Celebrating Freedom

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. –The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America

Somehow I missed the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week at the end of September. That unfortunate slippage of my middle-aging memory means that I need to slap a big old red letter F on my patriotism for that week.

For those who are not in the know, the ALA annually releases a list of the most contested titles on library shelves throughout the nation. I typically try to celebrate freedom of speech by choosing and reading a "banned" book from the list that week. This time, I missed it.

Oh, well. I suppose as long as we have a First Amendment I can look forward to a future Banned Books Week. And I must say that I am always amused and amazed by the strange alliances that surface whenever someone’s First Amendment rights are threatened. The most recent example, of course, is Jon Stewart, Whoopi Goldberg, and Joy Behar jumping into the fray over Hank Williams Jr.’s ouster from Monday Night Football as a result of his criticism of the president.

On a less controversial but still First Amendment-related note, I am happy to not have missed the Southern Festival of Books, an annual Humanities Tennessee event that will take place in Nashville’s Legislative Plaza this weekend. There’s more than one way to celebrate the freedom of the written word.

Let ‘Em Go

Lyons: "Instead of giving newspapers bailouts, we should be hastening their demise"Newsweek.com
"The weak papers need to die," writes Daniel Lyons. "The strong newspapers need to go into bankruptcy and restructure their businesses with smaller staffs and lower cost structures. Yes, it will be painful. But journalists will find jobs — and they’ll be working in a better, faster medium."
[Poynter Romenesko]

Celebrate the Freedom to Read

Sept. 26-Oct. 3 is Banned Book Week, which celebrates the First Amendment and freedom of expression while highlighting the harm in censorship. From the American Library Association‘s post on the subject:

The books featured during Banned Books Week have been targets of attempted bannings.  Fortunately, while some books were banned or restricted, in a majority of cases the books were not banned, all thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community to retain the books in the library collections.  Imagine how many more books might be challenged—and possibly banned or restricted—if librarians, teachers, and booksellers across the country did not use Banned Books Week each year to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.

Along those lines, BookDads posts about one children’s book that has managed to make the Banned Books list three years in a row.

Lawmakers Further Define ‘Journalist’

An update from Nieman Journalism Lab on how government defines a "journalist:"

Shield law: Definition of “journalist” gets professionalized

On Thursday, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) offered an amendment to the Senate version that hews toward the professional definition in the House. Under the amendment, which was adopted by the Senate Judiciary Committee, a journalist is defined as someone who:

(iii) obtains the information sought while working as a salaried employee of, or independent contractor for, an entity—
(I) that disseminates information by print, broadcast, cable, satellite, mechanical, photographic, electronic, or other means; and
(II) that—
(aa) publishes a newspaper, book, magazine, or other periodical;
(bb) operates a radio or television broadcast station, network, cable system, or satellite carrier, or a channel or programming service for any such station, network, system, or carrier;
(cc) operates a programming service; or
(dd) operates a news agency or wire service;

As I observed last week, the shield law obviously needs a definition that limits its scope, but the professional definition, which now seems inevitable, would exclude student journalists as well as bloggers with a day job.

[Nieman Journalism Lab]

Open Book Alliance: Digitization of Books Must be Open and Transparent

Victory for the Public Interest – New Process Must Be Open + Transparent

“We hope that Google and its partners learn the right lessons from this fiasco and start over in an open and transparent manner.  They must create a robust process that includes input from all stakeholders, including authors, libraries, independent publishers, consumer advocates, state Attorneys General, the Justice Department, and Congress.  This opportunity cannot turn into another negotiation behind closed doors.  

“The promise of the mass digitization of books is too important to be left to another round of secret negotiations, and that promise must be realized through an open and transparent process.”

[Open Book Alliance]

Google Book Settlement Hearing Postponed

Breaking: Google Book Settlement Hearing Is Postponed

News is spreading fast that Google and its partners have filed a motion and a memo asking the Court to postpone the October 7 fairness hearing.

This is a huge victory for the many people and organizations who raised significant concerns that this settlement did not serve the public interest, stifled innovation, and restricted competition. It’s also an enormous loss for Google, which had been saying for months that no changes were necessary to the settlement. Now, that settlement, as we know it, is dead. [Open Book Alliance]

OBA Optimistic that Google Books Settlement in Current Form Won’t Go Through

“One thing is for certain – the proposed Google Book Settlement, as it’s currently written, will not go through.”

Now that we’ve had a chance to review the Justice Department’s filing in more detail, we recognize that one thing is certain – the proposed Google Book Settlement, as it’s currently written, will not go through. Even Google seems to agree with this — after months of fighting against any change to the settlement, they acknowledge that the settlement must be profoundly altered. That’s good news for anyone who wants to protect innovation, competition, and the public interest as we evolve the world of books to the digital age. [Open Book Alliance]

Exactly Who Fits the Definition of ‘Journalist?’

Shield law: House and Senate differ on who’s a journalist

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on a federal shield law today that would protect journalists from subpoenas for their confidential sources — that is, if legislators can agree on who counts as a journalist.

A version of the shield law already passed by the House (H.R. 985) casts the issue largely in financial terms (emphasis added):

The term “covered person” means a person who regularly gathers, prepares, collects, photographs, records, writes, edits, reports, or publishes news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public for a substantial portion of the person’s livelihood or for substantial financial gain and includes a supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such covered person.

That definition would exclude amateurs of any sort, whether student reporters or bloggers with a day job, not to mention to anyone in the grey area of citizen journalism. [Nieman Journalism Lab]

US Justice Dept Advises Court to Reject Google Books Settlement

US Justice Dept wants changes to Google book deal (AFP)

AFP – The US Justice Department has advised a court to reject a legal settlement between Google and authors and publishers that would allow the Internet giant to scan and sell millions of books online [Yahoo! Books and Publishing News]

New York Library Association on How to Fix the Google Book Settlement

New York Library Association on How to Fix the Google Book Settlement

The Open Book Alliance is made up of a wide coalition of librarians, legal scholars, authors, publishers, and technology companies dedicated to countering the proposed Google Book Settlement. From time to time, we will publish posts from members of our group. This one comes from Michael Borges, Executive Director of the New York Library Association. [Open Book Alliance]