Who Teaches Copyright?

Just this past week I was reading an article in Create magazine about licensing music. It was a reminder of copyrights and the various licenses that you might need to purchase to use someone’s work… Performance Rights, Synchronization, and the like.

Later that evening I was in my normal spot for a Friday night, on the sidelines in a high school stadium. Before the game there was music playing on the loudspeakers, then there were dance and step teams performing to popular tunes. As I watched, waiting for the bands to perform, I thought about the common knowledge that “kids these days don’t observe copyright, and don’t care that what they’re doing is stealing” when they download or trade MP3s.

Here were kids, in a school setting, under the supervision and sponsorship of teachers or other adults, using music almost assuredly without proper licensing. How, I wonder, can they possibly even know what the limits of the law are when they’re not taught?

Parry Aftab, executive director of Wiredsafety.org was quoted in the New York Times as saying that “a lot of parents are totally clueless about [copyright and music licensing]. They don’t understand the laws and they don’t understand the technology.” (Heck, most of what I read in online forums is at least partly wrong, even in “creative” forums where there are people who should know better.) The truth of the matter is that most people in the schools don’t understand either.

Most parents can’t teach copyright law, its limits and its applications. Schools can’t — or don’t — teach it. Yet somehow “the kids” are just supposed to know better. That’s just not going to happen.

I’ve often thought that I should put together a one-hour overview of copyright basics and offer to come teach it at the high school, perhaps in Literature class. Maybe it’s time to get that going.

We All Own Our Copyrights

This is getting ridiculous. I’ve heard it now from Leo and the others on This Week in Tech, Emory and Alex on This Week In Media, and now even the Buzz Out Loud crew. Almost every time they get to talking about Google’s purchase of YouTube and the ever-present possibility of video-hosting sites being sued, they talk about video as though they exist in two distinctly different groups: “copyrighted” and “user-generated” material.

Let’s review here folks – every piece of text, audio or video is copyrighted the moment it’s created and “fixed” in a tangible form. From the U.S. Copyright office: “Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created, and a work is ‘created’ when it is fixed in a copy or phonorecord for the first time.” It’s been that way in almost every major nation since Berne copyright convention was agreed upon. In the US, almost every bit of audio, video, music and text created privately and originally after April 1, 1989 is copyrighted and protected whether it has a notice or not. There’s no difference between a multi-million dollar budget show created by Universal Studios’ people, a vidcast created by the good TWiT or CNet folks, or a 10-second video-phone clip of your dancing cat. They’re all copyrighted.

Yes, I understand that the discussion is about people posting works for which they don’t hold a copyright or license to redistribute. But that’ s not what they say. Saying it wrong just perpetuates the myth that works you or I create aren’t copyrighted. I’m sure that’s not what our podcasting friends mean, but it’s a meaning that the big companies would love us to believe – that their work is more important, more valuable, and more worthy of protection. That ours is worth less. Is worthless. That’s bogus.

end of rant

[later: Bravo to Tom, Molly & Veronica at Buzz Out Loud, who talked about this post on their 10/20/06 “National Brandied Fruit Day” episode. Thanks, BOL Crew.]

Sudents’ Work is Copyrighted Too

Well this this is interesting: Students Rebel Against Database Designed to Thwart Plagiarists [Washington Post]. My son’s high school also uses this program; his World Literature teacher told us about it last week. Any typed paper the students turn in must first be submitted to the TurnItIn service, which compares it to other works to check for plagiarism.

The question in my mind is echoed in the article:

These students are giving their work to a company that’s making money and they are getting no compensation.

It certainly deserves some thought and discussion. Perhaps even in a course about literature. Without copyright and potential for compensation many of those creative works wouldn’t have ever been created in the first place.

Tying the Hands that Pay You

Copyright expert Silver tells me that DRM (Digital Rights Management) isn’t a problem for people.

Well, ok. Most of the time.

DRM – called by it’s true name of Copy Protection – was tried by software companies back in the late 80’s/early 90’s. It didn’t work then, and won’t work now. All it does is turn legitimate customers into vocal, angry ex-customers.

As a photographer, I’m pretty cognizant of copyright law and of the problems that illegal copying can cause for the artist (who should be the copyright owner but in many cases isn’t, but that’s another issue). I just disagree with the view that binding the hands of cusomers isn’t the answer.

Addendum: Sean’s description of HD DVD’s Managed Copy, while still a form of DRM, is better than the “thou shalt never copy” attitude previously seen. If if works reliably 100% of the time.

KM, Blogging, and Copyright, Oh My

It’s been a while since I wrote about Knowledge Management & Blogging. While trying BlogBridge, I noticed that it comes with a set of pointers to, among other things, some KM blogs.

Here are a couple that have interesting articles posted recently. Knowledge-at-work (see Sharing knowledge – do we know enough? for example), and APQC (including two interesting posts on Copyright and Ownership of “company ideas” posted on personal blogs).

Bonus link from Bug Bash: “If you’re already leading a 30-person Java implementation, it’s way too late to go back to the boss and admit you picked the technology because you like coffee.”