Monday, November 15, 2010

Fingers in the Cookie Jar

In his Globe and Mail article of November 8, 2010, Ivor Tossell posited that there is a generational divide in public thinking as to when it is okay to violate someone else’s copyright and when it is not.

I am not going to in anyway defend Ms. Griggs. She egregiously violated copyright and seemed to think she was justified in doing so because the material that she plagiarized was posted on a web site. However, hers is not a unique or generational attitude towards material on the Web.

There seems to be a general misunderstanding of what constitutes copyright infringement. Witness the comments posted on line connected to this article.

The commenters misinterpreted what constitutes “fair dealing” use of copyrighted material, stating that all personal use was okay. However, you are in fact violating multiple copyrights when you download music/books/articles etc. from pirate web sites that make copyrighted material available for “free”. Just because you are using it in a non-commercial private setting, does not mean that you have not infringed copyright(s).

They protested that as young authors they were required to sign away all copyright (without addressing the fact that they probably also had waive all of their moral rights) associated with their works if they wanted to be published. That is the economic reality of starting out in any field. You have little or no bargaining power until you have established yourself. Then if you are good at your craft you will be paid more, and may also get to carve up how you “sign away” your copyright for commercial exploitation – hardback, paperback, e-book, movie rights etc. But the bottom line is if you want to make money, you are going to sell some or all of your copyrights in a work.

The commenters seemed to think that there is copyright in ideas and information – which there is not - as opposed to the expression of the ideas and information – which is what is in fact protected by copyright.

Just because I am writing this posting about a published article does not mean I am violating copyright. I have acknowledged the source of my information, but I am expressing my ideas about the information in an original – I didn’t want to suggest it is unique because I don’t think I am that much of a thinker – work. It may also arguably be protected by the fair dealing of use for scholastic criticism (but this could be a stretch).

I am not naïve. While a better understanding about copyright is of course preferable, I do not think that it will curb copyright violators of any age. It may, however, give them a nanosecond of pause before they do it.

And remember, this posting is protected by copyright…

No comments: