Earlier this week, Jason Baird Jackson announced that the new website for the Open Folklore project would be launched at the first day of the American Folklore Society‘s Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. I know I’m one of many who were eagerly anticipating this announcement, so I was very happy to see that the site went live yesterday.
Open Folklore is a collaborative project between the American Folklore Society, the Indiana University Bloomington Libraries, and the Indiana University Digital Library Program. The project’s goal is “to make available a greater number and variety of useful resources, both published and unpublished, for the field of folklore studies and for the many communities with which folklore scholars partner.”
And the new website does just that. The site’s redesign organizes folklore studies content into categories of materials: books, websites, gray literature, and journals. It also provides an overview of the project, information on the projects partners, and news feeds about the project.
But most importantly, the new site provides an aggregated search tool for a wide variety of open access folklore materials on the internet:
The Open Folklore Search Platform
The Indiana University press release provided a nice summary of the integrated search:
The Open Folklore portal offers users integrated search of, as well as access to, a growing range of open access journals in folklore studies, including Indian Folklife, Folklore Forum, New Directions in Folklore, Museum Anthropology Review and the Indian Folklore Research Journal. The project has also worked with copyright holders to make an expanding number of important journals freely available to all through the HathiTrust Digital Library. Such titles include The Folklore Historian and Jewish Folklore and Ethnology Review.
IU’s participation in the Internet Archive’s “Archive-It” service allows users of the Open Folklore portal to consult permanently archived versions of selected Web sites important for folklore studies. The first three of these to be included are those of the AFS, the Western Folklife Center and the Community Arts Network. The Open Folklore site also provides free access to a range of other important scholarly materials, from course syllabi to public policy working papers.
All of the content made discoverable and accessible through the Open Folklore site is freely available to users.
Essentially, the Open Folklore website harvests content from a variety of online repositories and websites and provides a stand-alone search bar. This is currently comprised of a Google-esque keyword search bar powered by Apache Solr. Solr is a powerful and highly scalable full-text search and indexing platform that has features like faceted search, dynamic clustering, hit highlighting, database integration, and rich document (e.g., Word, PDF) handling. It powers the search and navigation features of many of the world’s largest websites, and is the kind of open source back-end tool that is really making projects like Open Folklore possible.
Solr is “blazing fast” and it gives Open Folklore some nifty features you might be accustomed to if you’re a regular user of subscription-based academic journal databases. For example, when you start typing a term in the search bar, you’ll be prompted with a drop-down set of suggested searches:
The description also contains links to “More Like This” and links to export the citation to EndNote, XML, or BibTex (the export feature is powered using the Drupal Bibliography Module). It’s fantastic to see a resource for folklore research with so much open access content. And it’s even better to see that it is well-designed and easy to use. My only complaint would be that the metadata included in the search results needs to be formatted better. Currently, the initial results just string together the various fields of information:
It would be nice to see some of that information either go away, or be better formatted. Even adding colons after the field descriptors would help break it up a bit. And the number of search results should appear somewhere prominently. But these are minor issues. Really, the search tool is very impressive.
Open Folklore and Interoperability
Open Folklore seems to really get what it means to be open. The project uses open source tools like Solr and Drupal. It encourages open access publishing. And it even advocates for and promotes the tools needed to make more folklore studies materials freely available online. At the end of the list of harvested content, the project writes:
It is important to note that these collections are available for aggregated search here because they have been made available online using software tools and interoperability standards that allow for the “harvesting” of associated bibliographic data (i.e. metadata). A great many important open access publications have been made available online using software systems that do not provide interoperable and harvestable metadata. Journals of this type are enumerated on the Open Folklore Journals page, from which users can link to them directly. For those who are publishing folklore journals or building folklore studies digital archives, it is useful to note that repository and journal publishing software systems such as Open Journal Systems, DigitalCommons, Fedora, DSpace, E-Prints, and Connexions work in such a way as to allow projects like Open Folklore to harvest and aggregate metadata so as make the kind of unified search provided by the Open Folklore search tool possible. Consult the Open Archives Initiative for additional information on these questions.
Hopefully, Open Folklore will provide the open access publications that are not using interoperable and harvestable software systems some incentive to switch to something like Open Journal Systems. Developing some resources that would help publishers make this switch seems like it would be a worthwhile effort.
Open Folklore is on Twitter and Facebook. And the Twitter hashtag for Open Folklore is #openfolklore. It sounds like the launch has already generated lots of enthusiasm at the AFS meeting. Hopefully that will continue as the project adds more resources to its website.
There was an interesting opinion made in the the U.S. Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit this week.
In the case of The U.S. v. The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), the court of appeals affirmed a 2007 district court ruling that found that downloading a digital music file did not constitute a public performance of the work.
