in ALA2008, Libraries/Info Sci, Tech

ALA 2008: SF & Fantasy: Info rights of the individual panel

This panel drew me in just on the basis of the author particpants’ pure geek factor:

Cory Doctorow (of and many novels)
Eric Flint (of the 1632 series)
Vernor Vinge (of the seminal True Names and many Hugo awards)
Brandon Sanderson (of the yet-to-be-finished conclusion to Wheel of Time)


Each author spoke on where they think info rights will be going in the near future. Some highlights:


  • Once stated that pre-2000 years may later be viewed as a dark age due to a lack of digitization and a ‘disinclination toward books’
  • Now he thinks even that was too optimistic – will today’s data be caught and retrievable in the future?
  • Emphasized the importance of open standards.


  • It’s much harder than in the past to be a layman scientist – much specialization required
  • Instead, we can explore new ideas and rules via science fiction and fantasy
  • What ideals are dealt with in a fantasy world can be a time capsule of the writer and society’s attitudes.
  • We should teach students to love information first, above all else, and then they’ll seek it out on their own.


  • Like Vinge, sees a dark age brewing
  • Unlike Vinge, Flint blames it more on our current copyright system
  • 70 years + life is far too long, he favors a 40 years or life (whichever is longer) term instead.
  • People want both e-books and print books, and use them for different things. Publishers should provide both in a package.
  • The electronic era provides a dangerous excuse for wiping out fair use, we need to be vigilant to preserve it


  • The internet is best at facilitating collective action
  • We build culture online around arbitrary things
  • Again the possibility of a dark age if information isn’t shared
  • The internet is a “perfect enlightenment machine”
  • Copyright laws’ importance cannot be overemphasized – “the future of civilization is at stake”

There was a Q&A session afterward, which I felt was a bit of a wasted opportunity. I think a lot of people were there only to see Doctorow and overlooked the input of the other panelists. But each author was very generous with their time and stuck around to do signings afterward! Meeting each of them was a thrill for me.