Turkey ALA king

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One of the more notable reactions to the Tulsa World's legal threats against BatesLine came from Michael Gorman, the incoming president of the American Library Association (ALA). His response was not a defense of fair use and its role in public discourse, but a knee-jerk reaction, which, as it turns out, reflects a deeper lack of respect for blogs, the Internet, and the electronic availability and searchability of the written word. Karen G. Schneider has documented Gorman's reaction to the World controversy, along with his other controversial statements, on the blog Free Range Librarian.

Right after I put out the word about the World's threats, Schneider, whose work focuses on libraries and the Internet, wrote a sympathetic response, saying "I feel I know my way around copyright and fair use pretty well. Tulsa World is just plain wrong, as well as dumb." She goes on to urge the ALA to weigh in with "a little friend-of-the-court saber rattling."

Schneider later updated the entry with the reaction of ALA President-elect Gorman to her call for action. Gorman's response, on the ALA Council list: "Perhaps I am missing something but I cannot see why unauthorized and unremunerated reproduction of whole copyrighted articles and editorials is 'fair use.'"

In reply, Schneider wrote: "I responded that to the best of my knowledge Batesline was following fair use, and pointed out that respected blogger/journalist Ed Cone thought enough of this story to repeat it on his blog. I invited Gorman to provide me with facts that proved overwise [sic]. Of course, Bates is no Michael Moore." (That's a reference to the ALA's hounding of Harper Collins into publishing Moore's book Angry White Men.)

Schneider followed up on Friday with an entry about the Media Bloggers Association's involvement on my behalf, reporting that Gorman had yet to reply to her invitation for facts backing up his claim that I was going beyond fair use.

A day later, Gorman did reply to a second request from Schneider:

Dear Ms. Schneider I am sorry to have kept you waiting for an explanation. It is in the letter that asks Mr. Bates to desist from reproducing 'in whole or in part' copyright articles from the newspaper. I had assumed that they were asking him to desist from practices in which he had engaged--the usual assumption in such circumstances--practices that do not, in my view, constitute, 'fair use.'

Interesting that the incoming head of the ALA holds that reproducing articles in part -- in other words, excerpting -- for the purpose of commentary or criticism does not constitute fair use.

You can read Schneider's full response here, but here's how she begins:

The usual assumption is innocent before proven guilty. Because Tulsa World accuses a writer of violating fair use doesn't make it true, any more than a partisan organization saying a cartoon sponge is gay makes it so.

And she hits the nail on the head with her conclusion:

Tulsa World is hoping for a chilling effect, where no one dare link to or quote from their newspaper for fear of harassment. I hope they do not prevail.

I googled Michael Gorman and found a column he had written back in December for the Los Angeles Times ("Google and God's Mind"), dismissive of Google's plans to digitize books and make them searchable. Gorman says it's bad to make books digitally searchable, because books were made to be "read sequentially and cumulatively, so that the reader gains knowledge in the reading."

Many bloggers responded to Gorman, defending Google's project and wondering about Gorman's apparent disdain for Internet technology.

Now Gorman has written a column for Library Journal, dated the same day as his initial dismissive response to the Tulsa World's threats. Gorman accuses his critics of misreading his LA Times column because they lack reading comprehension skills:

It is obvious that the Blog People read what they want to read rather than what is in front of them and judge me to be wrong on the basis of what they think rather than what I actually wrote. Given the quality of the writing in the blogs I have seen, I doubt that many of the Blog People are in the habit of sustained reading of complex texts. It is entirely possible that their intellectual needs are met by an accumulation of random facts and paragraphs. In that case, their rejection of my view is quite understandable.

Karen Schneider has a very nice response to this latest Gorman column and some thoughts about his December broadside against Google:

Gorman, after a snide comment about "the boogie-woogie Google boys," argues not simply against Google Print but against any digitization of recorded knowledge: "The books in great libraries are much more than the sum of their parts. They are designed to be read sequentially and cumulatively, so that the reader gains knowledge in the reading." Who made up that rule? And do librarians really force people to check out books in sequential order? Books don't come with operating instructions; if I want to read Harry Potter V before Harry Potter IV, the Fiction Police will not descend on my house. Just recently I read Thoreau before I read Emerson, and I am really none the worse for wear....

I can't laugh when Gorman represents librarianship, my profession, with outlandishly reactionary comments about information technology. I can only worry.

On Friday, Schneider commented on the news that Google has invited Gorman up for a visit, and she's concerned that Google might get the wrong idea about librarians, so she proposes a remedy:

The Library and Information Technology Association is holding its annual Forum in San Jose this October. Google could meet a nice representative sample of the librarians who are busy maintaining servers, coding in XML, mulling over stylesheets, implementing OpenURL resolvers, making their libraries wi-fi friendly, or simply grooving on major new technology trends. Some of us even manage fully digital libraries.

Nice to know that, the ALA President's backward attitude notwithstanding, there are librarians who understand and embrace the possibilities that the World Wide Web and digitization offer for making a wealth of information available to pajama-clad bloggers and other ordinary folks with an urge to learn.


I live in Tulsa, and most of the people in power seem to be near-Nazis. Our voters seem to love Bush and his ilk at every election. I have had many run-ins with the establishment while circulating major petitions like term-limits, banning cockfighting, etc. (they threatened to arrest me for attempting to get signitures at Mayfest, Lafortune park, Cinco de Mayo, Glendi, etc.) We are not all like them, however. Please feel free to read my blog and leave a response, if you wish. There is some profanity, for emphasis. the site is : http://hitlermustbesmiling.blogspot.com Have a good day!

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on February 27, 2005 10:40 PM.

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