The glass: Does Copyright Fill Your Glass or Empty it?

March 7, 2010

As communication technologies advance, so do our desires to communicate, collaborate, and achieve more. And how can we achieve more, if we’re not working together? After all, 2 heads (or thousands) are better than one.

Some may view Copyright law as prohibitive; a barrier to creative expression, collaboration, and problem solving. These same people may also feel that the “fair use” (in the U.S.) or “fair dealings” (in Canada) doctrine is so vague that its existence serves only to make things more complicated. On the other hand, there are others who view Copyright as necessary legal protection for content creators, otherwise content creators would be out of a job. When considering my own view on this topic, I prefer to borrow from all arguments, in order to make sense of intellectual property, Copyright, Fair Use, and the role these play not only in my teaching, but also in my personal use of information.

The Glass is half empty
Copyright Laws could possibly become a barrier to creative expression in situations where an internet user in one country wishes to use work that was published in another country. While reading Rebecca Butler’s (2007) article, “Borrowing Media From Around the World: School Libraries and Copyright Law,” I learned that what applies in the U.S.  does not always applyto Copyright issues in South Korea and that I must consider both sets of laws. What a tangled web this has woven. I was quite intimidated by Butler’s (2007) closing statement: “And if in doubt, consult your school library media specialist. She or he should be able to help.” Yikes! Gone are the days when I confidently advised staff and students on Copyright laws. Now, I direct them to the links on our library website, so that we can attempt to interpret these laws together. Once again, I am not the expert information gatherer, but rather a co-researcher.

The process I have described above when dealing with Copyright questions, is one that requires time and patience. How do I teach my students about these laws in a way that does not confuse them or discourage them from creative participation online? Or more importantly, how do I convince students and teachers that these laws are worth taking the time and effort to learn and abide by, when we rarely see, in person, cases of individuals suffering the consequences of copyright infringement?

The Glass is Half Full
Creative Commons  argues that Copyright is necessary to ensure that quality information continues to be produced, as people whose income depends on the distribution and sale of their work stay in business. For this reason, Creative Commons has come up with a creative solution in order to facilitate compliance with Copyright Law AND enable the creative use of copyrighted work at the same time. Creative Commons licensing  enables content creators to communicate their permission for certain uses, including the remixing and mashing of work.
Creative Commons also works internationally to provide ways for people all over the world the ability to communicate their permissions for their work. This involves consultation with lawyers and judges in different countries to ensure that country specific copyright laws are adhered to.

The Glass is Neither Empty Nor Full: It is Just a Glass

The American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom  defines intellectual freedom as, “the right of any person to hold any belief on any subject and to express that idea in ways that he or she believes is appropriate (OIF 2005)’” (Lamb 2007). One might argue that Copyright laws infringe on the rights of the user, while protecting the rights of the creator. However, we now have Creative Commons, which serves to connect people and their work, while Copyright laws serve to protect people’s tangible work. Ultimately, these two doctrines work together to allow people to have control over their work. Without this sense of protection and ability to control, I doubt that creators would be so willing to share or put their work “out there.” On the other hand, inconsistency among Copyright enforcement laws from one country to the next is creating its own digital divide regarding access to information (deBeer and Clemmers 2009). 

How does this affect creative participation at my school?
Hosting sites in Korea are required by law to have a “notice-and-takedown system” where copyright holders are able to inform hosting sites of infringement (deBeer and Clemmer 2009). Showing my students how to access this system enables them to feel empowered in as they realize their copyrights as well their influence as digital citizens. On April 22, 2009, a bill was proposed and passed by Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, that intermediaries were responsible for taking a proactive and preventative approach by terminating the accounts of repeated copyright infringers. My aim would be to teach my patrons about the potential consequences of copyright infringement in Korea, including restricted access to valuable sources of information. Most importantly, in my opinion, is to teach students the value of mutual respect, both offline and online. Emphasizing the WHY of copyright laws and the fair use doctrine might attach more meaning to the time and effort it takes to abide by these “rules.” Learning to respect the content creator involves getting to know him/her through his/her profile and other works. Giving students as much experience as possible in exercising their own rights by licensing their work through creative commons fosters a “treat others the way you want to be treated,” attitude.

Regardless of whether one views Copyright as a hindrance or a necessary support, Morris and Janesko’s (2008) words really struck a chord with me, as they insist that people learn from modeling first. Since learning about and teaching copyright laws, fair use, and creative commons, I now make a point of respecting these laws (and pointing out how I am doing so) whenever I deliver a lesson or materials.

Butler, Rebecca P. (Sept.Oct.2005). “Intellectual Property Defined.” Knowledge Quest. Proquest Education Journals. 34;1, pg.41.

Butler, Rebecca P. (July 2007). “Borrowing Media From Around the World: School Libraries and Copyright Law.” School Libraries Worldwide. 13;2, pg.73-81.

de Beer, J., & Clemmer, C. (2009). GLOBAL TRENDS IN ONLINE COPYRIGHT ENFORCEMENT: A NON-NEUTRAL ROLE FOR NETWORK INTERMEDIARIES?. Jurimetrics: The Journal of Law, Science & Technology, 49(4), 375-409. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database. Accessed March 1, 2010.

Choi, E. (2009). With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: Korea’s Role in the War Against Online Piracy. San Diego International Law Journal, 10(2), 555-590. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database. Accessed March 1, 2010.

Janesko, Jennifer and Morris, Tammy. (May 2008). Learning and Leading with Technology. “Do Students Respect Intellectual Property?”

Lamb, Annette. (Nov/Dec 2007 ) Intellectual Freedom for Youth: Social Technology and Social Youths. Knowledge Quest, 36;2

Ribble, Mike (Dec. 2008/Jan.2009 ). “Passport Toward Digital Citizenship: Journey Toward Appropriate Technology Use at Home and at School.” Learning and Leading With Technology.ISTE. pg.14-17.

“A Shared Culture.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DKm96Ftfko


One comment

  1. Thanks, Natasha. As you point out, navigating these often murky waters is made even more challenging because you have to think about and consider Korean laws as well. Thank you for sharing your international perspective. I love the image of the TL as a ‘co-researcher’ in this area…makes a lot of sense and takes some of the pressure of an individual to be the expert (which seems increasingly difficult these days!).

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