March 30, 2005  ·  Lessig

The 711 unique comments submmitted to the Copyright Office on the “Orphan Works” question have been posted. This is a fantastic response. The comments of Creative Commons are posted here. Thanks to the Free Culture Movement, EFF and PublicKnowledge for running the Orphan Works site.

Now maybe we should get a wiki going to have a collaborative analysis of the comments?

  • http://pobox.com/~joehall/nqb2/ joe

    Unfortunately, all the PDFs are locked such that you can’t copy and paste text out of them. This might make a collaborative analysis a bit harder… I wonder why they chose to do that? A tad copyright-paranoid maybe?

  • http://www.tekstadventure.nl/branko/blog/ Branko Collin

    I find that after you’ve used the text extract function in gsview, you can select and copy the text.

    (Of course, once you have extracted the text, the need to select and copy it from the PDF viewer has diminished.)

  • http://www.highprogrammer.com/alan/ Alan De Smet

    I don’t think we’re looking at intentional lockdown on the PDFs; I think we’re looking at a quick and dirty conversion to PDF. Some of the comments clearly arrived on paper and were scanned to PDF (for example Microsoft’s) The result has no text at all, just images of text. You can do OCR to add normal text, but it’s error prone and (perhaps more importantly) costs extra money.

    Now the email submissions (typically in courier) are searchable. One could in theory do copy and paste, but I believe the default is to disable that functionality. The person who did the work either didn’t know about the option, or didn’t care.

    I’m guessing someone was told “Make all of these available online in the exact same format.” PDF is a reasonable compromise (not my favorite, but *eh*). The person doing the work chose the simplest, cheapest option. As a result: no cutting and pasting. I don’t fault them for it.

    Interestingly, while loading one of the email message I discovered something interesting: the headers (From, To, Subject) briefly appeared, then disappeared. It appears that the “redacting” they mention rather naive: they just put a white block over it. However the text is still present in the file. Anyone with enough technical skill could easily extract the information. Sloppy. There have been cases where important Secret information was accidentally leaked this way.

  • http://www.highprogrammer.com/alan/ Alan De Smet

    Good catch, Branko. Using gsview to view the PDF, just select Edit > Text Extract… and you’ll get the plain text to the message. This only works for the email submissions since the paper versions don’t really have “text” . The gsview package appears to contain “pstotext” which does this on the command line quite handily.

    As I predicted, this easily extracts the email headers and other redacted information. Sloppy. Ah, well.

  • http://pobox.com/~joehall/nqb2/ joe

    Actually, Joe Gratz just pointed out the probable reason that the PDFs (of email comments) are locked… personal information in these comments has been obscured with white opaque boxes. Presumably they just went through and obscured the personal information and then locked the PDFs so that viewers can’t unobscure this information.

    So, I’d be interested to see if using the xpdf / gsview method will allow access to the obscured personal information.

  • http://pobox.com/~joehall/nqb2/ joe

    Yup. I’ve confirmed it with the “extract text” function of gsview. Everyone who submitted comments via the orphan works site has there personal information in their PDFs… and tools like gsview can be used to extract this information. That’s a hell of a lot of personal information.

  • http://arton.cunst.net/ hungerburg

    I did a cursory view: how about counting the different “arts” first: most comments seem to be about photographs, with literature second. others dont mention any works at all, just recommend some practice.

    the ASCAP comment is typically for a self serving organizational “lets build a wall” point of view – I’m sure, ASCAP will gladly sell STM a licence for public performance of all these orphaned works, and in the fine print will disclaim ANY liabilities for their “100% 80 countries coverage”.

  • http://pobox.com/~joehall/nqb2/ joe

    Just an FYI, the comments are now properly redacted. 2005-04-01 17:39:37 PST

  • http://www.tekstadventure.nl/branko/blog/ Branko Collin

    I’ve been thinking of writing up some analyses and abstracts, but I am put off by the sheer number of comments.

    The three or four I read failed to point to any real-life examples of orphan works, which made it hard to put the proposals in a context. For instance, ASCAP says it cannot imagine orphaned musical performances. If that’s true, then why did they enter a comment?

    Microsoft can imagine orphaned works, and provides a well thought out proposal of how to deal with orphaned works, but as other commenters fails to ground it in real-life examples, so that we are left guessing what these orphan works are.

    (I did not read these comments whole, so I may have missed the examples I ask for.)

  • Joseph Pietro Riolo

    To Branko,

    Comments do not have to be limited to the actual
    examples of orphan works. I never encounter an
    orphan work but that does not mean that it does
    not exist (“absence of evidence is not evidence of
    absence”) and that I can’t submit my comment.
    Not all questions as posed in the Federal Register
    are related to the actual examples of orphan works.
    Some questions are related to laws and treaties
    themselves.

    After the reply period is over, I am sure that
    the Copyright Office will analyze comments,
    categorize them, and record them for future
    reference. In light of that, it is important
    to counter some comments made by totally
    self-serving authors and artists who claim that
    there is no such thing called orphan works and
    that even if they exist, that’s too bad for the
    public (“damn the public”).

    Joseph Pietro Riolo
    <riolo@voicenet.com>

    Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions in this
    comment in the public domain.

  • http://www.tekstadventure.nl/branko/blog/ Branko Collin

    According to an article in Wired, the Copyright Office is now solliciting replies to the comments. Deadline is May 9.

    BTW, your blog software seems broken. Regardless of whether I select “Remember Me” or not, I always need to fill out my data again. And when I use Preview, the word “human” is lost and needs to be retyped.

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