Is Google Stealing Our History from the British Library?

The British Library and Google have partnered to digitise 250 000 books from the period of 1700 to 1870, an era of political change starting with the French Revolution and ending with the abolition of slavery. The press release from the British Library explains the project well but some are critical that the digital versions of these out-of-copyright books will not themselves be public domain.

Consequently, I approached the British Library’s press office to get an their view on the project and the issue of copyright. Here’s what I found.

First of all, the status of the original public domain books is as it was. They’re still public domain and can be viewed at the British Library: nothing has changed there. Second, the deal with Google is non-exclusive so if another organisation or individual wishes to produce a digital version, there’s nothing in the arrangement with Google that would prevent that from happening.

The non-commerical use wording in the original press release was the source of some concern. To clarify, the digital versions of the books will be subject to a non-commercial-use-only restriction for a period of fifteen years; this is much shorter that the normal copyright period. However, the exact copyright status of the digital version wasn’t made completely clear, but providing the fifteen year period is adhered to, it doesn’t appear if the detail of the copyright ownership will be problem.

The digital versions of the books will be available from Google, the British Library and some other European archives to which the British Library contributes. Broadly-speaking this means that the content will be free (at no cost) to any individual who wishes to gain access to the material from anywhere in the world via the Internet for research purposes.

So let’s get this straight…the public domain status of the original books is unchanged. Google bears the cost of digitising the works in exchange for fifteen years of (potentially non-exclusive) commercial use on books that are of limited interest and are a minimum of 140 years old. Anyone in the world with Internet access can look at the digital books for non-commercial use, instead of only those who could get to the British Library.

Overall, I can’t see that this is anything but a fair deal which balances the cost of the digitisation with commercial rights, while allowing access to those who are likely to actually benefit the most, mainly academics. There’s no doubt that we have to be vigilant for those instances where big business tries to take something to which it is not entitled, but I can’t see that this is one of them.

60 Years of BBC’s Reith Lectures as Podcasts

Sixty years of the BBC’s Reith Lectures archive have been made available as downloadable .mp3s, a fantastic resource for Renaissance geeks and lovers of 20th century history. The Reith Lectures are an annual short series of lectures on issues of the day pitched to the general public and given by respected individuals. They cover a wide range of topics but are touched by the era in which they were recorded. There’s usually four or five lectures in a series.

They’re named after Lord Reith, the first Director General of the BBC and started in 1948, continuing to this day. This year’s lectures on “Securing Freedom” will be given by Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese pro-democracy leader and Baroness Manningham-Buller, Director General of MI5 from 2002 to 2007. Last year’s were on “Scientific Horizons” and were presented by Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society. As you can see, these aren’t irrelevant boring lectures by dull academics.

Until now, if you didn’t catch the lectures when they were broadcast through the RSS feed, you had to use iPlayer to listen to the lectures and the on-line archive has been expanded right back to the start in 1948. Currently, they appear as three tranches, 1948-1975, 1976-2010 and this year’s, 2011.

Hopefully, the downloads aren’t restricted to the UK as there’s some very interesting content that’s worth listening to, some still relevant to today and other material that will help you in understanding previous decades and the impact they’ve had on today.

I think my broadband’s going to take a hammering this month…

Scientists Need To Stand Up

If you were to draw a Venn diagram of the whole of science, I’d like to think that us geeks fit in there as a subset. Many of us come from a scientific background and appreciate science, scientific method and the benefits it brings to humanity. This isn’t to say that we don’t value art, but rather we have critical approach to life that uses evidence and method rather than doubt and misinformation. Theories aren’t always right but we value the outcome when they are disproved.

Regrettably science and scientists have often failed to engage with public, either retreating into academia or else becoming the boffins in the backrooms of organisations that capitalise on their work. The Internet has given plenty of space for pseudo-science to become widespread and thought of as fact. Validated research and evidence rarely gets the weight it deserves.

The New Statesman has published an excellent article on how the scientific community needs to take a look and learn from other social groups such as gays and blacks which have managed to get the respect that they deserve. Scientists need to stand up and speak out against pseudo-science and misinformation.

