Copyrights and Copy-wrongs!

Copyright is a very complex subject. We touched on it a little bit in my Freshman Seminar class last semester, and I came to one conclusion then: copyright is restrictive and does not even get fully enforced. After reading and watching the materials for this post, I came to a similar conclusion. However, these resources give me a better understanding of the history of copyright, why it is somewhat needed, and how Creative Commons provides a much more advantageous solution. When the nation’s first copyright law went into effect in 1783, it was meant to protect revenues from original pieces (specifically Noah Webster’s), and give authors and artists control over the distribution of their work, according to “A Brief History of Copyright”. Back in that time period, I can understand the need for such strict laws. And even back then, the copyright only lasted for fourteen years with the option for renewal until it was offered to the public domain. Larry Lessig, as a part of his TED Talk,  “Laws that Choke Creativity”, epitomizes my opinion on the subject. He believes that laws, like copyright, are silencing the vocal cords of the people. In addition, they are turning a former read-write culture into a read-only culture, and the Internet is the only way to relive the read-write culture. He argues for a balance between the two extremes of auto-takedown regardless of fair use and rejection of copyright all together. The only way to do this is for the creators to demand availability of their work and for businesses to enable this. Lessig, like myself, realizes that copyright laws are really only forcing access to the material underground and call those who access it, pirates; they cannot stop it.

The next two resources focus on the “fair use” doctrine associated with copyright laws. It allows citizens to reproduce, distribute, or exhibit parts of copyrighted material under certain circumstances without authorization. However, the purpose of using this material must fall under four options: criticism, news reporting, teaching, or parody. These ideas are presented in an extremely creative way in the short film, “A Fair(y) Use Tale”. The funny thing about this video is that the “fair use” doctrine is the sole reason as to why it can take clips from so many Disney movies and put them into something totally different. The material that falls under the “fair use” doctrine must abide by the rules of nature, amount, and commercial impact (it cannot change the material’s value in the marketplace). Most of the same coverage of this aspect of copyright is covered in “Fair Use Frequently Asked Questions”. The “fair use” doctrine is a start in allowing more access to copyright material but fails to succeed completely, due to limitations in the rules.

A better alternative to copyright altogether is the Creative Commons initiative (explained in “7 Things You Should Know about Creative Commons”)  Created by a nonprofit organization, this movement allows copyright owners to release some of the rights to their work while retaining others. Overall, it increases access to and sharing of intellectual property. Whereas copyright is essentially all or nothing (either in the public domain or completely restricted from access), Creative Commons offers a number of different types of licenses that allow the creator to pick and choose what aspects are protected or not. This article states that higher education is using Creative Commons more and more, and I can attest to that fact, because I used its search website several times last semester to find images to post on my original website. It allows one to avoid any nagging copyright notifications, and in more extreme cases, lawsuits.

When considering my own sense of “ownership” in relation to original work, I would definitely apply for a Creative Commons license of some sort if I was to publish it. I believe that sharing intellectual property is key to expanding knowledge. Copyright laws are too strict for my own personal taste. That being said, I still believe that it is important to give credit where credit is due. I would not appreciate it if someone else was to use my work, without citing me as the author or creator. Ownership is important, but so is creative sharing and expansion.