I’ve got copyright on my mind

copyrightI took this four-week online course, Copyright for Educators & Librarians from Coursera a few weeks ago; a LOT of reading, plus instructor videos. I find that it has changed the prism of how I see the topic. I thought I knew a lot about copyright but found that I learned so much more. Here’s a Hangout with Kenny Crews & the Copyright Instructors, which was some expert answering questions at the end of the journey.

The course required participation in a discussion forum each week, with questions such as “What Copyrights Do You Own”. The answer is: a lot. Almost every picture you’ve taken, or story you’ve written, with no need to formally register it. The exceptions include items you created for work, which may be under your employer’s copyright. After an increasingly long time, copyrighted items become part of the public domain, pretty much anything created before 1923. Items created for the US government are generally not under copyright. One can cede copyright, in part or in full, through Creative Commons. These are almost universally true.

Then there’s the much-misunderstood concept of fair use. You’ve probably made use of it every time you’ve written a paper for school, quoting some author whose work is under copyright. That use is not copyright infringement, unless the quoting was extensive, or substantive. One famous case involved someone excerpting a relatively small portion of a book by former President Gerald R. Ford; the section quoted was why he pardoned Richard Nixon, and that was the crux of the book.

I’ve had a pretty good handle on this concept. Most of my work blogs are appropriations of copyrighted material. I write enough to get you to click on the link, ideally, but no moe than that.

This reminds me of a time I wrote a post that promised the seven answers to something or other. The link went to Facebook. Someone wrote, “FAIL,”, because I failed to reveal the seven items. I thought, and still think, that the revelation by me would have been copyright infringement, whereas the tease was fair use.

There are other exceptions to copyright infringement, such as when someone is creating a parody. Think MAD magazine, which back in the 1950s was challenged for creating Superduperman, clearly a parody of the Man of Steel, and protected as such.

Commentary is another of the transformative processes that are protected. In a blog post about moving, I used the entirety of Jaquandor’s post. It was only one line, but it WAS the whole thing. I used it to make a point about how I have helped others move, not just appropriating the line as my own.

Anyway, you know how when you learn something, you notice EVERYTHING that falls in that category? Here re a few examples:

U.S. Copyright Office says it won’t register works by animals, plants or supernatural beings. This was in response to some guy wanting to register the artwork of his monkey.

CBS Sued Over ‘NCIS’ Farting Hippo Puppet.

Copyright extortion startup wants to hijack your browser until you pay. “Rightscorp, the extortion-based startup whose business-model is blackmailing Internet users over unproven accusations of infringement, made record revenues last quarter, thanks to cowardly ISPs who agreed to lock 75,000 users out of the Web until they sent Rightscorp $20-$500 in protection money.” I HATE this stuff.

George Clinton loses the copyrights to a bunch of Funkadelic masters to a law firm he owes money to.. I finf this terribly sad.

BBC and FACT’s daleks exterminate Doctor Who fansite, steal domain. “One of the operators of Doctor Who Media — one of the oldest, most respected Doctor Who fansites — had reps from the Federation Against Copyright Theft (who produce the awful “You Wouldn’t Steal a Car” ads) and the BBC thunder at his door and tell him he’d be served with a warrant if he didn’t shut down the site immediately and transfer his domain to FACT.” Fair use is different in the UK, and elsewhere, from the US.

Finally, someone sent me this:

The Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University is pleased to announce the publication of an open coursebook entitled Intellectual Property: Law & the Information Society—Cases and Materials by James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins. It includes discussions of such issues as the recent Redskins trademark cancellations, the Google Books case, and the America Invents Act. It also includes questions and role-playing problems ranging from a video of the Napster oral argument, to counseling clients about search engines and trademarks, to applying the First Amendment to digital rights management and copyright, and commenting on the Supreme Court’s new rulings on gene patents. It is available for free download under a Creative Commons license.

The coursebook is intended for the basic Intellectual Property class, but because it is an open coursebook, which can be freely edited and customized, it is also suitable for an undergraduate class, or for a business, library studies, communications or other graduate school class. It is part of a larger effort to lower the cost of teaching materials and provide greater digital functionality. You can read more about the Open Coursebook project, download both the coursebook and its accompanying statutory supplement, or purchase low-cost print editions at www.law.duke.edu/cspd/openip.

BoingBoing says: “it’s not just a cheaper alternative [to a $160 textbook], either — it’s a better one.”

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