There’s a rather fascinating discussion happening these days around licensed content. I mean, it’s technically about using Netflix to extend the library’s collection, but it’s actually about licensing and terms of service and to what extent it’s our professional duty to enforce the letter of the law or, on the flip side, push at the boundaries a little in hopes of effecting change.
I wonder if the conversation would be different if we were talking about some other kind of Terms of Service. It strikes me that we see easy analogies between streaming video and the kinds of content we’ve shepherded since forever even though streaming video is really quite new, and so professional debates that we’ve had about everything from closed stacks to copyright to food in the library all rally around to reinforce the Respect The Content side of the debate, the side that is really quite uncomfortable with the idea of lending these DVDs without explicit permission in the form of a license.
Then there are the Terms of Service that come with tools or platforms rather than content. When those are wacky (or if we read them at all) it seems far more likely that we’ll cry foul and raise our pitchforks at the vendor who created such inhumane and restrictive licenses. Is this because there isn’t an easy analogy with our traditional responsibilities since the days of clay tablets? Or is it because using tools and platforms seems like an easier analogy to the other major piece of our work: the piece that protects our patrons right to do their own thing with whatever content we can (legally) provide? Or is it because it’s easier to tell people they can’t do something than it is to be told we can’t do something?
I think the Netflix thing will work itself out one way or the other pretty soon (probably when Netflix creates a new license). I don’t think the problem of navigating licenses is going away in the foreseeable future.
P.S. The backstory