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Weekly News Digest

August 23, 2022 — In addition to this week's NewsBreaks article and the monthly NewsLink Spotlight, Information Today, Inc. (ITI) offers Weekly News Digests that feature recent product news and company announcements. Watch for additional coverage to appear in the next print issue of Information Today.

CLICK HERE to view more Weekly News Digest items.

Publishers Weekly Shares Amicus Briefs About the Publishers vs. Internet Archive Lawsuit

Andrew Albanese writes the following in “Supporters, Opponents Weigh In on Internet Archive Copyright Battle” for Publishers Weekly:

Is the Internet Archive’s program to scan and lend copies of print library books under an untested legal theory known as controlled digital lending (CDL) wholesale piracy? Or is it a carefully considered and legal effort to preserve the mission of libraries in a digital world that is moving away from ownership to licensed access? With Summary Judgment motions now filed in a closely-watched lawsuit filed by four major publishers over the Internet Archive's scanning program, stakeholders on both sides of the case are weighing in with amicus briefs.

For the lists of briefs in support of the publishers and briefs in support of the Internet Archive, read the article.

A Roundup of DOJ vs. PRH Coverage

The trial between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Penguin Random House (PRH) to block the publisher’s acquisition of Simon & Schuster (S&S) came to a close on Aug. 19. A decision isn’t expected until the fall, but in the meantime, you can read up on the trial coverage, including from the Related Articles at the end of this Digest. The following are some recent articles of interest.

Annika Barranti Klein writes in “PRH WTF: The Weirdest Quotes From the Penguin Random House Trial” for Book Riot, “The trial began [Aug. 1], and journalist John Maher has been live tweeting it. Although I highly doubt that anything I have to say about [it] could possibly be more amusing/infuriating/damning than the statements themselves, I do hope to provide a service in A) saving you the time of reading through the thread if all you want is to be enraged, and/or B) amusing you.”

Exemplifying how mainstream news from the trial has become, Esquire published “Everything You Need to Know About the Penguin Random House Trial” by Sophie Vershbow, which calls it “the publishing trial of the century” that provided “several gasp-worthy moments from [the] publishing power players who spilled more industry tea than at the National Book Awards afterparty.” Vershbow continues, “The publishing house employees, authors, and literary agents that I spoke to for this piece all shared feelings of uneasiness about what a PRH/S&S merger would mean both for them as workers and for the industry as a whole.”

Margot Atwell, executive director and publisher of Feminist Press, offers an independent publisher perspective for Literary Hub in “The PRH Trial Has Revealed a Barely Hidden Scorn for Independent Publishers.” She writes that “independent presses publish books in the same landscape as larger publishers, where Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and others already benefit from substantial economies of scale and bargaining power with printers, customers, and more—an advantage which this merger would increase even further.” In addition, Atwell shares the following:

One thing that’s especially galling is that independent presses often lack the money to provide authors with higher advances because we take risks on work that is more experimental and pushes boundaries—books written by writers who are BIPOC, trans, queer, disabled, neuroatypical, immigrants, or in other ways marginalized by mainstream society and mainstream publishing. We often publish work that has less obvious ‘commercial appeal’ to serve our missions and enrich the literary landscape. Then, Big 5 publishers take that enrichment literally, cherry-picking talented and newly visible writers off indie lists and winning them away with more money but not always more support for their work.

The New York TimesElizabeth A. Harris, Alexandra Alter, and Adam Bednar weigh in with “A Trial Put Publishing’s Inner Workings on Display. What Did We Learn?” They write:

The government sued to stop the deal on antitrust grounds, saying it would diminish competition among the biggest houses and push down advances for some authors. Bertelsmann, the parent company of Penguin Random House, argued the deal would bring its supply chain and distribution muscle to a longer list of authors, to their benefit, and that the industry is large and varied, made up of many important players beyond the biggest firms. Judge [Florence Y.] Pan expressed skepticism of several of Penguin Random House’s main arguments.

Beyond the legal debate, the three-week trial offered an unusual glimpse into the world of publishing, offering observers a parade of high-profile publishing executives, agents and authors speaking frankly and on the record about how books are made.

