Breakin’ the law, breakin’ the law

Thanks to our two discussion leaders this week for starting off with good questions. The other class I am taking this semester (Info Ethics & Policy) is also covering copyright law at the moment. One of the big issues we’re discussing is what the goals of copyright are verses what they should be. There has been a lot of talk on how copyright was originally designed as promoting the rights of the public to access material. The government was willing to give authors a monopoly on their works but only for a very limited time because they felt monopolies to be inherently wrong and believed it deprived the next generation of creators access to material which to build on. It has only been recently that copyright laws have become so protective of author’s rights.
Sorry for the tangent but I believe going back to the roots of copyright (public access) dovetails perfectly with what libraries do. And as both our discussion leaders asked, yes the DPLA & HathiTrust are the perfect organizations to venture into murky areas of digital copyright. Sadly the cost of litigation is massive and frightening for libraries. As pointed out in our readings for the week HathiTrust had the funds and size to make it a fair fight between them and Author’s Guild.
Copyright laws are not set in stone, naturally occurring rights handed down from up on high. They are a creation of government and the people who use them. If libraries are overly concerned with copyright risk and don’t push copyright a little then yes, we lose some of our rights. Fair use to material is not a toss away gift from authors; it is not a maybe we can do this if we ask very nicely footnote; it is written into the rules of copyright. But to enjoy the rights we have to use them.
Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now. 🙂 Kevin Smith of Duke University wrote a short piece in an American Research Library paper on risk management when creating a digital library. (ARL June 2012 http://publications.arl.org/rli279/2#/rli279/1) His basic point was librarians have to look at digital library creation as risk management, not “no risk at all.” I think it was a great point. Every library has to determine how much risk they can manage. The DPLA can hopefully take on a lot so the rest of the smaller libraries can benefit.

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5 responses to “Breakin’ the law, breakin’ the law

  1. a.d.m.n., I also agree that Hathi Trust and DPLA are “perfect organizations” to fight for Fair Use because they have the resources to do so and can successfully lead a larger effort to change current restrictions to materials that contribute to the creative and intellectual endeavors of the arts and scholarship. Furthermore, you make a critical point in that “Copyright laws are not set in stone.” The fact that our laws can be changed/amended means that libraries can fight for change in the Copyright Act to be reflect the needs of the citizenry it serves instead of constraining the free flow of thoughts and ideas.

  2. a.d.m.n to continue some of the discussion from Info Ethics & Policy, I’m in it too, what do you think would be the ideal goals/penalties for copyright? I would like to see what others outside of that class say too.

  3. I took Rubel’s class on Information Ethics and Policy last year and when we were discussing this, one of the other students mentioned that the HathiTrust didn’t really extend a strong effort into finding authors of orphan works. I believe he said that in some cases a Google search easily found several authors that HathiTrust said they weren’t able to locate. A search for more information on this came up with a bewildering array of legal documents none of which I feel up to reading at the moment.

    BTW – if you are interested at all in copyright, trademarks, ethics, policy, and intellectual freedom, I would take Rubel’s class. It is theory dense and some of the readings don’t just wander into the philosophical realm, they wallow in it. But I promise you it will open your eyes to the many challenges to intellectual freedom.

  4. Kyle if I got to rewrite copyright rules I think the first place I would start is removing any protection of works after the death of the author. I see no way in which control of works for 70 years after death encourages artistic works.
    Also, as a fairness issue, why should the children of famous authors (who did none of the work) get to enjoy the copyrights of their parent’s or grandparent’s work? Currently the US tax system at least has reasonably strong estate taxes in order to discourage the growth of a class of citizens who had the luck to be born in the right place at the right time.
    An author can leave money to their children if they so choose. But the ideas an author used to create their work were part of the fabric of society. They didn’t create in a vacuum but took from the world around them and placed their unique spin on those ideas. It would only seem right to give back those ideas for future authors to use once an author has died.

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