Public Domain Matters

I recently reviewed Cory Doctorow’s book, Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free. Copyright is a passion of mine and I think this is a good opportunity to summarize my position on the matter.

For me, the single most important aspect of copyright is the public domain.

Most of the major copyright reforms over the past half century have made it a priority to prevent creative works from entering the public domain for as long as possible. On the other hand, there are many creative workers and educators of all stripes who depend on public domain materials to do their jobs—people who can’t afford to pay for usage rights to copyrighted stuff. This is one of the central conflicts of our copyright system.

When I was first taught about copyright, I was told that there were two equally important purposes that it was designed to serve:

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Book Review: Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age by Cory Doctorow

Information Doesn't Want to Be Free - book cover
Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age by Cory Doctorow
McSweeney’s Books, 2014
Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free by Cory Doctorow is, as one would expect, an incisive and lively exploration of the issues surrounding copyright and enforcement in the Internet Age.

Dr. Doctorow is established as an outspoken critic of the various methods that media corporations use to try and enforce their interpretation of copyright laws on the Internet: digital locks, DRM efforts, automated “Notice and Takedown” practices, etc. He takes on each of these methods and explains clearly what they’re intended to accomplish, why they fail, and the damage they do to creative workers and Internet users in general.

Some of these methods involve pretty esoteric computer science and Dr. Doctorow is the best in the business at translating the argot of technology into terms anyone can understand. Continue reading “Book Review: Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age by Cory Doctorow”

When Protecting Creativity Stifles Creativity…

Our culture suffers. This is a problem.

Georgia Tech Research Finds Copyright Confusion has ‘Chilling Effects’ in Online Creative Publishing (posted by InfoDocket on December 15, 2014)

As libraries retool themselves into community hubs of content creation, patrons will need reliable information on copyright, Creative Commons, and other intellectual property rights structures.

Given the complexity and politicization of these rights in our society today, providing such guidance is a monumental task. But this study emphasizes that it would be an essential and useful service.

I’d love to see intellectual property rights librarians in every library!

Google Wins!

US Circuit Judge Denny Chin ruled in favor of Google in their long drawn out suit with the Author’s Guild over copyright and the Google Books project. Judge Chin cited Fair Use as the primary reason for his ruling. He also emphasized the difference between commercial and non-commercial use of works.

Google wins book-scanning case: judge finds “fair use,” cites many benefits by Jeff John Roberts (posted on on November 14, 2013)

I hope that this sets a tone for the importance and relevancy of Fair Use in this country’s attempts to wrangle and reform copyright law. The ruling establishes the public good as a crucial consideration, which addresses one of my major concerns over attempts to rewrite copyright law.

This ruling could prove to be a major influence for libraries and other institutions which benefit the public. I’m quite happy with this result.

Copyright: Not an Authors' Rights System

The American Library Association tweeted this article today:

Copyright doesn’t make sense to everyone. Here’s why it should. by Carrie Russell (posted by District Dispatch on November 12, 2013)

It’s a good article. It’s important to acknowledge that, despite the challenges we currently face regarding copyright, our system in the United States is far less restrictive than authors’ rights systems in many other countries.

By the same token, though, this article highlights quite well the problems that I have with many of the changes made to U.S. copyright law over the past decades. Namely:

All the major evolutions of copyright law in this country over the past decades have been attempts by commercial interests to change it into a restrictive authors’ rights system.

If these changes continue, then copyright law won’t make sense anymore.

How To Attribute Creative Commons Photos

Given my concerns over the current state of copyright law, it shouldn’t be any surprise that I’m a fan of Creative Commons licensing. The main issue I – and many others – encounter with CC, though, is proper attribution. Attribution of CC material can get rather confusing.

This infographic helps clarify the issue for photos:
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The Continuing Saga of Copyright Reform

On Friday, I saw this article on Techdirt:

House Republicans: Copyright Law Destroys Markets; It’s Time For Real Reform

And it gave me such hope that our elected leaders might finally openly acknowledge and own up to everything they’ve done wrong with copyright over the past couple of decades! This passage, in particular, echoes everything I’ve been arguing about copyright for years:
Continue reading “The Continuing Saga of Copyright Reform”