The Bookseller posted a wrap-up of the trial from Mark Chandler, “DoJ Says PRH and S&S Merger Will Create Duopoly as Trial Over $2.2bn Deal Concludes.” Chandler states, “On the final day of a three-week trial in Washington DC on 19th August, lawyers for PRH and S&S defended the merger, arguing it would actually increase competition and claiming the US government had not proved it would create significant harm. Both sides will now present post-trial briefs before Judge Florence Pan makes a final verdict later this year on whether the merger should be blocked.”

And of course, Publishers Weekly has a webpage aggregating its comprehensive coverage of the trial:

FTC Proposes New Rules for Consumer Data and Privacy Protection

Aaron Boyd writes the following in the Aug. 19 article “FTC Considering New Data Privacy Regulations That Go Beyond Asking Users for Consent” for Nextgov:

The Federal Trade Commission [FTC] is considering establishing new rules for how companies collect, secure, use and sell consumers’ data that go beyond asking users to agree to opaque and often misleading terms of service.

On [Aug. 22], the commission will post an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking, or ANPR, that outlines current consumer data issues and asks for public feedback on creating new regulations that focus on baseline privacy, data security and corporate accountability rather than user consent.

‘Specifically, the commission invites comment on whether it should implement new trade regulation rules or other regulatory alternatives concerning the ways in which companies collect, aggregate, protect, use, analyze, and retain consumer data, as well as transfer, share, sell, or otherwise monetize that data in ways that are unfair or deceptive,’ states the notice set to publish Aug. 22 in the Federal Register. …

As the commission considers new regulatory options, FTC is using this comment period and an upcoming virtual public forum on Sept. 8 ‘to generate a public record about prevalent commercial surveillance practices or lax data security practices that are unfair or deceptive, as well as about efficient, effective, and adaptive regulatory responses.’

For more information, read the article.

ITHAKA Invests in the Hypothesis Open Annotation Service

ITHAKA announced the following:

ITHAKA is investing in the leading open annotation service Hypothesis. Hypothesis—developed with funding from the Sloan, Mellon and other foundations—allows users to make private, semi-private, or public annotations on any webpage, PDF, or document. This $2.5 million investment—made to Anno, the public-benefit corporation that is home to Hypothesis—furthers ITHAKA’s mission to expand access to knowledge and education by supporting a key component of open higher education infrastructure: interoperable teaching and learning tools that positively impact student learning outcomes.

Hypothesis is available as a free browser extension as well as a fee-based enterprise service that integrates annotation functionality directly into college and university learning management systems. It has a million users globally and more than 200 institutional customers. Faculty and students are using Hypothesis in the classroom to annotate course material, generating asynchronous discussion around specific texts. …

In addition to this investment, ITHAKA is working with Anno on a pilot project with a select number of colleges and universities to enable their faculty and students to use Hypothesis to annotate the millions of text-based resources available on JSTOR from within their learning management systems. The pilot will launch this fall, followed by a broader rollout intended to enable all JSTOR users to easily use Hypothesis for annotation both inside and outside of the classroom.

For more information, read the press release.

The Africarare Metaverse Is Open for Business

Africarare announced the following:

Africarare, Africa’s first metaverse has opened up to the world and is poised to unlock African creativity and connect Africa to the global digital economy. … [It] is set in Ubuntuland, a virtual world that marries creativity, cryptocurrency, and commerce. 

Firstly, virtual land is now available to purchase and develop either through private sales or public NFT marketplaces, with MTN, Africa’s largest multinational mobile telecommunications [company]. …

Additionally, the Austria-based World Data Lab (WDL) has acquired a 6x6 village in Ubuntuland on which they will develop their presence and connect to other leading organizations. WDL plans to use this collaboration to help improve quality of life for Africans and raise awareness of key-impact topics through virtual initiatives that include developing a Data Science Metaversity, opening a consumer insights hub and providing metaverse addressable market statistics and an analytics board. …

Furthermore, an exciting collaboration between Africarare and South African superstar Boitumelo Thulo has been announced. Popularly known as Boity, the acclaimed television personality, rapper, actress, businesswoman and model will be launching the Boity tribe of 10 000 avatars. These NFT’s will soon be available for fans, with a Boity village currently being developed and plans for virtual concerts under way. …

In the Africarare marketplace, creators and developers can mint and trade in-world assets such as land, avatars, avatar additions and other goods and services that are and will be available in Ubuntuland.

For more information, read the press release.

Send correspondence concerning the Weekly News Digest to NewsBreaks Editor Brandi Scardilli
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