Linking isn’t copyright infringement, says European Justice

The advocate general of the European Court of Justice, Melchior Wathelet,  has determined that linking to copyrighted material is not copyright infringement.

The Dutch blog GeenStijl linked to leaked Playboy photos hosted by the website FileFactory. Playboy was able to get FileFactory to remove the photos. When FileFactory no longer had the images, GeenStijl linked out to another website which had posted the photos.  Playboy took GeenStijl to court.

Wathelet ruled that “Hyperlinks which lead, even directly, to protected works are not ‘making them available’ to the public when they are already freely accessible on another website, and only serve to facilitate their discovery.”


This must be a huge relief to bloggers and news sites in the European Union.  Now, journalists and editors know that linking out to various resources will not be considered copyright infringement.

European libraries and librarians can also benefit from this ruling.  For example, when creating subject guides, librarians can link out to material that could be useful for users – even if the library does not hold the copyright or a license.  Librarians linking out to other websites won’t be making these materials available to the public, but they will be making the materials more discoverable.


Pornography in the Library, Part III

While I openly admit that I’m interested in pornography collections in libraries, I did not expect to find so much material to write about so quickly.  So, here’s another installment of Pornography in the Library.

I am currently in the Information Policy course at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign‘s Graduate School of Library and Information Science.  The course talks about all sorts of ways that institutions (governments, schools, universities, libraries, etc.) create policies surrounding information.  For that class, I decided to do a little scanning of the literature related to library policies concerning pornography.  I was surprised to find how few resources focus on pornography and libraries in general (rather than the restriction of child pornography, or restrictions on children’s room internet access).  (Apparently, people don’t want to write about things I find interesting.) The most comprehensive and up to date monograph I found was Libraries, Erotica, & Pornography, edited by Martha Cornog. (And when I say “most up to date” – this book was published in 1991. Yeah, apparently porn and libraries aren’t exciting.)

cover of playboy magazine
Cover of first issue of Playboy Magazine, via

This post is not a review.  Instead, I wanted to highlight statistics on the iconic serial Playboy in libraries, which Cornog includes in the tenth chapter of Libraries, Erotica, & Pornography.  Sure, they’re a little old – but they still give some fun insights into how libraries cope with their erotic collections.

Here are some fun facts on Playboy in libraries:

  • Libraries most often subscribed to Playboy due to the quality of its content. 34.2% of libraries surveyed listed this attribute as the reason for their subscription.  20.7% subscribed to Playboy because the magazine is indexed (147).
  • Academic users have greater influence over the selection decisions in libraries than public users (147).
  • 88.3% of subscriptions were purchases, rather than gifts.
  • 42.3% of libraries with Playboy subscriptions reported staff complaints; only 25% reported patron complaints (148).
  • 2/3rds of libraries with subscriptions to Playboy restricted access in some manner.
  • Theft seems to be a problem, but it’s usually not the patrons – but the library staff who seem to walk off with a sexy magazine (151).

I always find it fun when it’s the library itself (the staff, the institution) that has issues with pornography – when the users don’t always seem to care.

Pornography in the Library, Part II

Last time, in Pornography in the Library, I talked about pornography and its discoverability.  This week, it’s another post about Pornography in the Library.  This time, it’s a link roundup on various illicit collections.

pederastic courtship
“Pederastic courtship Louvre F43” by Marie-Lan Nguyen (2007). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Saucy Victorian Escort Cards – Want to get laid tonight?  Or, you know, after marriage?  So did Victorians.  Escort cards helped the horny make acquaintances, to skirt around rigid social expectations.  Right swipe on Tinder, or sneak a little envelope asking if you “may C U home?”

New York Public Library Erotica Collection – “I was in charge of the chubbies.”  Yes, that could be part of your job description if you’re a librarian at the NYPL.  (Or at least, in the past.)  Research libraries and archives try to collect culture – and pornography (labeled therein as “erotica”) is a snippet that you can find at the New York Public Library.

L’enfer at the Bibliotheque nationale de France – Want a taste of Hell?  The Bibliotheque Nationale in France has got you covered.  I think lust is the big sin here.

The British Museum’s Private Case – I personally prefer the other title to this collection – the Secretum.  Implies all sorts of secrets and secretions, which go very nicely with pornography.

Pornography in the Library, Part I

This is Part I of a (hopefully) multi-part series on pornography and libraries.

The Fall semester of 2015, I took a class on metadata.  (Metadata is data that describes other data; basically, if you take a metadata class, you’re cataloging things just with standards/languages other than MaRC).  For the final project, we were supposed to create our own metadata schema.

Perhaps this is strange, but I immediately thought of pornography.

Metadata (and cataloging) is all about discovery.  While porn can be strangely easy to find, it can also be incredibly difficult to find.  We can see (softcore) porn on billboards, on television, etc., but search engines like Google censor their suggested search functions when the search relates to porn. Porn websites have a phenomenal number of tags (folksonomies or metadata), but the user might have to trawl through pages and pages, videos and videos, images and images to find the material that fulfills the user’s needs/wants.  Pornography could very well benefit from a metadata schema.  Creating a metadata schema is all about findability.  For a library school metadata project, pornography would be really cool to do.

Then, pornography is fascinating from a cataloging perspective (discoverability aside).  Pornography can come in all shapes, sizes, textures, etc.  It can be text, video, audio (audiobook or phone sex), still image.  It can be digital or analog. It could be 1,000 years old, or 1 second.  Wow, how can you create a structure (of metadata) that can encompass all these potential attributes?  It’s a compelling challenge, one that I really wish I could have jumped on.

And therein arises the second part of this post.  While I have constructed the barest skeleton of a metadata schema for pornography, I did that on a boring morning in December.  I didn’t have the support or time to create anything like a viable metadata schema.  My group was great to work with and, in the end, we created a decent artists’ books schema.  But, well, I didn’t get to create an in-depth metadata schema for pornography.

“White peach and cross section edit” by Fir0002 – File:White peach and cross section.jpg modified by User:Noodle snacks. Licensed under GFDL 1.2 via Wikimedia Commons.

I also became the subject of the Graduate School for Library and Information Science’s gossip.

My friend A was waiting for me outside the library, sitting on a misshapen lump of concrete. (Maybe it’s considered “art”?)  “They’re talking about you,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I was with my metadata group,” he said.  “They said how one group had a member who wanted to do pornography.”

I raised my hand cynically.  “That’s me.”

He knew that.  We’d already discussed the idea of a metadata schema for pornography.  “I told them it was a cool idea.  They sort of agreed.  But they said it was ‘unprofessional’.”

“Unprofessional,” I mused.

Well, when you become the subject of gossip, you’re likely on to something.  That’s at least what I told myself.

Pornography exists on the fringes of library and information science.  We deem it “unprofessional” and thus it never gets cataloged, never gets discovered.  Sometimes, we don’t know how to even classify it (pornography or erotica or art).  Our libraries avoid buying it, even if there might be value (research, cultural, community needs). When we do buy material considered “pornographic,” we get challenged – by staff and by patrons.  Our libraries and institutions might have policies on collecting pornography…or they might be utterly silent on it.

Pornography’s challenges for information professionals is what fascinates me about pornography in the library.