Monday, March 31, 2008

preliminary decision to reject Blackboard patent claims

The Chronicle of Higher Ed has a lengthy article summarizing last Friday's preliminary decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that rejects all 44 claims Blackboard Inc. made regarding a controversial patent it was granted in 2006.

The patent in dispute involves a course-management system in which a single user with a single log-on could have multiple roles in multiple classes. For example, someone who was a student in one course and a teaching assistant in another could log on once and get different levels of access to all the course materials.

Desire2Learn and its supporters have argued that the patent should not have been granted because similar technology existed in 1999, when Blackboard applied for the patent.

The patent office awarded the patent in 2006, and within months, Blackboard sued Desire2Learn for infringement. However, the patent office, in its re-examination, cited several examples of "prior art," or previously available technology, that was similar to what Blackboard claimed to have invented.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

two new reports on IP issues

The final report of the Section 108 Study Group is available at The report examines the exceptions available in copyright law and discusses changes that may be needed in light of digital technologies.

The RLG Partner Copyright Investigation Summary Report is now available at This report summarizes interviews conducted with RLG Partner institutions, who shared information about how and why institutions investigate and collect copyright evidence, both for mass digitization projects and for items in special collections.

Friday, March 28, 2008

becoming a digital scholar

Looking for an overview of what it means to be a digital scholar? Read Lisa Spiro's essay "Becoming a 'Digital Scholar,'" the text of a presentation that she gave at the Digital Discovery conference on March 27, 2008.

the law of unintended results

In a recent decision, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta rejected Wal-Mart's claim of trademark infringement again an online critic of the company. The court found that Charles Smith’s parody Web sites ( and and related merchandise sold through CafePress were protected speech and that a reasonable person would not confuse their use with Wal-Mart’s legitimate trademarks. The court also rejected Wal-Mart’s claim that it has trademark rights in the “smiley-face” that Smith used in one of his parodies. I wonder what the fall-out will be from that portion of the decision?

Read the history of the case.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

a pair of posts on the semantic web

A interesting post on semantic web patterns from ReadWriteWeb, and a just as interesting response to it from Nodalities. Reading both gives a good view of the state of semantic web development.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

review of OpenID

My interest in OpenID has recently been piqued, so I am definitely looking forward to the outcome of a JISC OpenID review:

"The primary aim of the project is to produce a report which will allow busy decision-makers to understand OpenID’s security properties well enough, quickly enough, to apply it safely and avoid its potential security pitfalls, based on first establishing by means of a survey a sound understanding of how such decision-makers are likely to proceed in the absence of such guidance. The secondary aims are to develop bridging software that will allow OpenIDs from any source to be used as identities within the production UK (SAML) federation, creating opportunities for early adopters to experiment. We will also demonstrate a library-type service modified to make use of such identities."

document migration

There's a very thoughtful post on the Digital Curation blog about the use of Open Office as a migration tool.

Conversions Plus has personally saved my hide when I needed access to older file formats, but it's not meant as a preservation tool. What tools do people use for conversion? How do they scale?

Friday, March 21, 2008

life on the internet

I was chatting with someone earlier today about identity and privacy, and how I'm thinking a lot about them these days.

In the process of buying the place we are moving to, I was asked for a photocopy of my driver's license. OK, that's not an uncommon request during a financial transaction conducted over email and fax. Then I was asked for a photocopy of my social security card. My what? Why? I couldn't actually find my social security card (note to self -- get a replacement card), so, in lieu of that, I had to sign a release form allowing my lender to confirm my identity with social security. And they needed a photocopy of my passport, too, if I wouldn't mind.

Bruce opened a new business banking account last year, and he was also asked to show his social security card in order to open the account.

Where is the fine line between confirmation of identify (albeit in the face of rampant identity fraud) and privacy?

I saw this posting on ReadWriteWeb about whether hiring officials should look at candidate's social bookmark profiles during the hiring process. That post referenced a Business Week debate on the topic. One of the more interesting things mentioned in passing in the argument against was that identities can be spoofed online, so how does an employer know if they're even looking at a real profile for that person?

Identity and privacy are completely intertwined online.

Circling back to the conversation I was having earlier, we were talking about how much of our lives are archived online -- a dumb message that I posted to a listserv in the mid 1990s is still likely out there in an archive, waiting for someone to wade through hundreds of pages of search results. My personal web page from 1996 is probably in the Wayback Machine. What about now? Is my Facebook profile personal or professional when it includes my movie and music likes but also supports great communication with my close professional colleagues around the world ? My LinkedIn connections include a few close friends from decades past that I have recently reconnected with through that service.

How much do we need to worry about managing our online identities? Either a lot or not at all, and I'm not sure which it is yet.

Friday, March 14, 2008

orphan works

Read the transcription of a statement on orphan works by Marybeth Peters, the Register of Copyrights, to the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property, Committee on the Judiciary.

Google Books Viewability API

Google has released a new API that supports links to volumes in Google Book Search. Web developers can use the Books Viewability API to quickly find out a book's viewability on Google Book Search and, in an automated fashion, embed a link to that book in Google Book Search on their own sites.

