Note to readers

This is a blog that I'm required to keep that's full of unedited, near stream-of-consciousness reactions to similarly required and related readings in a graduate course in N.C. State University's Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media program. The way these posts are written help me interrogate and understand what's going on in our readings. I'm identifying what's troublesome so that I can give it more thought, but the posts aren't written in a style that's productive for audiences outside of our class to read. That's by design. I start with contestation, then spend heavens only knows how long researching, recutting, and reevaluating so that I can try and see what potentially productive readings I can extract from these source for use in my own work's contributions back to the field. Comments encouraged, but please, you'll likely need a thick skin if your work is quoted here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Mickey Mouse and his pal Bono

Okay, well, I suppose I ought blog something technically before the day we meet, in case someone needs to comment...

John Logie's "Champing at the Bits: Computers, Copyright, and the Composition Classroom" is a useful introduction to the interactions of digital artifacts with copyright in the US. Its narrative is of a United States that first privileged the long term interests of the collective (aka, "public") over the individual when protecting original works, but that the US slowly moved from that collective-privileging to a system that now favors a different sort of collective, the collective author.

In brief, copyright protection in the US moved from...
179028 years
183142 years
190956 years
197675 years, but intro of fair use exception
179028 years
1998 (anticipated in article)95 years


Here's a pretty good image of the increases. Note that as things are moving, nothing after 1923 will ever hit the public domain if it's had copyright slapped on it.


Logie spends quite a bit of time exploring the way fair use works, showing the history behind the prohibition of copying more than 10% of a work for scholarly purposes, and how even fair use is dwindling in scope. There's also a decent amount of space devoted to the US signing the "Berne Convention" in 1989, which aligned the US even more closely with European copyright law, laws that traditionally favored "moral" or "natural rights" (ie, the individual's good). There's a New World Order critique feel to some of Logie's arguments, and they don't seem to be unwarranted.

Two points interesting enough to point out even in my fatigued state...
1.) Logie says that with copyright in at least one case [of Salinger's heirs stopping a biography based on Salinger's own letters (note that the Times piece contradicts Logie a bit, I think)] protecting the "content" of writings, even when the author no longer owns the artifacts, that "no student-authored text should ever be used for illustration or critique without the express permission of the student author, and this permission should probably be in writing, to protect the teacher" (140).

To get around this issue, Logie suggests that, "Securing written permission can be accomplished quickly with a blanket form distributed on the first day of class." This sort of grenading an anthill bothers me, and we should feel it important to let students know the importance of thinking critically about signing such overly-broad gifts of their works unknown even to them at the time of their conveyance. Logie's suggestion is horribly selfish, and contradicts completely with the tone of the balance of the piece.

2.) This overly strict protection of copyrighted artifacts has, I believe, given rise to the open source/free software and related movements, which essentially appropriate copyright in an attempt to actively mandate a new sort of public domain. Though the public domain is still netting a loss with the overly long copyright terms in the US now (really, should Combat on the Atari 2600 still be copyrighted? Steamboat Willie?), novel licensing schemes like the GPL are starting to reveal in very very specific sections of larger industries (like computer operating system kernels) the powers of making "progress" public.

wow. much too tired to continue. apologies.

1 comment:

Shayne said...

I agree that a blanket "sign this form to let me use your paper" is a bad idea for a number of reasons. When I've decided to use a student's paper as an example in the future, I ask the students individually if they would allow me to do so.