Core Copyright

Copyright essentials for everyday creators

Archive for the ‘Theory’ Category

Copyright, Grammar & Notices

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This post was motivated by a question I received by e-mail about Vol. 1 of the Copyright Myths & Misconceptions series. The question, which was about a post on Tina Rathore’s filling Interstices blog, asked

Is it right to write “© Copyright by tina rathore ” with every blog post? I mean shouldn’t it be “copyrighted to Tina Rathore”? Please explain.

We are discussing this on Tina’s blog (link is http://tinarathore.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/stay-awhile/). Thanks.

Of the options that were presented in this question — using “Copyright by Tina Rathore” or “Copyright to Tina Rathore” — I probably would lean toward using the latter. Ultimately, though, neither of these choices seems satisfying or correct in light of some applicable research I am doing.

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Copyright Myths & Misconceptions

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Before I delve into the substantive law and theory of U.S. copyright, I will address some common myths and misconceptions I have heard routinely about this topic. As I have outlined previously, copyright now is commonly applicable to people’s everyday actions. This wide applicability, however, has not necessarily resulted in the average Joe and Jane having a higher copyright IQ.

One need look no further than Twitter to see how many of these misconceptions get originated and repeated. I have seen tweets that claimed to copyright a hairdo. I have seen tweets that assumed the year’s passage would allow them to freely copy on Jan. 1 work that was protected by copyright on Dec. 31. (Both statements are incorrect.)

But folks on Twitter are not the only ones who commonly commit basic copyright errors. News journalists — who really should know better — frequently get basic copyright concepts incorrect. Too often reporters conflate copyright and other forms of intellectual property. Even intellectual property lawyers routinely provide incorrect information about U.S. copyright. For example, I have seen posts from intellectual property lawyers that claim “If you find a picture on Flickr, another blog, or somewhere else online and upload it to your own blog (or worse yet, inline link to it from your blog) without permission, you’re committing a copyright violation.” On its face, that is simply an incorrect statement, mainly because it fails to allow for a raft of limitations in the Copyright Act of 1976.

Thus, with this post, I address (and hopefully resolve) some of the common copyright myths I have seen, heard, or encountered in my years of dealing with this topic. Consider this to be the first in a recurring series: I will provide updates occasionally as I come across newer and more interesting or perplexing myths and misconceptions.

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Yochai Benkler & Why Copyright Matters

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Yochai Benkler is one of the nation’s leading communications and intellectual property scholars. A law professor at Harvard University, Benkler’s areas of scholarship and expertise include collaboration, social networks, open access, network theory, and the commons. Benkler’s book, The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom (2006, Yale University Press), has been widely acclaimed as one of this decade’s most important works about the World Wide Web.

The Wealth of Networks is an important book, but it also is a dense tome that is not easily accessible to people that do not have legal, technological or (most importantly) economics backgrounds. Fortunately, Benkler’s core thesis in Wealth (and a good synopsis of much of his recent scholarship) is summarized in a brief lecture he gave at the TED Conference in 2005. If you have any interest in business, economics or law — especially as they apply to the Web — the lecture, which is available from YouTube below (as well as from the TED Web site) is well worth your 18 minutes.

One of Benkler’s quotes in this lecture seems particularly appropriate to the Core Copyright mission, and echoes what I have written previously about the contemporary importance of copyright and other intellectual property issues to the average citizen:

Social production is a real fact not a fad. It is the critical long-term shift caused by the Internet. Social relations and exchange become significantly more important than they ever were as an economic phenomenon. In some contexts, it’s even more more efficient because of the quality of the information, the ability to find the best person, the lower transaction costs.

It’s sustainable and growing fast, but — and this is the dark lining — it is threatened by … the incumbent industrial systems. So next time you open the paper and you see an intellectual property decision, a [telecommunications] decision, it’s not about something small and technical. It is about the future of the freedom to be as social beings with each other, and the way information, knowledge, and culture will be produced. It is in this context that we see a battle over how easy or hard it will be for the industrial information economy to simply go on as it goes, or for the new model of production to begin to develop alongside that industrial model, and change the way we begin to see the world and report what it is that we see.

On the surface, Benkler’s words seem dramatic, almost dire. And Benkler was talking broadly about intellectual property, not just copyright. (I trust readers now recognize the distinction.)

I agree with Benkler, however, that currently there is a battle taking place that generally concerns the scope and parameters of information use, sharing, and protection. Core Copyright is not the place within which I will debate the merits of any particular perspective within this battle. Instead, what we are attempting to provide here is usable, accurate, and accessible information about the U.S. copyright system so you can make your own reasonably informed decision about whether any single perspective is true or acceptable.


Yochai Benker at TED 2005:

Text: © Copyright 2009, Core Copyright. On Twitter @corecopyright

Written by K Matthew Dames

12/29/2009 at 15:30

What Is Copyright?

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This question seems so obvious and simple as to be undeserving of any scholarly attention. “Copyright” has a long history, tracing back to the early 18th century in Britain –- which includes the variants “copy right” and “copy-right” — so the term is not new. Yet this question is important to ask and answer for several reasons.

First, copyright no longer is a backwater discipline relegated to the inspection of nerdy specialists. Instead, it is now central to the everyday activities of most American citizens.

Second, many people –- lawyers and lay persons alike -– often conflate copyright and “intellectual property.”

Third, there are some important theoretical and political considerations that influence definitions of copyright. While these considerations are advanced issues we are more likely to address over on Copycense than here, they are important these days because of the rhetoric and framing that is being used to position copyright law and policy in one direction or another. I will summarize copyright law’s main theories in a future post, and we will devote extensive coverage to the theory of copyright in upcoming articles on Copycense.

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