Core Copyright

Copyright essentials for everyday creators

Posts Tagged ‘Oxford English Dictionary

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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The Difference Between Copyright & Plagiarism

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Last week, I addressed a common problem in which lawyers and non-lawyers conflate copyright and intellectual property (IP). In this post, I address another common confusion — the conflation of copyright (or copyright infringement) and plagiarism — and rationalize why I think being the subject of plagiarism allegations is much more damaging.

In order to distinguish copyright and plagiarism, it would be helpful to establish operative definitions for both concepts. I assiduously have avoided defining copyright thus far — I did not define copyright in the post on intellectual property — because I believe the term (and its defining parameters) should be defined carefully, particularly given the contemporary use of rhetoric and framing in this area of the law. Therefore, readers should consider as temporary the copyright definition I provide in this post, a placeholder I am using to complete this comparison. I will update this post later to reference the operative definition of copyright that we will be using throughout this publication.

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