We'd already created our own service for our Virgo catalog for digitized UVA volumes that are available as full-text in GBS. We were thinking about how we'd potentially port that to Blacklight -- now we can look at the API in addition to what we'd done ourselves.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Texas Digital Library Repository

Via DigitalKoans, the Texas Digital Library Repository has launched with content from four of its partner institutions. There's a program that's making some real headway: an IR for ETDs (multi-institutional, even!), journal hosting, and real progress with inter-institutional Shibboleth – on top of what they’re already doing with digitization and online collections.

HP BookPrep

Via ReadWriteWeb, I cam across HP BookPrep, a prototype print-on-demand service for, and this is really a quote, "every book ever published." The work from page images and process them through their own process into PDF "eMasters" for printing. It's an interesting prototype.

The pilot collection is Foodsville, a food and cooking community site. Members can read and purchase cookbooks at the site's free library, where books can be discovered by keyword, by author, or by browsing through tags. Of course, they're not actually "free" -- the print-on-demand costs ranged from $7 to $32 when I browsed through the 141 titles currently available. You don't have to buy the books -- you can read them online. I browsed through Lafcadio Hearn's La Cuisine Creole and found it readable. (I love the recipe title "Delicate Rusks for Convalescents" on page 235)

I'm a fan of Lafcadio Hearn, so I checked Amazon, and found that the same POD version is available for $10.26 versus $13.96 on Foodsville, both listed as marked down from $19.95 There is what looks to be a different POD version available from Amazon as well -- also a facsimile of the 1885 edition -- for $21.24. I'm not sure which I'd choose.

It does not say where they're getting the page images from. I'd really like to know that.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

anti-counterfeiting course

Via Techdirt, you have to read the article in Inside Higher Ed about a sponsored anti-counterfeiting course at Hunter College where one of the activities was to create a counterfeit blog about events that didn't happen to create a guerrilla marketing message about why counterfeiting is bad.

I can't even begin to describe all the issues I have with this. Let's hope the article and community backlash serve as a cautionary tale for any other organization considering this.

Visible Body

Visible Body launches in beta today, and looks pretty amazing. I could have used this when I took anatomy 25 years ago.

I can't say that I've really been able to experience it, because I waited over 30 minutes for the data to load and gave up. I expect they're getting a LOT of traffic today, so I am cutting them some slack. What is a shame is that it only works on Windows IE because of the choice of plugin.

There's a brief posting on ReadWriteWeb with more discussion.

Monday, March 03, 2008


I just came across Warrick, a neat research project that takes advantage of cached web crawls to restore lost web site. Warrick is a utility for reconstructing or recovering a website when a back-up is not available. It searches the Internet Archive, Google, Live Search, and Yahoo for stored pages and images and will save them to your filesystem. It's not guaranteed and it is a research project and not a production service, but it could help when there's no other option. It falls under the general category of research that they call "Lazy Preservation," a phrase that I can see some loving and some hating.

When I followed the link to the about page and I saw that it was a research project at Old Dominion University, I immediately suspected that it was one of Michael Nelson's students, and it was. I briefly blogged Joan Smith's mod-oai work last year. Michael is always working on something interesting, especially his current work on OAI-ORE.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

visualization of statistics as art

I am quite wary of art with a pointed agenda. All art has some sort of agenda, of course, but some works seem to be more overtly political than art.

That said, you really need to look at Chris Jordan's "Running the Numbers" series. I don't know where he gets his numbers, but these are astonishing visualizations of statistics, many having to do with consumerism and wastefulness.

I am also an admirer of his Katrina aftermath series.

Saturday, March 01, 2008


I'm not sure what I make of iPaper, described as a potential "YouTube for Documents." Jeff Young gives a succinct description in his Chronicle of Higher Ed article. TeleRead has a post. TechCrunch briefly touches on the business model. ReadWriteWeb has a longer post.

Basically, documents are uploaded (a number of formats are supported) and streamed to a Flash player for page turning. The iPaper player is also available for integration into other sites.

There is a lot of pointing to an astonishingly bad essay that has been posted for its humor value, and the comments are frequently much obscenity laden. How is this useful? One can see the YouTube comparison here dumb things people do in document form rather than video.

I see uploaded offprints of articles, sheet music, and car manuals, test answers for past medical residency exams, among other things, made publicly accessible. Is copyright status being confirmed in any way?

This could be useful -- a place to upload documents with unlimited storage for public access or sale,that supports review and commenting and social bookmarking. But how do you find what's really useful among tips of reducing your golf slice or "secret White House plans"?


I've spent a little time looking at the recently announced online exhibition building tool Omeka from The Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.

I am very interested. This is a tool meant for cultural heritage organizations that I think could be extended into a tool for personal digital scholarship. We've talked a lot at UVA about the conceptual similarity between born-digital scholarly projects and exhibition building, and have long considered the possibilities for a virtual exhibition tool. Our Collectus tool was a start for us in that direction. Omeka allows you to create an archive, organize it into collections, and create exhibition-like presentations or illustrated essays with a RSS feed. "Items" in an archive can be compound objects and include multiple files. Its API support extension with plugins, such as support for COiNS, geolocation, or tagging. Hooks to applications such as Collex or the SIMILE Timeline would add some interesting functionality.

The biggest limit that I see is that its in-browser automatic delivery is currently limited to images, although you can include any type of media. This seems like an excellent opportunity for an institution to work with GMU to extend Omeka's capabilities and create richer media experiences.