Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Continuing on this unformulated thought track, this week's material also illustrated, for me, that the majority of CC licensed work is only available online - which in part could quite possibly make this whole concept irrelevant in places where fast internet access is unavailable or too expensive.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
The "Freedom of Expression" introduction was at times depressing and enlightening. It was interesting to read about how some thought the VCR was going to ruin the film industry. I wonder if those people ever look back and laugh at some of their misinterpretations of the power created by technology and advancement? I was surprised to read about how Amazon has a patent on its "one-click" ordering. Rather than penalize other companies (and looking like greedy jerks because of this), wouldn't it make more sense to share the technology and the programming that makes this possible? I guess I find it odd that patents can be given on something like an ordering process on a website. I think that's carrying creative protection just a little too far.
Others have said that copyright laws "stifle creativity," of the little people, and I would agree. If every little thing has a copyright or a patent or is protected under some sort of law, then we may as well live in a bubble, because we're extremely limited in what we lawfully can and can't do. And yet here we go as a society buying name brand shoes, shirts with logos and jeans with leather brand tags on the back, offering what seems to be free advertising for these brands (after all, we only pay a one-time fee to purchase these items, but we wear them almost daily), and what do we really get from these companies in return? My library just started a Building Club for kids, and we refrained from using the word Lego in club's name for fear of someone finding out that we were using it without permission. I also recall a few years ago when Major League Baseball required kids' baseball teams to buy licenses in order to use the same names and color schemes as MLB teams. Way to punish the little guys. When we have to worry about things like these, the world becomes a pretty sad place indeed.
I also have a question concerning copyright and use of submitted materials for contests, sweepstakes and the like. My department is entering a contest being held by the Playaway company, and while reading the fine print on the entry form today, I noticed that it states that all work submitted becomes the property of the Playaway company. Of course, this kind of notice is included with most every contest I've ever read the fine print for, but...doesn't that seem a little odd? Yes, I want to enter the contest, but I don't think it's necessarily fair that the photo I submit of the work that myself and a coworker have completed becomes the property of the company to which I submit it, giving them the rights to use it any way they please (again, free publicity, anyone?). What happens to my rights as the "artist" of that work? After all, don't I have a copyright on that photo as soon as I click the camera button?? To be forced into giving it away in order to enter a contest hardly seems fair.
The Mcleod article, as well as the video, touches upon Led Zeppelin's habit of incorporating blues songs into their music. When I was an undergrad, I also studied this, but the article made a good point that Led Zeppelin borrowed chunks of blues music just as the artists before them did. Blues and folk artists took from each other, and the book compares this to the early ages of the internet: without solid copyright law in place, innovation was at an all-time high. Now, copyright law is jumbled and confusing; so much that I'm taking a class that focuses on it. The more readings I do, the more I want to come away from this course with some semi-solid answers on how to deal with copyright issues. Today's readings helped.
Monday, September 27, 2010
From copyrighting human genes and prohibiting generic production of potentially life-saving drugs, to the severe constraints against filmmakers and musicians, all of the material was educational and…disheartening. There is so much that has lit a fire under me.
The one shining light for me this week is Lawrence Lessig and his partnership in the Creative Commons. Not only is he fighting for a larger public domain, he has found a way to do something about it. The CC’s free licenses allow for creative flexibility by artists in the use of their original work, thereby allowing some breathing room once their work is put out for the world to see, hear, etc. Unfortunately, the government has not caught on the copyright law needs to be more “porous,” allowing credit where credit is due, but not strangle holding future creativity on the original idea.
And, without people like Professor Lessig, and hopefully many more in the future, I believe that are freedoms of expression© are, right now, being diminished every day. In the world of cultural criticism, I should be free to praise or criticize what I like, especially since corporate culture is now an indelible part of our daily lives. As the reading and film covered, I cannot legally criticize an individual, a corporation or use their logo on my web site. The artist who created, and then was sued for, the Barbie in a Blender exhibit is an example of how corporations dictate and control their image and products to the point where we can’t utilize them for expressing our thoughts about the world around us. Or we’re at least very afraid to because we don’t want to get sued. Well, I don’t care to see 500 McDonald’s commercials every time I watch TV, or 50 McDonald’s billboards on my way to work. Can I sue them for being obnoxious? No, but they can definitely sue me if I publish a blog with negative opinions of their corporation. This is not democratic and this is not free.
I could go on and on about this, but just one more point to make about how copyright stifles creativity, the one thing the law was originally written to protect. As the movie stated, there has been nothing entirely new since the invention of fire and it has been this way for eons. A fellow poster talked about the Kelly Clarkson/Beyonce song debate. This is not new, and neither ripped off from the other. There is a term called jazz contrafacts, which Wikipedia defines as “a musical composition built out of an already existing one, most often by using the original tune's chord progression as a basis for a new composition.” One cannot copyright a chord change and because of this, jazz musicians created a huge catalog of rich, vibrant, new and original music was created. The same happened, as Krenshaw described in his book, with Woody Guthrie, Marianne Moore, Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, and thousands more. A rich public domain serves as the foundation for continuous new creative endeavors, and also denies the misappropriation of things that can’t be copyrighted in the first place. Case in point: in the Amen Break film, a UK company included the Amen Break in a software sampling kit and copyrighted it 2002. Well, that’s nice, but you can’t really copyright a drumbeat, just like you can’t copyright a chord change.
My husband and I are both musicians, and I believe that credit should be given when and where it is due. But if I write a song, the idea comes from somewhere. And since I haven’t been living in a cave I’ve been exposed to a wide variety of influences so who knows what will show up. And without file sharing and the Internet, the RIAA and a handful of corporations that control the music business would completely control the music that I could be exposed to. Record companies give contracts to artists that are marketable, and who will make them money. Telling me I cannot download a track from a great, unsigned band is forcing me to have bad taste, forcing me to limit my musical experience, and infringing on my free choice.
Like Mazzone’s reading last week stated, the government has got to do something to redistribute the power of choice back to the people, and re-amend the laws that were originally written to protect both the author’s idea and the ability of the public to synthesize that idea.
After reading the Mcleod book, I spent a lot of time thinking about how our culture really is an interconnected web of old and new. I have to admit to knowing nothing about sampling until I read the book, but afterwards I was shocked how much music has a long history before it is recorded and copyrighted. It also brought back memories of my brother's band; I remember them not only playing cover songs but also original songs, which I am sure were built off of songs they had heard and liked. Since I am a nerdy law student this got me thinking about all the copyright problems he could have gotten into for playing cover songs in our basement for crowds of his high school friends: does that count as public performance even though it was private property or is it fair use since no one made any money and this was obviously not going to reduce sales of other band's records?
I can understand musicians and artists wanting to reserve some rights in their works, and I think they should have some control over their works since they did create the work, but I do not think copyright should be wielded as a weapon to prevent others from creating new works. I think for this reason the Creative Commons license is an interesting proposition and will hopefully become popular. I also wonder whether the US copyright law will increasingly protect the moral and related rights that are recognized in Europe and other countries. The US laws have not explicitly protect these moral rights, like right to recognition and the right to protect the integrity of the work, but I wonder if they will not sneak into our laws. This creates an interesting thought, if the author has the right to protect the integrity of the work, would sampling be considered destruction of the work?
Sunday, September 26, 2010
While I'm not the biggest fan of the resultant music, I am big fan of the motivations behind copyright provacateurs such as, Girl Talk. Girl Talk's album Feed the Animals was made entirely from sampled music, I believe some several hundred samples in all, none of which were licensed. Unlike earlier Hip-Hop DJ's, none of his samples are obscure or even altered in any way. However, the resultant sound collages are transformative. Does this make Girl Talk's samples an example of fair use?
The video about the Amen Break was also very educational. I had never heard of the Amen Break before, but once I heard the sample in the video, it was immediately recognizable. The Amen Break is but one small example of the cultural impact of sampling. It is nothing short of stunning to think about the fact that 6 seconds of music gave birth to entire music scenes.
However, the stunting of musical innovation by copyright abuse is a small tragedy in comparison to the research that has not been done because of the hurdles created by patenting genes and other discoveries that have come from genetic research. It makes me angrier to know that a lot of this genetic research is done at publicly funded Universities. Yet one more example of socializing the costs and privatizing the gains. There can be no more clear example of capitalism and privatization run amok than this.
Perhaps the most galling example of patent abuse pointed out by Mcleod was the United States' attempt to protect pharmaceutical companies and their intellectual property by preventing the manufacture and importation of generic antiretrovirals. To think of the millions who died and suffered needlessly of one of the most horrifying diseases we have ever known, all in deference to bottom line of a handful of corporations, is to despair.
As other posters have pointed out I want to see artists, creators, scientists and others credited for their work and rewarded for their labors. I am a realist and I recognize that there have to be financial incentives for a bio-tech firm in order for them to pour millions of dollars into research. On the other hand, I feel that there is something deeply wrong with our current regimes for protecting intellectual property rights.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Thinking of copyright, intellectual property, and music reminded me of last year when Kelly Clarkson's song "Already Gone" was accused of being a rip off from Beyonce's new hit at the time, "Halo." Here is an article that gives an idea of what happened, but basically, the two songs use almost identical chord progressions and people criticized Ms. Clarkson for "stealing" the idea. Turns out the writer gave the same track to both artists, who then went on to write and produce two totally different songs, yet the who situation was under fire for a period of time because of the defamation that it brought on Ms. Clarkson's musical authenticity. I find this horribly unfortunate because both songs were unique pieces of music that - although they used the same progressions - were not done in poor form. If I were to write a song about single ladies with sweet dreams about being crazy in love (granted these are textual, not musical), would I too be framed as an artistic thief, when the work I produce is a standalone piece?
Intellectual hoarding...er, I mean, property... has a unique dualism in that it seeks to encourage original thought and creativity while at the same time suffocating independent work of the cultural influences surrounding it. Going back to the example of hip-hop provided by McLeod (2007), ideas and art and text and everything we see today - even advertisements - is part and parcel to the dialogue of the world in which we live. McLeod (2007) writes, "Referencing pop culture helps us define our identities and cultural preferences. It also provides us with a kind of grammar and syntax that structures our everyday talk." The freedom of expression (I LOVED that he has a registered trademark for that phrase in the book) no longer feels free, especially when we're expected to bind our fierce loyalties to brands and images, yet are cut short when we try to turn around and use them in a benefit for ourselves. The whole idea that the more highly recognizable you are = the more targetable you are = the more control you have over your image just seems to be a recipe for disaster in the world of information as we know it. Question: why didn't everyone on Facebook who recently jumped on the bandwagon of posting a photo of their celebrity doppleganger as their profile pic get sued? Or Facebook itself? Is it considered "personal" fair use, which then why do satirical domain names for personal websites get threatened by multi-billion dollar corporations? (i.e. mikerowesoft.com; 17-year-old Canadian Mike Rowe).
I just really found McLeod's arguments compelling and would encourage you to check out chapter 4, if you have the chance. A lot of food for thought with regard to information policy, as he also touches on DMCA and the digital world's changing information environment. And to second Kathy's excitement, I'm a huge Creative Commons fan (I mostly use Wikimedia Commons for the images on my other blog and for work sometimes) and am even considering contributing to it. Are individuals creating a community of information sharing enough to overhaul the rigidity of copyright laws? :)
Gotta tell you ... the Creative Commons tutorials, the NFB film, and the "Amen Break" video were outstanding. Talk about illustrating copyright/copyleft/copyfraud/etc! I feel more informed about copyright from both an historical perspective and copyright in the Internet age. In hindsight, I'm thinking 1-2 of these videos the first week of class (as a complement to Mill) might have been helpful in framing the discussion for me.
I took a boat load of notes while watching/listening. Here are a few of my thoughts. Fire away at 'em:
1) Lawrence Lessig is my new hero! In the NFB film, he observed that copyright law is extreme relative to our traditions as Americans. His journey to other countries to deliver his message (particularly the Brazilian footage) was incredibly interesting. The analogy of remixing to symbolic "cannibalism" was cool - that one can like a piece of music so much, for example, that one "eats" it up and transforms it into something new.
2) As pointed out last week, those that have the money control the game. Creative Commons and the grassroots movement of those on the Internet may, ultimately, change the game's rules.
3) Gregg Gillis' (Girl Talk) observations about patent infringement were striking to me from his perspective as a biomedical engineer. That is, the engineers were expected to come up with at least 3 new ideas a year; however, ideas were moot if any nugget of the idea impinged on another's patent (completely contrary to the concept of a body of knowledge building on what came previously and being transformative). Might we have a cure for cancer and other catastrophic problems if bureaucracy didn't get in the way?
4) I think it was Lessig who said, "Culture is improved with a rich public domain. Overprotection is as dangerous as underprotection." In my mind, the underlying concepts behind Creative Commons seem to be a humane, creative sort of answer. I'm interested to hear the opinions of everyone else.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Google: Internet freedom is declining from cnn.com (Sep 21, 2010)
A Collection of Mashups for Module 4
The individual tracks
The entire collection in a zip file
As an avid fan of the mashup genre, I've assembled here a collection - 20 tracks, about CD's worth - of some of the more historically significant examples of mashups, as well as some interesting recent works. While a fair number of these can still be found, with some effort, on the open web, I'm intending this to be more of an introduction for the uninitiated, as well as an audio supplement to the readings for Module 4 (and to be honest, just because some of you might actually enjoy it). If you're curious, feel free to download it, load it in your iPod (or whatever) and check it out.
The track list:
For the tracks that have been the subject of legal action, I’ve added links to more information.
1. Soulwax/2 Many DJ’s - Smells Like Booty (Destiny's Child vs. Nirvana)
2. Yold - Initials D.D. (Serge Gainsbourg vs. Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg)
3. A Plus D - Beethoven's 5th Gold Digger (Kanye West vs. Walter Murphy)
4. DJ Lobsterdust - It's Fun To Smoke Dust (Queen vs. Pastor Gary Greenwald vs. Midfield General)
5. Danger Mouse - Encore (Jay-Z vs. The Beatles)**
6. Pilchard - Macamuppet (The Muppets vs. The Doors vs. Los Del Mar)
7. The Evolution Control Committee – Rocked By Rape (Dan Rather vs. AC/DC)
8. RIAA - St8 Outta San Jose (Dionne Warwick vs. N.W.A.)**
9. Negativland – U2: Special Edit Radio Mix (U2 vs. Casey Kasem & others)**
10. 10,000 Spoons - This Charming Caravan (The Housemartins vs. The Smiths)
11. Freelance Hellraiser - A Stroke of Genius (Christina Aguilera vs. The Strokes)
12. DJ Moule - Give This Way (Aerosmith vs. Red Hot Chili Peppers vs. The Chemical Brothers vs. Otis Redding & Carla Thomas)
13. Wax Audio - Whole Lotta Sabbath (Led Zeppelin vs. Black Sabbath)
14. DJ Schmolli - Don't Cha Rock My Milkshake (Zoe vs. The Pussycat Dolls vs. Kelis)
15. Norwegian Recycling - How Six Songs Collide (Jason Mraz vs. Howie Day vs. Boyzone vs. Five For Fighting vs. Angela Ammons vs. 3 Doors Down)
16. Loo & Placido - Safari Love (Aretha Franklin vs. The Beatles vs. Elton John vs. Bob Dylan)
17. Go Home Productions - Rapture Riders (Blondie vs. The Doors)
18. Dean Gray - Boulevard of Broken Songs (Green Day vs. Oasis vs. Travis vs. Eminem)
19. Half Mast/Hat - Poker Faces (Lady Gaga vs. Christopher Walken vs. Eric Cartman)
20. DJ Earworm - United State of Pop 2009 (Blame it on the Pop) (a mashup of the top 25 most popular hit songs of 2009, according to Billboard Magazine).
