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The first large scale private attempt to both resolve the problem of orphan works and at the same time create new revenue models in the market for books has failed. This week, Circuit Judge Denny Chin rejected the Google Book Settlement in an 48-page-long ruling (PDF). Whether an approval of the so-called “Google Book Settlement” would have been for the good or the bad was highly controversial (see “Pamela Samuelson on the Future of Books in Cyberspace“) and the related discussions have not been futile. The whole Google Books controversy highlights the opportunities and dangers of all-embracing and essentially private regulatory frameworks for the access to books in the digital age (see “Angry Librarians: The eBook User’s Bill of Rights“).

Many blogs specialized on IP issues have immediately started to discuss the short- and long-term consequences of this decision so that for an general overview I just recommend some of these postings:

Grimmelmann is the only one of these commentators that also briefly mentioned the international dimension of the ruling. He summarizes as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

After more than two years of blogging we thought our blog deserved its own URL:

www.governancexborders.com

Of course, links to the original URL (governancexborders.wordpress.com) will be automatically redirected.

Sarah Houghton-Jan is the Assistant Director for the San Rafael Public Library. She runs a blog titled Librarian in Black. And Sarah Houghton-Jan is angry:

I care about digital content in libraries.  And I am about to lose my cool in a big way.  No more patience, no more waiting for advocacy groups to do their work, and certainly no more trusting vendors to negotiate good deals for us with the publishers.   I am angry, I am informed, and I am ready to fight.

The reason for Houghton-Jan’s anger is that the US publishing house HarperCollins introduced a limit of 26 lifetime uses per copy (see “Library eBook Revolution, Begin“). To be clear: per ebook copy. Such an attempt of using private licensing agreements together with Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies for controling usage is not new in the realm of electronic books (see “The Kindle Controversy“). Only the boldness of HarperCollins terms of use is. What Pamela Samuelson fears in the context of Google Books, namely that it could be treated as a “precedent” by publishers for charging libraries per-page-copying fees more generally (see “Pamela Samuelson on the Future of Books in Cyberspace“), seems now to become reality anyway.

Sarah Houghton-Jan, however, chose to not only complain but to channel her anger into an impressively productive form of protest, which recently spread all over the web: The eBook User’s Bill of Rights. The main points read as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

The reactions to Tom Heinemann‘s controversial documentary “The Micro Debt” have mostly been strong. The film sheds light onto a number of questions, first and foremost the risk microcredit borrowers face of becoming trapped in debt. However, public debate has so far focused on two rather marginal parts of the film: a more-or-less resolved dispute over aid money (cf. “GrameenLeaks”), and a dispute about a house supposedly promised in the village of Jobra. It is worth investigating why so much publicity has been given to these two issues, and so little to the film’s main message: that microfinance can cause debt traps.

While the charges of financial malpractice in the Grameen conglomerate have now been largely cleared up, Muhammad Yunus still remains a target of negative attention from the Bangladeshi government. He is now apparently no longer Grameen Bank’s director. But Yunus’ personality and job status should have nothing to do with an impartial assessment of the virtues of microfinance. What becomes clear from the recent debate is how symbols are mobilised (and abused) in legitimising as well as challenging microfinance. However, this distracts from more substantial questions about what microfinance does or doesn’t, can or can’t, achieve.

Let us take a look at “The Micro Debt” and the reactions to it, and also take a look at another, less-known documentary with less impact but perhaps a better focus on substance: “Easy Money”. Both films make the allegation that microfinance can be exploitative and can cause more problems than it solves. But the reason why “The Micro Debt” has been perceived as so inflammatory, while “Easy Money” apparently has hardly been discussed at all, is that “The Micro Debt” attacks microfinance’s symbolic self-representations of success and integrity. Read the rest of this entry »

In the German weekly newspaper “Die Zeit”, Thomas Assheuer describes the current developments in Arabia as follows:

“The Arabic revolt is not a regional incident, it is a transnational event.”

I could not agree more. Clearly, revolutionary processes spread from Tunesia to its neighboring countries with an unknown pace, not least due to new digital technologies. Shutting down the Internet in Egypt was obviously only a sign of helplessness. Even in China, behind the world’s most sophisticated digital censorship curtain, webpages state “we are all Egyptians”.

The same time, however, the processes are far from being merely global. National borders still matter. Revolutionary processes seem to develop recursively between the national and the transnational level. Inspirations and irritations from developments in other countries lead to incidents, which in turn re-enter the transnational discourse and function as further inspirations to others.

Recent developments in Libya just further – and tragically – illustrate this point.

(leonhard)

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
March 2011
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