Week6: Copyright and OERs

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Hurray for the Duke Public Domain people! Copyright comic: Bound By Law! I love it! My childish tendencies were revealed (yet again) as I flipped through this creative presentation of copyright law – a great example that cultural icons like the comic book can take a topic like copyright (which can be painfully dry, legalistic and very confusing) and weave it into something accessible and interesting.

I live with an artist and we have had many energetic discussions about art, public access, artists’ interests and the value of the art itself. Our usual argument goes something like this:
He (the economic argument): “If I give my art away or make images available on the internet via CC license, how will I be compensated for the considerable time, materials and expertise that went into making the original work?”
Me (the sampling effect argument): “No-one sees your art if it stays in the studio (basement) or is only occasionally on display at some gallery somewhere. What’s wrong with more exposure? If people like (and perhaps use) the images, don’t you think someone, somewhere will want to contact you, buy a painting or maybe commission something?”

It usually ends in a change of subject.

Though the idea of upfront funding to creators (presented in Pollock’s paper (value_of_public_domain.ippr.pdf) gives me some new fuel for discussion! According to Pollock (at least in the context of music sharing) access to it in the public domain would result in some net gains to society which could then be used to increase avenues of remuneration for artists resulting in “a win-win situation of increased access andincreased creativity, delivering social and commercial value as well as a freer and more dynamic creative industry.”

Over-protection of creative works (or intellectual property) doesn’t seem to benefit anyone – ultimately – except maybe the lawyers.

As highlighted in the Bound By Law document , Judge Kozinsky (US Course of Appeals) states “overprotecting intellectual property is as harmful as underprotecting it – creativity is impossible without a rich public domain. Overprotection stifles the very creative forces it is supposed to nurture.”

But what about authorship rights in the public domain?

Bobbe makes the point : “Once there [public domain], you have no rights to it and no one has to give attribution for the work. Anyone can take it and turn it into something they can copyright and keep behind the very barriers the educator was trying to tear down.”

I’m not so sure about this, Bobbe. Even in the public domain, the original creator/author is still acknowledged by the ethical among us. To disregard authorship would be plagiarism. I would imagine that people inclined to plagiarize would not be deterred by a CC license or (as has been documented many times) even copyright. The sad fact is (and this is true of human rights legislation or any other kind of legal attempt at “protection”) that protection of rights comes at a cost that is too high for the average artist, student, educator. It takes money, time and energy to fight the legal battle necessary to prove authorship. It seems to me that anytime you share your work with others (in whatever form) you are open to risks. However, the risk of not sharing is (in my estimation) much greater.

Should OER’s be simply put into the public domain?
That depends on the intent of the author. If the aim is to be as accessible to as wide a range of people as possible – then, yes, the public domain would remove any confusion or impediment associated with any kind of licensing. If your motivation is something else – then you probably want some kind of protection that fits with the values you associate with your work.

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