The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.043  Wednesday, 1 February 2012


From:         Gabriel Egan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 31, 2012 6:07:13 PM EST

Subject:     Re: PIPA/SOPA


Hardy wants us to keep the SOPA/PIPA stuff strictly relevant to SHAKSPER, so I’ll try to be brief.


Larry Weiss thinks that the judgement in “Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp” (1999) only confirmed the existing doctrine about photography rather than changing anything. If that were true, all those libraries (like the Huntington) that asserted copyright on their microfilms of old books were mistaken or were knowingly lying. I suggest that in fact “Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp” came as much as a surprise to them as to everyone else. This ruling is certainly the reason that Wikipedia is able to show images of works in Britain’s National Portrait Gallery even though the gallery objects, and that’s a good thing.


Because the Digital Millennium Copyright Act separates the circumvention of digital locks from infringement of the copyright of the material protected by the locks, makers of digital products have been able to lock away public domain materials, using the threat of prosecution under the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions rather than threat of prosecution for copyright infringement.


Another relevant example: the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitization Project took photographs of the papers at Dulwich College and mounted them on the web. The project claims that the photographs are subject to copyright. It even claims that the original manuscripts from the 16th and 17th centuries are in copyright, which is most odd. The access to the images is severely crippled by the website limiting the size of the ‘window’ one can have upon them. If you zoom in, you can see more detail but the words before and after the word you’re reading are hidden because they fall outside the window. Thus you cannot easily use a screen grab to take a copy of a manuscript image for your own use.


If this counts as a digital lock, legislation such as DMCA would criminalize me showing you how to circumvent it, or even telling you how to find out about how to circumvent it.


The Henslowe papers are national treasures in the public domain. Even if they were copyrightable, the fact that the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitization Project received public money to do the digitization makes locking up the resulting images a scandal.  The project partners should be ashamed of themselves.


I’ll happily tell anybody how to get around that stupid small window that the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitization Project website limits you to, so you’ll be able to see the whole manuscript and take a copy. I’m sticking my neck out here because I think we all need to fight the growing privatization of public goods.


Gabriel Egan


[Editor’s Note: Moderating is not an easy task. I should have or I could have occur to me all of the time. However, I did draw a line in the proverbial sand yesterday, and I intend to stick to it. Nevertheless, if anyone who care to read two submission to this thread that I have decided not to post, you may click the link below. I will add that I shall not continue to make blow-by-blow responses in the slugfest side available after this time. –Hardy]


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