The UK’s Government Chief  Scientific Adviser John Beddington said, “We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of racism. We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of people who [are] anti-homosexuality… We are not – and I genuinely think we should think about how we do this – grossly intolerant of pseudo-science, the building up of what purports to be science by the cherry-picking of the facts and the failure to use scientific evidence and the failure to use scientific method.

Competition Time – G Data AntiVirus 2012

G Data have kindly supplied a copy of their AntiVirus 2012 to give away to Geek News Central’s loyal UK members. I reviewed the next product up in the range, InternetSecurity 2012, a couple of weeks ago and was quietly impressed. AntiVirus 2012 comes with antivirus (obviously) plus phishing, spyware and rootkit protection for a year on the PC and on Android smartphones or tablets.

To be in with a chance of winning, simply leave a comment below saying how you think GNC could be more relevant to a British audience. Don’t forget to leave your email address and I’ll draw at random from the comments in a week’s time. Remember, this is only for people with a UK postal address.

Orange “Sound Charge” T-Shirt for Glastonbury

The music festival season is underway in the UK, with Glastonbury Festival starting tomorrow. To celebrate, Orange have invented a t-shirt that recharges mobile phones using a piezoelectric material to convert sound waves into electricity. Over a weekend of music, the t-shirt will produce enough juice to charge a smartphone.

The t-shirts were developed by Orange in conjunction with GotWind, renewable energy specialists. The piezoelectric film charges a battery pack from which the wearer can then charge his or her phone. At the Festival, user testing will determine which musical performances give the best charge. Personally, I’d guess the loudest.

Andrew Pearcey, Head of Sponsorship at Orange UK said: “In a vibrant festival environment such as Glastonbury, sound is such an obvious medium that it seemed like a natural fit to use it in the development of this year’s prototype….It could even influence trends in fashion, with designers looking to integrate this passive charging solution into clothing.

Orange has a history of innovative phone charging solutions for festivals. Last year, the Power Welly generated power from walking and in previous years there have been the Power Pump and the Dance Charger.

You can read the full press release here – it’s hilarious and there’s a video too. You couldn’t make this stuff up.


G Data MobileSecurity for Android

Continuing the battle with the bad guys, G Data has released its MobileSecurity product for Android smartphones and tablets. MobileSecurity is designed to protect the data on phone from viruses, malware and spyware. Apps have to gain authorisation from the user before the app can make calls, send text messages or transfer data. Other features include app blacklisting and app checking during installation. Of course, there are regular updates to the software to keep the protection up-to-date.

Eddy Willems, Security Evangelist at G Data commented: “Malware writers are entrepreneurs: always looking for the best return on investment. According to analysts, Gartner and IDC, Android seems to be the market leader in mobile operating systems, so it is logical that cyber criminals will target the platform. Android malware can be easily spread through apps, which is another reason the platform is targeted. Not only did the beginning of 2011 see the emergence of this trend, but it also saw Android take the lead as the most targeted mobile operating systems in terms of malware. So it is the perfect time to introduce a solution for the protection of Android devices, as we expect a large increase in this area.

Marketing puff aside, as we’ve seen in the past few weeks with the Mac malware and the Gmail spearphishing, there are criminals out there working out how to attack every major platform. And f they can’t beat the platform directly, they’ll go after the user, which is often the weakest link.

G Data’s MobileSecurity is available for £9.99 from a range of Android app stores or is free with G Data’s 2012 range of security products.

250 Best iPad Apps at The Telegraph

In the off chance that you’ve got a an iPad and you can’t find the best apps among the also-rans in the App Store, the UK’s Daily Telegraph is doing a “250 Best iPad Apps” series of articles.  Starting from the 23rd May, each day a different topic area is being covered and so far, fashion, motoring, social media, food & drink, health, travel, education and games. Presumably more will be posted in the coming days.

Some of the apps are for the British market only, such as the UK Driving Theory Test, but most will be of interest to anyone with an iPad. Some will be already familiar, but many were new to me.

