Scales of Justice

Balancing Free Speech and Social Justice to Secure the Future of Intellectual Freedom

Katie Chamberlain Kritikos: The impetus for this talkback was the controversy surrounding the publication in January of this year of a children’s book called A Birthday Cake for George Washington. Because critics instantly condemned the book for its depiction of smiling slaves, publisher Scholastic Press withdrew the book and halted its distribution.

This withdrawal encapsulates the shifting social context of intellectual freedom in the United States. Traditionally, free speech advocates decry any attempt to suppress expression. A growing emphasis on social justice creates tension between the foundation and the future of intellectual freedom. This post considers the recent controversies over children’s books, trigger warnings, and free speech online to explore this crossroads of information policy.

First Amendment

The First Amendment: Indispensable and Indivisible

Judith Platt: Let me begin by saying that, not surprisingly I’m pretty close to a free speech absolutist. I believe our First Amendment and what it represents and encompasses is the basis of every other human and civil right. I do not believe we can ever hope for social justice in the absence of unfettered free speech.

Elsevier

SCI-HUB AS CRIMINAL: A PUBLISHER’S VIEW

My previous posting explored the phenomenon of Sci-Hub, a site dedicated to providing free access to more than 50 million academic papers without regard to their ownership status or to copyright laws. This post looks at the legal issues involved, in contrast to the previous post’s articulation of the argument for open access.

Sci-Hub

Sci-Hub: Research Crusader or Copyright Criminal?

Sci-Hub is an online repository of over 51,000,000 scientific academic papers and articles, available through its website. New papers are uploaded daily after accessing them through educational institutions. Founded by Alexandra Elbakyan from Kazakhstan in 2011, it began as a reaction to the high cost of research papers behind paywalls, typically US$30 each when bought on a per-paper basis. Academic publisher Elsevier has in 2015 filed a legal complaint in New York City alleging copyright infringement by Sci-Hub.

You need to see what I checked out? Well, as long as we're besties

Thinking Like Others

On just a normal day at work, recently, a young boy came up to me to inquire about the next book in a series. We had the item, but it was currently checked out. I asked for his card and put the item on hold for him. Everything was normal, and then, just as he was leaving, he asked if he could see who had the item checked out.

sketchy ocean waves background

Kate Messner’s Wish

“When we quietly censor books that deal with tough issues like heroin addiction or books like Alex Gino’s GEORGE, which is a wonderful story about a transgender fourth grader, we are hurting kids. Because no matter where we teach, we have students who are living these stories. When we say, “This book is inappropriate,” we’re telling those children, “Your situation…your family…your life is inappropriate.” This is harmful. It directly hurts children. And that’s not what we do.”

Ogilvy Graphic Notetakers

Memes and Gifs and Fair Use, Oh My!

As librarians, we need to take a queue from social culture and use it to advance our profession by looking at what attracts people in today’s world and creating that attraction focusing on libraries. The way we share information is continuously changing. Think about how information was exchanged ten years ago….emails, online searches, Youtube. These are all still relevant sources but the way we receive information has changed, and it’s all done within the parameters of fair use by using small clips or images and transforming them into a completely new product.