3.223 scanning and the law (78)

Sat, 8 Jul 89 16:49:42 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 223. Saturday, 8 Jul 1989.

Date: Fri, 7 Jul 89 14:47 EST
From: Christian Koch <FKOCH@OBERLIN>
Subject: Scanners and the law

I am looking for some clarification on the matter of text scanning
(or, I suppose, the matter of possession of machine-readable texts)
and the law. I realize this has been dealt with from time to time in
various contexts on HUMANIST, but I don't feel that I have a clear
picture at the moment.

Here at Oberlin there are a number of us who would like the
institution to buy a relatively high quality text scanner so we can
place books, articles, and documents onto disk for computer
manipulation in personal research as well as in class instruction. A
request for approximately $17,000 for a Kurzweil 5100 scanner went to
the powers that be, who have indicated in the past that they are
receptive to the idea of the institution's acquiring such an
instrument. The request was, however, turned down not necessarily
because of the money, although it is a matter of concern, but because
they say there is currently pending in the U.S. congress some
legislation that will clarify the issue of copyright infringement as
it relates to machine-readable texts. In the meantime, the
administration argues, it is just too risky to make available a high
quality scanner to faculty members. They are not too concerned about
the individual scholar who might want to make a single copy of some
text or the other in the course of personal research, but they are
very concerned at the thought that some persons, like myself, might
want to make ten or twenty machine-readable copies of a given text for
use by students in a course. The administration insists that the
matter is of such gravity that nothing can be done until the U.S.
congress acts.

I am wondering if the Oberlin adminstration's position in this matter
sounds reasonable to those of you with expertise in this area? I
really don't know what legislation they are talking about, how great a
risk is involved, what might be done to protect ourselves prior to
legislation, etc.

I am also wondering if the Kurzweil 5100 at about $17,000 seems to be
a good choice (I know there has been extensive commentary about
scanners on HUMANIST -- I'm more or less looking for a yes or no on
the 5100). The administration says that if the 5100 represents the
cutting edge of technology they might prefer to pass since they "have
been burned before on state-of-the-art machines" which have later
proved to be a bad idea and therefore abandoned by the manufacturer.
I did not personally investigate the type of scanner to recommend, so
I don't know if the Kurzweil 5100 is cutting edge or tried and true in
its technology. My unenlightened attitude is that if Kurzweil brings
it out, it can't be that bad.

The Oberlin administration says that in spite of their having turned
down an initial request for a scanner they are open to new suggestions
in the matter. They are, however, not clear on whose budget should
really pay for it or where it should be made available to
institutional persons -- the library, the computing center,
secretarial services, graphics services, etc. They are also not clear
whether each user should be charged by the page or whether the
institution should make the machine available free of charge to,
particularly, faculty. Since Oberlin is an institution of about 2700
students, there is not much chance that several high quality scanners
will be purchased by individual departments. A good scanner will have
to be shared. Perhaps some of you out there may have discovered the
ideal campus logistics for scanners?

Christian ("Chris") Koch
Computer Science (emphasis: Computing in the Liberal Arts)
Oberlin College
Oberlin, Ohio
BITNET: fkoch@oberlin