The court of appeals also found that the district court’s reasoning behind the fees it set for ASCAP’s blanket licenses to be “flawed in two major respects,” namely that “the district court did not adequately support the reasonableness of its method for measuring the value of the internet companies’ music use,” and it “did not adequately support the reasonableness of the 2.5% royalty rate applied to the value of the internet companies’ music use.”
The opinion is a major blow to ASCAP on both fronts. It denied the licensing association the right to charge internet companies public performance fees for music downloaded on their sites, and it requested the lower court to reconsider the formula used by the association for its blanket licenses. That could – and likely will – result in a formula that yields less than the one initially set by the district court.
A download is not a performance
ASCAP has been (unsuccessfully) arguing for public performance rights in the digital realm for some time. It lost a similar court battle last year in which it was arguing that cell phone ringtones constitute a public performance. In this case, it was attempting to argue that downloading a work constitutes a public performance. To do this, ASCAP seems to have pointed to § 101 of the U.S. Copyright Act, which defines “to perform or display a work publicly” as:
(1) to perform or display it at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered; or (2) to transmit or otherwise communicate a performance or display of the work to a place specified by clause (1) or to the public, by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public capable of receiving the performance or display receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times.
ASCAP has said that downloads fall under clause 2 of this definition because they “transmit or otherwise communicate a performance.” But in 2007, the District Court for the Southern District of New York disagreed with the organization. ASCAP appealed that decision to the Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit. And this week, the court of appeals ruled against ASCAP again. In the opinion, the court wrote that:
The downloads at issue in this appeal are not musical performances that are contemporaneously perceived by the listener. They are simply transfers of electronic files containing digital copies from an on-line server to a local hard drive. The downloaded songs are not performed in any perceptible manner during the transfers; the user must take some further action to play the songs after they are downloaded. Because the electronic download itself involves no recitation, rendering, or playing of the musical work encoded in the digital transmission, we hold that such a download is not a performance of that work, as defined by § 101 (of the Copyright Act).
The decision means that ASCAP can’t charge performance fees for music that is made available as a download. This is a huge victory for internet companies like Yahoo! and Real Networks. And combined with last year’s decision against ASCAP’s plan to charge performance fees for ringtones, the courts have shown that ASCAP’s reasoning behind setting public performance fees are deeply flawed, at least in the context of the internet. Clearly, no one thinks they are going to earn any money when their Black Eyed Peas ringtone sounds off in public, and clearly, you can’t hear or see the performance during a download of a file that contains the performance.
Why does the district court set ASCAP’s blanket license fees?
In a 1941 decision against ASCAP (United States v. The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (No. 13-95, 1941 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3944 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 4, 1941)), district courts were authorized to set certain license fees for ASCAP. This was done because the court felt that without oversight, ASCAP would essentially act as a monopoly and set whatever rates it wanted.
The decision has been amended and affirmed over the years through a series of consent decrees issued by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The most recent of these was a 2001 ruling known as the Second Amended Final Judgment, or AFJ2. AFJ2 essentially regulates how ASCAP can participate in the music industry (See here for a good discussion of the effects of AFJ2).
Under AFJ2, ASCAP received a great deal of autonomy from the government, but the courts still retained powerful oversight over the association, primarily through its ability to set certain license fees for the association.
How were license fees set for Yahoo! and Real Networks?
Part of the initial proceedings in this case involved the district court setting a formula for blanket license fees (a set fee that doesn’t fluctuate with use). The court of appeals summarized the district court’s reasoning as follows (note that the ‘Internet Companies’ refers to Real Networks and Yahoo!):
In its second opinion, issued in 2008, the district court arrived at a license fee formula that multiplied a royalty rate by the percentage of revenue attributable to the performance of music. The district court applied a uniform royalty rate to the Internet Companies’ varying music uses that did not fluctuate over the different types of performances on the Internet Companies’ sites and services. In ultimately determining a royalty rate of 2.5% for both of the Internet Companies, the district court relied upon several benchmark agreements, including ASCAP’s agreements with Music Choice, terrestrial radio stations, the broadcast television networks, and the cable television networks.
But in determining the “percentage of revenue attributable to the performance of music,” the court used some questionable logic:
To measure Yahoo!’s music-use revenue by multiplying the company’s total revenue from its licensed services – defined as those business units that publicly perform music – less certain customary costs (such as for advertising sales commissions and traffic acquisition expenses) by a music-use-adjustment factor (“MUAF”). The MUAF was a fraction that reflected the amount of time users spent streaming performances of musical works relative to their overall time on the website; its numerator was the number of hours of music streamed from the licensed sites and services, and its denominator was the number of hours that the company’s licensed sites and services were utilized.