** - Parental Advisory: contains strong language.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
In our information driven world it makes sense that creative work needs to be protected from unpermitted reproduction, so it is natural that the legislature would lean towards broadening the protection offered creators and owners; and they have. I found the idea that copyright protection started as a 14 year period and has now extended to the owner’s lifetime plus 70 years interesting. What has changed? It would seem that a good deal of it is all about the protection of financial gain through a given work. Was this not the case when the original laws hit the books? Maybe not to the same extent that it is today. That, and the fact that information has only become exponentially easier to spread and copy over time has seemed to require such action.
While the reasons why seem clear, the idea that copyright laws have become so wide spread and so one sided in their protection of rights is unsettling. The fears of being sued mixed with an unintentional neglect (I hope) of the public domain by lawmakers have given publishers a way to print their own money. It baffles the mind as to how there are not any clear cut ways to respond to and sanction those that take part in copyfraud. The fact that it is as widespread as it is illustrates very clearly, despite my new level of understanding, my continuing ignorance of this complex system and that I am apparently not alone. The example of universities that just purchase the licensing to everything at the eventual expense of the students in order to play it safe stands out particularly clearly in my mind.
Sorry. This is more rambling then synthesis.
I think the ideas Mazzone puts forth to help restore some of the balance and prevent copyfraud seem reasonable and relatively simple. The idea of the ‘PD’ stamp as a counterpart for the copyrights ‘c’ for example seems like it would be a simple way to help improve understanding in this situation. Plus, I really enjoy the idea of copyfraud bounty hunters. Why haven’t these or similar ideas been instituted?
It is so interesting how the Digital Age has transformed our perceptions of laws and regulations. Regarding copyright, much of what I read and hear has to do with its legal and financial ramifications. This makes some kind of sense, considering in large part our Democratic government and Capitalist economy. Laws can change, and I agree with the majority of the class that a newer, more appropriate scheme may very well improve accessibility while encouraging the advancements in knowledge, culture, art, etc. With that said, ethical issues such as plagiarism that branches off the legal aspects of copyright, must also be reviewed, as both can involve making the claim that something is original when in fact it has already been produced.
According to this New York Times article, incidence of plagiarism at the collegiate level in the United States is rising exponentially. This is interesting, as today’s college students represent a generation that has mostly come of age in our current digital era. All in all, it’s difficult for me to separate the reverberating dialogue concerning copyright and free-use laws from this rise in unethical academic practices. According to the article, a percentage of students who plagiarized apparently believe that information found on the Internet is considered “common-knowledge”, and therefore is authorless and subject to use without proper and ethical credit.
The ramifications of changing copyright laws will undoubtedly affect many other branches of our society, like our education system. Being taught to site sources, I think, serves as a much larger cultural tool than merely providing a list of references. It allows us to submerge ourselves in differing ideas, provides us the tools to understand and accept criticism, all the while encouraging argument and dissent (which I think is almost as American as you can get!). I agree that copyright and intellectual property issues may very well need reform, but I am also wary of how such reform will affect nearly everything.
What is particularly interesting about this effort is both its focus (some would say "ripping on") of Zeppelin as a particularly egregious bunch of blues rip-off artists (a theme touched on in RiP!, too) as well as the comments below this first installment that take issue with what some viewers consider the creator's conflating and confusing of terms and actions like "sampling," "remixing" and "mash-ups" ("mashings up"? I don't know).
To be sure, there will be much less video content available on the open web for our later modules, so enjoy this while you can!
Everything is a Remix from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.
We have a worldwide audience, folks!
|Visitor Stats to our blog, August 2010 to September 21, 2010 - Click to enlarge|
Monday, September 20, 2010
September 18, 2010,
Academic Libraries Add Netflix Subscriptions
To echo a sentiment expressed earlier by Mel, "it's all about the Benjamins." Does anyone really believe that the financial well-being of Lucasfilm (to borrow Daniel's example) was seriously threatened by a smartphone calling itself "droid?"? The plaintiff's argument in these sorts of cases always seems to involve the slippery slope concept - "If we let these folks violate our trademark, everyone will be doing it and the financial impact to our brand will be significant." Leaving aside the legal merits of whether or not Lucasfilm actually owns the word "droid", isn't it safe to say at this point, some 30 years after "A New Hope," that ship has sailed? "Droid" is as much a part of the vernacular as are other trademarked/copyrighted words - Kleenex, Zip-loc, Brillo, etc. One would think that common use of your brand name would amount to some sort of decisive victory in the marketplace. Apparently, that's not the case.