For overseas readers, The Telegraph is one of the UK’s broadsheet newspapers and covers real news rather than salacious gossip, the implication being that the apps selected might actually be quite good.

Unbound: Kickstarter for Books

Launched yesterday at the Hay Festival in Wales, Unbound is the latest website to link prospective funders to creators. In this instance, it’s authors and books, rather than entrepreneurs and tech but it’s the same concept. They have an idea for a book, the story gets pitched to you, if you like it you buy the future book and if enough people buy in, the book gets written. It might also be a very cost effective way of meeting a favourite author, but more on this later.

On the website there are currently five authors pitching books, one of which is an iPad reference app. Obviously the Unbound founders are hoping that more authors will come forwards as the awareness of the site grows. You may or may not recognise all of the authors but many of us of a certain age will know Terry Jones of Monty Python fame.

Each of the authors has a short video, pitching the story. The author’s page will show how many funders are required and how long the book has to get funded. Some of the books need as few as 1,500, others need as many as 5,000, most seem somewhere in between. Once you have decided that you want to support the author, you can then choose your level of funding. £10 gets you an ebook, £20 gets you a hardback and so on. There’s a bit more to the funding levels including your name in the back of the book and access to the author’s “shed”. But the best bit is that for a £250, you get to have a lunch with the author (plus the books, etc) which I think is a bargain. Admittedly, it’s not clear who pays for the lunch!

I’ll definitely be funding a couple of these – just trying to decide what level to go for. This is all UK-based, so if you are from elsewhere just check the situation. Everything’s a bit new so the FAQ isn’t as full as it could be.

Boxee Opening European Office in London

Following on from the previous post, Boxee have announced that they’re opening a European office in London. In an email to Boxee users, they said that Wil Stephens will be setting up shop to bring more content to the UK audience and will be working with D-Link to get more boxes into more stores. They’ll also be hiring staff so watch their Twitter feeds and Facebook pages if you are interested.

And to celebrate, Boxee is having a meet-up on 7th June in East London at an undisclosed bar. It’s an RSVP affair (and £5 in) but they’ll be showing off some new content partners and giving away some Boxees. And if you can’t make it in person, it’ll be streamed live on the Boxee as well.

HP Promotes TouchPad to Europe

At a press conference in Cannes,  HP touted the forthcoming TouchPad as being “better than number one” and announced a few of the European TouchPad flagship partners.

HP’s senior VP for the Personal Systems Group in EMEA, Eric Cador said, “In the PC world, with fewer ways of differentiating HP’s products from our competitors, we became number one; in the tablet world we’re going to become better than number one. We call it number one plus.” That’s pretty big talk, but HP aren’t no. 11 in the Fortune 500 for nothing (Apple is no. 35).

Key to getting the TouchPad to “1+” will be getting developers on-board and a wide range of apps and Mr Cador announced that UK partners will be Sky TV, The Guardian newspaper and music streaming service According to HP, there will be “thousands” more at launch.

When asked about the competition in the tablet market, Eric Cador said, “Only one company plays in both the consumer and business and world. We tend to talk about technologies. But the way the user is going to look at tablets means it’s about experience. The way the corporate is going to look at it is to say that its employees, who are also consumers, have got to like it and it’s got to be secure. We’re going to deliver that. Beyond that, it’s about marketing and branding.

He’s certainly not wrong there but there’s a huge hill to climb to get anywhere near no. 1. There’s no doubt that the iPad is the current king of the hill, but there’s no clear no. 2, though Samsung, Motorola, htc and RIM are all going to take a shot. If HP can get developers on board, their business links are going to make them a strong contender.

Pricing and release date was not disclosed for the TouchPad. The Veer smartphone was released in the US earlier in May and the Pre 3 is expected June. No UK launch date has been announced for either phone.

Further reporting at The Telegraph.

Mr Cador also said that “only one company plays in both the consumer and business and world. We tend to talk about technologies. But the way the user is going to look at tablets means it’s about experience. The way the corporate is going to look at it is to say that its employees, who are also consumers, have got to like it and it’s got to be secure. We’re going to deliver that. Beyond that, it’s about marketing and branding.