Re: Freegal and the new “ownership”

From the Thinking Library:

I just got off the phone with Freegal representatives after a lengthy discussion about how I believe that Freegal isn’t a sustainable model for libraries. Even more, I think it’s probably detrimental to libraries in the long run. I understand that serving up downloadable content through Freegal is making our patrons excited – who wouldn’t be?!? Free music (subsidized by the library)!! Here’s some things I’ve been thinking about with Freegal, Overdrive, and copyright to publisher content in the digital world…

See Adam’s full post on the fair-use debate about library access to e-content here.

I agree with Adam that Freegal is not a good deal for libraries since it drives patronage without really supporting the underlying mission of the library. I would OverDrive isn’t a good deal either, though for differen reasons. That said, what does a digital content provision model look like built around fair-use?

Just as he pointed out, why pay for a hot dog (or a song, book, magazine article, etc…) if you can easily get one for free? Digitally speaking, one copy of a piece of content may as well be a thousand copies. Fair-use as it relates to libraries seems to be bound in someways to the limitations imposed by physical copies. Content providers benefit from fair-use of physical copies because, in order to ensure unlimited access to something, a predictable number of patrons will go on to buy something based upon content they accessed via the library. If however a patron can access e-content easily and inexpensively via the library, why ever purchase it? I agree with him that libraries are largely abdicating their voice in the current conversation to the market place and third-party entities. If we do step-up to the table to play a more active role, how do we offer e-content via fair-use and protect the right of content-publishers to profit from their intellectual property without artificially imposing print-based limitations on e-content?

I would argue the way forward isn’t by providing access to popular e-media at the library, for-profit groups already do this better than we do and there’s no reason to compete in an already tight market.

I think there’s a viable model to be found in libraries becoming super-local publishers of patron created-content. I keep seeing bits and pieces all over the web and in various articles about this idea, and there are a few places trying it on various levels (the DOK in Delft, Netherlands, and the Digital Media Lab at the Skokie, IL public library come to mind) but most of the efforts I’ve found so far rely heavily on specialized (read: expensive) technology that I’m not sure is a viable option for most libraries in the current economy. Further, there’s almost no functional discussion of how to do this kind of content creation and collection development doing on, at least not that I can find in the Midwest. People seem to be talking about the idea, but few have concrete ideas of how to actually do it.

I presented at KLA a few weeks back on building collections of patron-created content based on the content patrons are already creating via Web 2.0 social media tools like facebook, blogger, and YouTube. I’m still figuring out the functional details, but there’s got to be a way to harness the creative content our patrons are already producing, help them to create that content, and make the local library the place to collect and share that content. This whole model creates uniquely local content that no third party can take away from us or jack the price up on. Then again maybe I’m dreaming. But I’m still young and a student, I can afford to be idealistic at this stage.

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Filed under Community Engagement, Content Creation, State of the Profession

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