TechDirt summed it up nicely, saying that “the formula is, basically, the total revenue made by any business unit (minus a few specific costs) multiplied by a bizarre fraction (called the music-adjustment fraction): total number of hours that music is streamed, divided by total number of hours used on the website. Then, you take the result of that and multiply it by the “rate fee” of 2.5%.” Anyone can see that this formula could lead to dramatically overvaluing music. TechDirt explains:
This formula is applied to revenue coming in from any business unit that is considered to have used music. This includes things like Yahoo’s search engine. That’s because Yahoo (smartly, from a consumer perspective) allowed users who searched on a musician or song to stream that song directly from the search results. But, in making that so user friendly, the company has now opened up its cash cow search revenue to this formula, despite the fact that it’s incredibly difficult to think that music has anything to do with nearly all of the revenue Yahoo makes from this site.
The court initially agreed with ASCAP that an MUAF was unnecessary for RealNetworks because “the vast majority of RealNetworks’s revenue subject to fee is generated from subscription music services and advertising-supported sites where music is the cental theme.” But in January 2009, the district court issued Final Fee Determinations for each company that included an MUAF for certain services provided by RealNetworks.
So ASCAP saw the 2008 ruling as a victory because it resulted in a formula that found that Yahoo! and RealNetwork owed it millions in royalties. But the internet companies filed a cross-appeal that questioned the reasoning behind the formula. And it seems they have convinced the court of appeals that the formula is flawed because it remanded the fee assessment, writing that “we leave it to the district court to determine the best way to proceed consistent with the concerns we have discussed.” That will likely result in a formula that yields less royalties for ASCAP.
Where does it go from here?
It’s nice to see the courts put in check some of the bizarre royalty claims made by licensing organizations like ASCAP. ASCAP licenses approximately 45% of all of the musical works that are played online, so these decisions have a big impact on how things work on the web.
Some players obviously wont be pleased with the decision. Billboard.biz questioned the court’s authority to set rates, saying that past decisions against ASCAP leave “enormous power in the hands of federal judges to shape not just the legal, but the business aspects of the publishing industry.” It wryly concludes by saying that “with federal judges - not experienced music business negotiators – determining the price of a license, many in the industry are bound to be disappointed in the courts’ definition of ‘fair and favorable.’”
ASCAP said in a statement that it was disappointed with the court’s opinion, but held out hope for the proceedings to set blanket license rates, saying that “we anticipate that in the end, the proceeding will result in a fair and favorable license fee to be paid by commercial online services for the valuable intellectual property they use to sustain their businesses.” Whether ASCAP appeals the finding that a download doesn’t constitute a public performance remains to be seen, but it would clearly need some new logic to have any chance of success.
eXtensible Text Framework (XTF) Website Launched
Robust open-source application makes managing access to digital content simple
The Publishing Group of the California Digital Library (CDL) announces the launch of the eXtensible Text Framework (XTF) website (http://xtf.cdlib.org/), supporting a robust open-source application for providing access to digital content. Developed and maintained by the CDL, XTF functions as the primary access technology for the CDL’s digital collections and similar projects worldwide.
XTF excels in supporting rapid, customized application development and deployment. Its high degree of extensibility and performance (even for large documents and large collections) frees implementers to focus on building sophisticated presentations for their digital object collections.
“It’s all about balancing flexibility and ease of use: putting infinite customization ability in the hands of curators and scholars with a driving need to provide deep access to their special collections,” says XTF lead developer Martin Haye.
XTF-based applications range from primary source image collections to publishing platforms and archival finding aid repositories at the University of California and many other institutions, including Northwestern University, the University of Sydney (Australia), Indiana University, Visual Arkiv (Sweden), Morehouse College, Durham University (UK), and the University of Virginia.
Highly customized implementations include:
Lightly customized implementations include:
The new site serves as an expanded resource for programmers, librarians, and the general public to explore and implement the Java and XSLT 2.0-based framework. Features include:
For a full list of XTF’s features and benefits, as well as a technical overview, please visit http://xtf.cdlib.org/about.
It’s nice to see an online home for XTF. XTF is being used in some big organizations and it seems to be highly customizable. Hopefully the site will help bring the community of users together a little more.
Reposted announcement from the Library of Congress Manuscript Division:
Just enter a term in the search box — Aaron Copland, Wright Brothers, Woodie Guthrie, civil rights, or radio interviews — and explore your results.
LC archivists have encoded over 1035 finding aids, giving both remote and onsite researchers access to more than 32 million archival items. Among the many improved features in the new application are:
The new LC search application wraps the EAD XML documents into METS objects, then stores, indexes, and displays them from a native XML data store platform using a the XQuery search language. EAD finding aids will be integrated into early releases of the Library’s XML data store this fall along with the bibliographic records from its online catalog.
Both the new search application and the older InQuery applications will run in parallel until mid-October. Handle links will not be redirected to the new application until the InQuery applications are brought down.
For more information on this application, please contact the EAD Technical Team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Nice to see the explanation of the technical side of things. I would have liked to see an advanced search function, but maybe that will come with time.