A similar case played out last year between Rockart Brewery, a small craft brewery in Vermont with limited distribution in the east coast, and the makers of Monster energy drink over Rockart's 10th anniversary barley wine, called "The Vermonster". That's right, because the name was phonetically similar, Monster's lawyers contended it might cause confusion with their product. Apparently, there are consumers who can't tell beer from sugar water, and Monster brought their suit hoping to prevail on the basis of being able to absorb the legal fees more easily than Rockart. Fortunately, Rockart was able to use the power of Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter to mount a successful public relations campaign against Monster that ultimately convinced them to drop their suit.
Rockart vs. Monster:
As Mazzone repeatedly points out, this sort of abuse - false copyright claims, and court cases on an overbroad application of the law - take place largely for the benefit of those with enough money to bring the legal actions and outspend their opponents in court. If there is to be any sort of public domain at all, it must be afforded the same legal protections as copyright.
Folks, I have added an optional documentary for the coming module because it happens to be streaming
Also, if you've visited the blog in the last day or so, you'll see that I added a cosmetic upgrade in the form of my own visual mash-up logo. Using keyword searches including searching for images in the public domain or under CC licensing, I found some images and threw them together to come up with a course logo. Think you could do better? I'm sure you could - it wouldn't take much. If you have a few minutes and the interest, throw together something new and upload it to the blog!
Sunday, September 19, 2010
As for the Mazzone reading, while initially being intimidated by the length of the article, I found that the writing itself was very approachable, understandable and especially informational concerning what he calls "copyfraud." It’s quite depressing to realize that so many publishers and institutions take advantage of and bully the public by using fraudulent copyright claims and that really little is done about it in the end. What a shame that it’s so easy (though not common) for claims to be brought against the common man, resulting in expensive legal fees that many probably can’t afford, but it’s so easily glossed over when it comes to some of these same organizations making statements that claim their copyright over works that are obviously in the public domain. Shouldn’t there be some kind of institution or office in place that can occasionally review copyright claims by publishers, etc., to see whether they are actually valid?
Stanford's explanation of copyright and Fair Use acts were clear and concise. They are able to explain all of the laws and give examples which makes the explanations even clearer. I especially liked the seeing the 4 Factors used to determine Fair Use. This clarified the details of how court cases are determined and who might win the case depending upon the judge.
Is copyright law as confusing to everyone else as it is to me?
As Mel pointed out there's a lot of monetary/greed wrapped up in this here copyright issue. A system that was put in place to protect creative people's ideas has in many cases been perverted into protecting the status quo and stifling new ideas. See article above, Lucasfilms sent a cease and desist notice to a new startup company: Addroid. Why? Because they own the rights to the word Droid, and this little advertisement start-up is going to confuse people into thinking it's associated with Star Wars and hurt George's lunchbox sales. It's the same issue Mazzone (who's name makes me hungry) talks about. This sort of reactionary legal offense mindset towards copyright issues. Addroid could fight of Lucasfilms and have a good chance of winning, but if they choose to it'll end up costing them a fortune and could sink them. This situation is unfortunately not too rare.
I've been pondering what a fix could be, because I certainly believe that the creative types do need protection from having their ideas stolen. Could we ever enact a system where it's not beneficial for large corporations to send shady cease and desist orders? My first reaction is sadly one of cynicism, too many lobbyists would stop any sort of venture. What do you think, other half of class?
Switching gears, I thought the Stanford FAQ did a good job of laying out the basic tenets of copyright in a clear fashion. I think one of the most important distinctions it makes is the difference between an idea and the expression of the idea. This was the example where you can't copyright a space opera, but you can for a specific instance of this type of story. I'd hate to think what would happen if this were not the case. Namely, we would not have been graced with both Armageddon and Deep Impact. All kidding aside, while I believe this distinction to be important, I also wonder how much people are allowed to toe the line. At what point does the same basic idea infringe too much on specifics? I'm curious to see what the rest of the class has to say.
© Daniel J., 2010
I also thought it was interesting that others picked up on the problems with having a fair use doctrine that requires actual litigation to determine whether something is fair use. On the surface it does seem inconvenient that you can not predict whether something is going to be fair use until a court considers the four factors, but I am not sure other approaches to the fair use doctrine are better. For example, in some countries fair use is based on statutory law rather than an equitable balancing of factors, which means if the use is not mentioned in the fair use statute it is not fair use. This has the benefit of allowing some predictions as to whether your use is fair use, but this approach lacks flexibility in allowing new uses to be considered fair use and uses that could arguably fit under one of the enumerated uses but not exactly a listed fair use would still require the expensive and long litigation. On the other hand, the four factors approach provides a broader, more flexible doctrine that allows the court to shape the fair use doctrine to balance the first amendment and copyright as new technologies allow new ways of presenting and using information.
