Monday, September 20, 2010

In response to copyright

I also thought that the Stanford readings did a very good job in providing a good overview of copyright law in a fairly readable manner. But I think that is where the black and white begins and ends. I agree with Erin’s thoughts on the vast gray area that exists in this legal arena. For example, the brief case analyses at the end of the Stanford reading did provide good examples to explain what happens when copyright infringement cases are presented to the courts. However, also like Erin, a few of those cases had decisions I couldn’t put a solid opinion on either way, or could not see why the decision went a particular way. As the Stanford readings suggested, copyright cases are subjective and will always depend on the opinion of judge and/or jury, especially when dealing with moral issues.
I really enjoyed the Mazzone article (a nice surprise since law articles aren’t usually the easiest reads!). I think that he makes a really solid case in bringing up the discrepancy in the government’s concern and action between copyright and copyfraud. A national office to oversee fraudulent claims against claiming ownership in a public domain is definitely one way to go. With our economy, it’s not likely that it will happen. Even so, something should be put in place to look out for the interests of the public domain, and not protect the companies that are blatantly “copyfrauding” works that they have no right to copyright.
Unfortunately, the little guys (and gals) are the ones who suffer: by paying for something that they have access to, and being “stifled” creatively. This is an international issue as well. For example, the length of copyright in Europe is 50 years. Some companies are re-releasing jazz albums that contains music made and recorded before 1960, and are making a mint on them. Neither the artists nor the record producers and record companies see a dime of profit. Some of the artists are still alive. I don’t feel that re-releasing an album by Miles Davis on CD is transformative, and, since the copyright is expired-and therefore public domain-why is a company allowed to blatantly exploit an entire musical genre with no repercussions? Furthermore, with the Internet, people from all over the world can buy these imported CDs. There has been a little bit of a backlash on jazz forums asking people not to buy these re-releases, but with no legal intervention, it’s pretty much a grassroots campaign. (Thanks to my husband for providing the idea that helped me to formulate this paragraph.)
Mazzone also wrote that one of the biggest challenges of public domain materials is in accessing them. As librarians (and archivists, and curators), how do we feel about that? How can a library institute a viable way for easy access to materials that, legally, are available to everyone?


  1. Thanks for the insight on the jazz scene, Diana. Much like your conclusions about the lack of clarity in applying even as useful explanations as Stansford's of copyright law, so much of it is a case by case basis. Initially, I thought the Section 108 Study Group would provide a better "usable" interpretation of copyright law, but in fact, I think they too fell victim to the lax language that makes copyright law so confusing. Instead of clarifying things, I felt like they kept it adaptable yet still unclear and difficult to use in application settings. Specifically, in Copies for Users Exceptions, words like "flexible" "necessary" and "adequate" are subjective terms that can cause confusion and leaves room for inconsistencies in following through with the law.

  2. Hi Diana,

    I'm glad you shared the story about the jazz CDs, because it illustrated the idea of copyright being a huge grey area instead of simple cut-and-dry rules. Europe's 50 year copyright rule seems like it needs to be re-visited, if CDs are able to be sold during an artist's lifetime without he or she receiving any royalties. That's not right. I'm glad there's a grassroots group up in arms to try and persuade fans not to buy these re-issues.

    As for libraries, I think they need to promote their materials as often as possible and *sigh* keep up to date on current copyright issues. Maybe when I'm working in a library, I'll still have the link to the Copyright and Fair Use website. Plain language is always a plus.

  3. I agree that librarians need to be kept up to date on copyright issues and terminology especially in this ever changing digital age. I think some educational sessions should be coordinated by the managing staff or director of a library in order to educate their staff. I've only been working at a reference desk for four months and I've already been asked about copyright for images that our scanned in our department. I went to my supervisor for some direction, and she had to do some googling too. Education is essential in this arena, especially if we want to assist our patrons to the fullest.