Sunday, March 6, 2011


By Flickr user ntr23
Ah, copyright. Important but frustrating at the same time. I feel fairly comfortable with copyright law because I've been teaching it in my journalism classes for the past few years. The videos that were presented as our "reading" material for this week were excellent at covering a topic that is, in my opinion, the epitome of a necessary evil.

It was interesting to view the videos in all three sections and see that many of them referred to the fact that the current generation of students see nothing wrong with violating copyright laws.  It brought to mind a few recent examples I've encountered.  The first is was in my journalism class.  For the first issue of the school newsmagazine this school year, the staff had written two opinion columns debating if the TV school Glee was becoming too sexual.  When it came time to create the cover for the issue, a student used a great photo graph of one of the characters from the show in a contemplative pose, and put the following headline in a thought bubble from the character's head: Is Glee becoming too sexual?  It was a great piece and a great cover, but the picture is copyright protected and the student did not get permission to use the photo, and when I questioned her about it, she felt she had done nothing wrong.  Because we publish in house, the issue went to print with the image and received great reviews on the cover.  The students chose not to put the issue online, however, to avoid any issues with cover image. We have since had many discussions about the fact that using copyrighted material without permission in a journalistic endeavor is both illegal and irresponsible and have take steps to gain access to promotional materials from the major networks and movie studios through their press websites.

The situation that came to mind was a blog post by Jason Robert Brown from last summer. Mr. Brown is a composer with a few shows that have been produced on Broadway.  In June 2010, he began posting email transcripts on his blog that illustrated his view on copyright and its importance.  A teenager girl had  engaged in a debate with him about her unlicensed use of his songs in auditions, and he returned with his thoughts that this was personally detrimental to his ability to make money from his work.  If you have time, I encourage you to read the conversations they had because this series of correspondence illustrates the mindset of many students and young adults when it comes to the ideas of copyright in relation to the internet. In the end, neither side of changed their opinion.

Both of these examples highlights for me the importance of educating students about the nature of copyright, fair use and creative commons. If they are not informed, students will continue to apply this philosophy in the academic sector, leading to greater and greater instances of plagiarism, which will continue to water down the validity of our educational system. I am shocked many times a year by the fact that students think that because it is on the internet, they can use text verbatim in their papers.

Now, before I finish, don't think that I'm a huge proponent of Copyright and don't support the causes of artists like Girl Talk and Danger Mouse.  I have Girl Talk's latest album All Day (which is awesome, and I'm listening to it as I type) and was excited to see him featured in the doc and to learn that he's a skinny white guy from Pittsburg.  I love Creative Commons and think that it is a mission worth furthering in the next iteration of our media culture. I've recently introduced my newspaper staff to it, and it's a great way to get images when you can't afford a stock photo house subscription.

I guess where I find myself is in the middle, crying out, "In all things, moderation."

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful reflection of the copyright issues. I wonder about the Glee photo, whether it would have qualified for Fair Use under the journalism/news category. It is always best to get permission, but because the story was about the show, usage of an image of one of the characters might have been permitted. It really is a complicated thing. I taught journalism to 5th through 8th graders and just getting them to write their own stories was a bit of a pain. They'd much rather copy and paste something from the LA Times. Ack.