As this relates to some of the things we have previously looked at in the class, I think the copyright law when improperly used can hinder dissemination of information and the ability for people to freely discuss and express ideas, but I think we also need to remember that the purpose of the copyright law is to encourage the progress of knowledge. If we weaken the copyright protections too much in our efforts to make information freely and easily accessible, authors will no longer have the motivation to create new and original works, in which case it won't matter that we have such broad access. I think this is why Mazzone emphasized that he was not suggesting that we weaken copyright protections but rather create protections for the public domain.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
As part of my undergraduate degree, I obtained a minor in Library Science. I distinctly remember that in every single Library Science course I took, the prof always covered copyright. Towards the end of my degree, I started to groan and roll my eyes when I saw it on the syllabus. Yet all these discussions of copyright did not give as solid an understanding as the information from Stanford that we read for this week. I thought this piece did an excellent job of discussing all components of copyright law, but particularly fair use (which is usually where a vast majority of copyright cases/discussions are centered on). The following quote summarized the four points of fair use succinctly and understandably, "As a general rule, if you are using a small portion of somebody else's work in a non-competitive way and the purpose of your use is to benefit the public, you're on pretty safe ground." (Copyright FAQ, Section B)
As much as we would like to think that Fair Use can be boiled down to this statement, we all know that it's as clear as mud. The authors of the piece from Stanford also do a great job in the section on Fair Use of explaining that these are the guidlines for fair use, but it is ultimately up to a judge to decide whether a use of a copyrighted work falls into this arena or not. I felt that the inclusion of court cases was particularly helpful - it took the theoretical principles of Fair Use and put them into real life contexts. If only my undergrad prof would have used a similar pedagogy, I wouldn't have come to loathe the discussion of copyright so much.
Then, just when I think I might actually have a working understanding of copyright, the Executive Summary of the Section 108 Study Group confuses me all over again. There's no doubt that sections of copyright law need to be revised in this age of digital content creation. But what should this look like? The Section 108 Study Group spent 3 years conversing about what changes should be made to just 1 section of copyright law, and their findings are Greek to me. One issue that makes enough sense to me for me to form an opinion about is "Preservation of Publicly Available Online Content." (Page viii) Certainly the writers of the original Copyright Act of the 70s were not thinking about libraries/archives role in preserving our class blog (or any of the other information publicly available online). The Study Group's recommendations that libraries/archives should be able to "capture and reproduce available online content for preservation purposes" (page viii) is in line with the currently stated exceptions in Section 108 that allow libraries/archives to make copies of copyrighted works in order to make them available for future scholars. However, this statement got me thinking about copyright in general as it relates to online content. Copyright is difficult enough to enforce when you're holding a book in your hand that clearly states the author. But what about 140 character Tweets that may or may not be attributed to the creator's actual name.... Does the Tweeter have copyright protection over his or her content? Talk about a whole 'nother can of worms!
THOUGHT #1: I would have to agree with Mazzone's assertion that copyright law is not balanced with protections for the public domain. It is not reassuring to me that "the only way to get a definitive answer on fair use is in federal court." I think a regular person could possibly be screwed (even though prosecutions are rare) when facing off against a publisher and attorneys ... even if the regular person's intentions are innocent.
THOUGHT #2: Although I applaud Mazzone's belief that there should be more "teeth" in the Copyright Law to enforce false copyright claims made by publishers and others, I see a federal government already collapsing under the weight of programs it can't afford. In my next life, I'd like to be a Copyright Bounty Hunter ... but only if I can wear a superhero outfit with a "c" inside a circle on the front =)
Finally, I appreciated Sarah's presentation, which framed our first 2 weeks of work and provided some context. Though rigorous, the study of information policy is important in whatever library environment we work. I gotta tell all of you, though, that the policy I've had to address in the last several weeks deals with a patron who wanted us to amend our user conduct policy to allow barefoot patrons in the library. This might be the reason I'm having trouble shifting gears to this more erudite topic!
Friday, September 17, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
This week, I want to focus on Mazzon’s article. Much of what he discusses is why I “disagree” – more so dislike – copy right law. According to Mazzon, the current wording of copyright law perpetuates its disuse and abuse. Copyfraud, as he puts it, is the result of misunderstanding (and sometimes deliberate) oversuse of copyright statements. Skakespear, for example, is fully within public domain; yet, every adaptation or reprinting of MacBeth in my library has the standard “we own this” copyright statement. Obviously this is a lie.
I remember back in English class in Elementary School when my teacher told me to write down every fact and its source on an index card to prevent plagiarism. First of all, I hated using index cards; the things were too small and my handwriting was too big to put anything significant on them. Secondly, as I learned from the readings, facts are not protected by copyright. Therefore, am I correct in assuming that this process was useless? I understand that the teacher was trying to instill creating individual work, but, was it going too far? Also, if facts are not copyrighted, then why does the field of academics require peers and students to site where they got their information? Or, is there something I am missing?
Secondly, it doesn’t help that publishers create Copyfraud statements. Copyright laws are difficult enough to understand without them creating misinformation. No wonder why so many librarians I talk to get copyright laws confused easily. I agree with Mazzon, copyright law needs to be enforced on both sides of the coin. If publishers and authors can sue each other and the public for the misuse of their information; then, the government, representing the public, should be permitted to punish those who create false copyright statements.
That’s my two cents for this week.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Braman really analyzes the concept of information as in three different ways: information as a resource, commodity, or as a perception of pattern. Of her three takes on information, I preferred the idea of information as a perception of pattern, as that definition gives way to thinking about how we use information in a variety of contexts. While reading this article, I thought about how I would define the term "perception of pattern", and I would summarize it as the culture, environment, and time the information is used, and how it is understood during that time (and will be in the future). This perception seems to have more leeway and allows for more nuances than viewing information just as a resource to be consumed or a commodity to be bought and sold. A very specific look at "information." Rowlands also goes into different ways of defining information, but I think Braman covered it more succinctly.
Vaidhyanathan was more readable, and I enjoyed reading her thoughts on copyright policy, the history of it and how academic writing has changed through these past few centuries. My favorite line from the entire article? "Academic writing in the humanities is needlessly burdened by bad writing about what might otherwise be fascinating subjects" (Vaidhyanathan 301). Right on. The power of information is only as good as its presentation, and poor writing of a great subject can really dampen its effect on the reader.
I sensed flashbacks to my Communication Studies day in undergrad, especially with reference to Ogg and the likes, and the discussions feel all too familiar but with a different spin (aka “information” rather than media). I found Braman’s topic of information as a constitutive force in society to be one of the most intriguing sections of that article, in particular. The idea of something as ubiquitous as information having a reflexive relationship to society as we see it is very interesting to me. You could talk in circles all day about this, but – going back to Sarah’s question – how is it that we as humans then grapple with this mirrored cycle and try to discern just how to approach questions of information policy.
I really clung to Rowlands note that there is not just one information policy, but rather many information policies created by people, in which case I see Braman’s “information as commodity” becoming even more problematic in society. I also am interested in pushing that notion of context especially within policy. Can there be policies based on context, when – as the readings pointed out – those vary from person to person, discipline to discipline, even culture to culture? I think there are attempts at doing so, but it is impossible to even guess at what the ranges of perspectives are in a given subset of people, let alone on a societal level.
I kept finding myself drawing parallels with other disciplines while attempting to synthesize this weeks reading, and time and time again I kept thinking about how we react to other difficult definitions for entities/ideas/occurrences that we don’t fully understand. One of the unconvincing examples that I came up with, and which undoubtedly will not hold up to too much scrutiny, has to do with anything that relates to the environment (for, like information, can be viewed through varying lenses – as a resource, a commodity, a perception of pattern, and as a constitutive force in society). From the ‘green’ movement and recycling programs, to climate change and fossil fuels, our modern lives are inundated with environmental topics. The main difference between the status of current thought about the environment and that of information is how we think about them. Environmental issues have largely been defined for us and policies/laws abound regarding environmental issues (hazardous waste and pollution laws, policies regarding the air and water, car manufacturers needing to adhere to miles per gallon restrictions, etc), many of which have proven insightful, functional, and beneficial. But a great deal of damage has occurred by the very act of ‘defining’ the issues. A glaring set back has been the political polarization of occurrences such as climate change (once known as ‘global warming’). All of a sudden, an occurrence is defined so that public policy can be created and implemented, and the issue is confounded by the multiple disciplines that have a vested interest in it (governments, businesses, religions, etc.). As a result, ‘global warming’ and ‘tree hugging’ have been largely restricted to the ‘leftest’ ‘hippie’ corner, where they’ve been ridiculed based upon how they were defined.
I could go on and on how varying environmental movements have been largely thwarted by the simple act of having been ‘defined’. The consequences of “defining” information may very well mirror the damaging effects that occurred when we defined these other multidimensional and multidisciplinary issues. I myself, as an ‘information hugger’, would hate to be reduced and rendered powerless based on a damaging definition.
Many of the difficulties and warnings inherent in the defining the concept of information, as presented by Braman, Vaidhyanathan, and Rowlands are the very same that librarians must deal with on a daily basis, which is why I think librarians will contribute vitally to its formation, if one is ever ‘created’. Librarians, especially in public libraries, are (or should be) experts at working in a multidisciplinary landscape, maintaining a unique element of detachment while at the same time being passionately involved, and being able not to politicize or polarize a patron’s requests. Yet, if this is the case and a librarian’s skills are seen as a suitable match of those of a policymaker, the argument will undoubtedly arise as to whether librarians should become more proactive in their dealings and overcome their historically viewed reactive stance.
Monday, September 13, 2010
This week’s readings were certainly a challenge. I won’t claim to understand them fully but here are what I believe are to be some of the major issues brought forth.
First and foremost, in Braman’s article, she says that the only constant in the use and description of information is the term itself. With “…more than 40 academic fields that deal with information…” each has a separate and varying definition of information.
Braman diagnoses the term information as a “definitional dilemma,” and rightly so. With so many competing definitions, it can be safely said that the views and approaches to information making policy are just as diverse, which can create a cluttered, cumbersome process in agreeing on a definition of information, creating information policy.
Braman’s approach to this “definitional dilemma” is the application of theoretical pluralism, using a multitude of theories that each seek to find and analyze various aspects and effects of information. Rowlands, too, discusses multiple theoretical approaches in the study and development of information policy.
