If you’d told me upon joining the staff of ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) two-plus years ago that I’d be invited to spend a workday mulling over the proper way to credit creators of 3D printed objects, I would have told you to take your time machine back to Tomorrowland for repairs…It must be on the blink, because it transported you to a universe separate from our own…And if you’d informed me I’d spend that day with a gaggle of intellectual property lawyers and digital designers, I would have told you to scrap your time machine altogether. Luckily, I’ve had the privilege of immersing myself in the 3D space as a member of the OITP team, so when I found myself in this exact situation last week, I was confident I hadn’t lost my cosmic bearings.
While I wasn’t bewildered, I certainly was honored. The day consisted of a series of legal, design and technology discussions on the NASA Ames Campus in Mountain View, California. The discussions were sponsored by Creative Commons (CC) – the non-profit that offers standard open licenses for the use and remixing of copyrighted content. They brought together representatives from some very recognizable players in the 3D printing realm: MakerBot, Shapeways, Aleph Objects and the National Institutes of Health 3D Print Exchange, to name a handful.
In addition to feeling honored, I was just a bit tired. I arrived at the discussions straight from the ALA Annual Conference in Orlando. After tramping about the Orange County Convention Center and its expansive environs for six days, swinging out to The Golden State had me craving a jet-fuel-grade cup of coffee. But I digress.
The principal question at hand over the course of the day: How to create a standard method of author attribution for CC-licensed 3D designs once they’ve been built by a printer. Attributing the CC-licensed design in digital form is relatively straightforward. As Creative Commons staffer Jane Park mentions in a recent blog post, major digital design-sharing platforms allow for design files to be marked with Creative Commons licenses that include source metadata. But once a printer converts a CC-licensed design into physical form, the design’s Creative Commons and source information are lost.
Although it’s technically an open question whether or not clear attribution must be present on physical representations of CC-licensed designs, all but one Creative Commons license – CC0 – includes an attribution requirement. So, Creative Commons and all those supportive of the pro-information-access value on which they were founded, have a vested interest in finding a standard attribution mechanism for 3D printed objects. A standard attribution mechanism of this kind would also help 3D designers track when and how their designs are being used after the print button is pushed.
I wish I could say we found one, but we didn’t get that far. Last week’s discussions were only the beginning of what will surely be a robust and deliberative discourse. Several possible solutions were propounded – e.g., the use of RFID tags or barcodes (à la Thingiverse’s “print tag things”) – but none were explored from all angles. Nonetheless, one thing that gained significant traction was the idea that all of the attribution information that is gained about 3D printed objects moving forward should be indexed in a registry of some kind.
So, mile one of the marathon is in the books. ALA appreciates the opportunity to participate in the attribution discussion for 3D printed objects from the starting line. We – and I personally – would like to thank Creative Commons and Michael Weinberg of Shapeways for organizing and hosting the event. You can read Michael’s thorough overview on the challenge of attribution in 3D printing here. Do you have ideas on how to solve the challenge? Share them in the comments section.
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Back in December I read an article about Seattle Public Library’s WiFi HotSpot lending program. At the time of the article they had 325 devices available for checkout and a waiting list of more than 1,000 patrons. The program was started via a grant with Google but at the end of the year SPL needed to find a permanent solution for paying for the program, which they did. Their goal is 775 units in all. You can see in the graphic above SPL has 566 HotSpots (as of July 7, 2016) with 1,211 holds.
It’s an ambitious program but given the size of the population they serve it may be too small. The New York Public Library has 10,000 devices in its HotSpot program, but again that’s probably not enough. In fact, according to their website all the devices are out (they’re doing a program where patrons get the HotSpot for up to a full year). Of course, comparing Seattle to New York City isn’t exactly apples to apples, but the goal is the same: providing home internet access to people who currently don’t have it.
Both SPL and NYPL started their programs with grants. They also have large taxing bodies in order to support such large programs. I opted to dedicate a portion of my budget to start a pilot program with five devices running unlimited data on both 5G and 2.4G networks. With practically no marketing—we put up signs in the library and included it in our newsletter—the HotSpots were all checked out on the first day they were available. Patrons check them out for one week at a time and can renew the HotSpot up to three times as long as there are no holds.
We have 37 holds on those five devices.
Clearly we need to expand the program. Almost immediately after launching our five HotSpots I got an email from TechSoup—they’re a non-profit who provides technology for other non-profits including libraries—detailing an offer for HotSpots through a company called Mobile Beacon. I requested maximum number of devices, ten, through TechSoup. We are cataloging and processing the HotSpots so we can get them into our patrons’ hands as quickly as possible.
Just like Seattle and New York, we want to provide mobile internet access to patrons. Our program is smaller in size and ambition but no less important to the people we serve. Our school district provides iPads to all students K-12. That works great when the students are in school or at the library, but many of them do not have internet access at home. Now they can check out a HotSpot and have that access at home.
We have patrons who take HotSpots up north camping. Coverage was about what you’d expect as you get more remote so we tell patrons to check the coverage map before they check out a HotSpot. Other patrons used the HotSpot on long road trips (we assumed the driver did not also use the HotSpot).
Will 15 HotSpots be enough for our patrons? Time will tell; we can always add more. I’d rather have fewer devices that I can turn over regularly than a lot of devices sitting unused.
Have you started a HotSpot program at your library?