that lack of knowledge is part of the problem. This article documents a survey of 162 academic librarians and finds in part:

Overall, academic librarians demonstrated low knowledge levels (mean quiz score = 49 percent), rarely used P2P applications, and exhibited indifferent attitudes (total neutral responses = 42 percent) toward these burgeoning information technologies.

Considering that LOCKSS is a P2P technology, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that the mostly academic documents depository community doesn’t quite grasp the power of the P2P approach.

But we don’t have to stay unaware of such technologies. Here are a few things you can do to become aware of what’s available and what it can do:

  1. Read James R’s P2P Backgrounder
  2. Check out our Digital Libraries Technologies Page
  3. Read LOCKSS for Librarians

Federated Search Systems For Government Information

Exploring the deep web
Internal and external federated systems lead users to treasures that regular search engines can’t find
By Drew Robb, GCN, 06/04/07 issue.

Google makes search look simple, but in fact, search is not simple, particularly when completeness is important.

…Public search engines may be fine for locating a hotel in Singapore, but not for professional research.