Searcher
Vol. 9 No. 8 September 2001
SEARCHER'S VOICE  
That Windblown Look
by Barbara Quint Editor, Searcher Magazine
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Have you ever wondered why dogs stick their heads out of car windows? And with such engrossed persistence and delight! They even try to keep their eyes open, as though they don't want to miss anything. In fact, worry over what might happen to the dog's sight explains why most humans are such party poopers in this matter, tugging on the dog to get all of it back inside the vehicle, trying to shut the window so only the dog's snout can sneak out. Dogs must think it's magic or something, but they never seem to connect the experience with the human at the wheel. Good thing, probably. Most dogs have a vastly inflated opinion of the master's role in the universe. To discover that masters can control the wind could make for a level of canine adulation that might embarrass, or even warp, the most mature egos among pet owners.

Well, lately I've been feeling a little windblown myself in the midst of the Tasini tornado of news and commentary and response to commentary and newer news and even fascinating non-news. The "story" has gotten way beyond the speed of delivery that a monthly print journal can offer at least, one print journal all by itself. Once again, information professionals must turn to the Web for assistance. For example, the start of Carol Ebbinghouse's "Sidebar" column on Tasini in this month's issue ["The Tasini Case: The Supreme Court Has Spoken...Now What?"] contains a verbatim copy of what Carol wrote for Information Today Inc.'s Web site collection of Newsbreaks [http://www.infotoday.com//newsbreaks/nb010628-1.htm]. We posted it within days of the June decision being handed down. Pretty much the same copy will probably go into the print issue of Information Today magazine, but without the full and enhanced coverage appearing in Carol's "Sidebar" column for Searcher readers. However, since that other publication like this one runs an average 2-month lead in going to press and since it also has a joint July/August issue, readers of only print have to wait from June to September to see the coverage.

By the way, is here where I should mention again the Newslink service we have available on the site? This service can e-mail you weekly alerts of new announcements and new full-text article postings all for free. To register, go to http://www.infotoday.com/newslink/default.htm.

Already the fallout from the Tasini case has become the next round in the story's history. And here is where it gets more complicated. Now that the Supremes have made their decision, one which confirms the copyright ownership of freelance authors in full-text material currently online, our world trembles as it waits to learn how publishers, database aggregators, search services, and authors will work out their ownership problems. The immediate response by publishers and the information industry has been to announce publicly, one might even say ostentatiously that they are pulling freelance articles out of their databases by the carload and plan to leave them forever lost to online retrieval. Some publishers will allow freelance authors to keep their material online as long as they sign away any rights to revenue from the articles. Naturally, the authors.... But don't read me on this point, read Carol.

My primary contribution as an online consumer advocate will appear in my next "Quint's Online" column in Information Today. That column constitutes my primary conduit for direct communication (nagging is such an ugly word) with the information industry. This "Searcher's Voice" column is primarily focused on talking to you, beloved consumers. Once again, however, time and tide have sped things up. The column which I wrote on the Tasini fallout "Stop the Trash Trucks: A Tasini Case Damage-Control Proposal" carries a proposal for limiting the damage of deleting records, a concept that needs immediate consideration before the information industry damages or destroys more full text than they need to. So, instead of waiting for the September issue of Information Today to hit subscribers' desks, we published it as a Newsbreak Special Report in July http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb010716-1.htm

Unfortunately, if this proposal is to do any good, it will need the advocacy of consumers to make it work. Briefly, my suggestion is that full-text database aggregators and online search services should not remove the inverted file indexing created by the now taboo freelancer full text, that they should continue to maintain full searchability but supply only bibliographic references (which are not copyrightable) in search results, accompanied by a notice reflecting the Tasini situation. (For full details and arguments, read the piece, online or off.) Besides encouraging information industry players to do the best they can to protect the interests of searchers at all times in this crisis, I also wave the flag for searchers to protect their own interests by pressuring vendors to follow this wiser approach. In response to that exhortation, I have received many e-mail messages, including some identifying online vendors the writers use so that I can petition those vendors on their behalf. 

And that, dear reader, explains why you find yourself in the rather shocked position of being asked to go to a Web site (or to another print publication, namely Information Today) to read an article to which this article constitutes a kind of postscript. "Work, work, work. A searcher's day never ends," I can hear you muttering to yourselves.

But what can we do? This story is breaking hard and fast and we must respond as quickly as we can. All of us. So, readers of Searcher, I ask you also to send me e-mail messages confirming your support of this full-text damage control proposal. My address is bquint@mindspring.com. The more details you can provide, particularly on the vendors whom you use and would like to follow this approach, the better. Of course, if you disapprove of the idea, you should also write to the same address, but I cannot promise to stop my campaigning unless your message is awfully good.
 

...bq 
Barbara Quint's e-mail address is bquint@mindspring.com.
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