Tuesday, September 21, 2010

One more response to Copyright...

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.


  1. I found your last point most interesting about the effects that changing copyright law wil have on society. In theory, I think I agree with you, but in all practical purposes, at leaset for the average Janes and Joes of the citizen base, I wonder if we really would see a shift in the way things are done with regard to copyright. In my electronic resources management class, we're discussing now about copyright law and why people often challenge it thinking that they will win, and it's because the law is written so unapproachably that people just don't believe that it's actually true (case in point - having to purchase a license to play CDs as background music in your store or restaurant); people just won't abide by a law they don't 1) understand, or 2) agree with. Personally, much of the copyright rhetoric that I've been exposed to most recently is heavy-handed in scare tactics (I liked your summary that most of it is about "[copyright's] legal and financial ramifications") rather than actually providing helpful guides for what is and is not allowed in using resources. Something I keep coming back to in my own reflections of information policy (and I have virtually no experience with what policies look like) and it seems to me that any information policy should include an element of consumer/user/citizen education with it.

  2. I'm very glad you brought up the plagiarism aspect of this, Tecumseh. Is there a middle ground where things are used or referenced in a way to foster creativity, AND credit is given where credit is due. Sure it's more work, but that's the way it should be -- and I agree with Katherine that the element of education is very important (especially in a library).

  3. With the thought of plagiarism, it brings to my mind the words of Harry Wong (an inspirational educator whose videos I had to watch in my education classes). He encouraged teachers (and future teachers) to STEAL STEAL STEAL! Steal other teacher's ideas! Make them your own. Where do we draw the line between all of the copyright laws and stealing, and so on? With the Drum Beat, each person who used it made it their own with other instruments. If a teenager is walking down the street singing Kesha, does that mean that they are breaking the law of copyright? It seems to me like it is a very thin line for where the law begins and ends.