The one thing that is clear to me is that information is analyzed in a myriad of ways: economically, culturally, sociologically, politically, etc. Each approach has it pros and cons, and no one theory can justify a policy that would affect thousands or millions of people. For example, as Braman quotes Straus “’ information policy’s issues seen in one country as cultural are understood in another as economic.’” Therefore, one generalized theoretical approach would not suit the diverse study of information, and not preclude a well-thought out policy. Additionally, the study of information is interdisciplinary, and it seems impossible to create one agreeable definition of information. Library professionals must well-versed not only on their own definition of information, but on how different definitions may compete against and/or complement with during the policy making process.
Finally, Vaidhyanathan’s article, among many other things, promoted the idea of “semiotic democracy,” where creative influence can be allowed to thrive in media and social culture. In the areas of copyright law, intellectual property and other information legislations, information policy will directly influence how information can be “revised, edited, and manipulated.”
A lot of this is still fuzzy, but I may be trying too hard to finish the puzzle at the beginning of the class, rather than processing it one piece, one week at a time.
So after struggling with the readings I've been struggling to scrape some disparate ideas regarding copyright, fair use, sampling, open access journals, cultural influence and voting machines into a coherent post. Thankfully, for everyone, I've given up on that idea.
By way of synthesis, I thought that the two primary threads to this weeks readings were: 1. Informational is multidimensional and therefore eludes easy definition and 2. The way in which we define information i.e. resource, commodity, perception of pattern or constitutive force has has political, social, economic and cultural consequences.
We need to have a variety of lenses through which we view information and create information policy because information could fit any one of the above definitions or all of them at once. Ignoring one aspect can lead to unintended consequences when crafting policy. Vaidhyanathan's example of the Swarthmore students outing internal Diebold memos is a perfect case in point. Copyright law was never intended to censor information that is essential to an ongoing public debate, in this case a matter of central importance to our democracy, the reliability of of our electoral process.
The ongoing debate regarding net neutrality is another example and I think that some of the implications get to the core of what Rowlands meant by information as constitutive force. The resolutions that we as a society come to regarding net neutrality will have a lot to do with whether we become a true "Information Society" in David Puttnam's sense of the term or whether we become, in his words, "a marketplace full of information companies."
Saturday, September 11, 2010
I at first had trouble with this weeks readings which I think could have been avoided if I had read them in a different order because after reading all three I began to see some overarching themes that I think are important for thinking about information policy.
I think the three authors got at the idea that information policy is driven by and a part of many disciplines and creation of information policies need to take into account ideas, policies, considerations, etc from these different areas. For example, copyrights or other legal protection of an author’s rights can be viewed from cultural, economic, legal, political, or social perspectives. I personally encountered this last spring when I had to do background research in business models, computer sciences, politics, and culture in order to right a paper about China’s copyright laws.
I also noticed the authors focused on how we do not have a clear definition of information or an agreed upon approach to discussing or thinking about information and information policies. I think the problems with defining and approaching information creates problems with creating policies because different groups are approaching the problem from different directions and we need to find a common ground to create effective information policies. I thought it was interesting that Braman talked about information as resources, information as commodity, information as perception of pattern, and information as a constitutive force in society, and then discussed how the policy maker’s perspective, how information will be treated in a particular situation, and the power of information in a situation will affect which definition of information is used. However, I am not sure that the hierarchical approach to defining information really helps clarify things for me.
Finally, I found the Vaidhyanathan article the most difficult to think about and apply to the other readings and real life. I think on a basic level he is also talking about a need for scholars and people form a plethora of disciplines to come together in the establishment of information policies. I did not completely agree with his discussion of positive liberty versus negative liberty; I am not sure if it is suspicion or cynicism but I do not think it is a good idea for the state to “foster spaces, technologies, norms, and processes that maximize certain kinds of speech (304).” In his discussion of positive liberty he talked about open source, open systems, and open standards. I think providing free and open access to information is important but something about government supporting and encouraging certain forms of speech does not sit right with me.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Is it just me, or has anyone else struggled with the Week 2 readings? I've read and re-read, trying to make some connections to my public library world. I know why these 3 pieces fit in the context of our class, but I am having difficulty grabbing onto anything to discuss.
Looking forward to the class's collective and individual wisdom.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
My name is David. This will be my last semester in the SLIS program. I hope to find a job as a Children's or Young Adult librarian after graduation.
I've chosen to use my first name here on this blog despite some reservations about my privacy. I suppose my main concern is one outlined by Halavais, in that a prospective employer could stumble across (or search out) a former or current digital self of mine that has expressed a controversial opinion or perhaps just expressed one in a less than artful manner and then that employer may think better of providing me with gainful employment.
However, I believe in standing behind one's opinions and I believe that in using my own name I will have accountability for what I say, much as I would in any other public forum. I also don't plan on outing any elected officials or leaking classified documents this semester, so anonymity should not be required.
I have some undergraduate experience in Philosophy (just short of enough for a degree) so I think this class should be a lot of fun and I am excited to explore some of the ethical dilemmas that Librarians and Information Professionals face with all of you.