The first thing that comes to mind when I think of “copyright” is YouTube, and not in the good way. Perhaps because I am one of those buyers that needs to beware of those “shady sellers” Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig describe in the introduction of “Owning the Past”. Seeing what YouTube has become, where content creators are persecuted by mindless bots for a copyright that doesn’t exist and no real solutions to the growing outcry from creator and consumer alike; it’s incredibly easy for my mind to inherently dislike the entire conversation of copyright altogether. Maybe it’s the growing progressive cynic inside me assuming the larger company cares little for it’s base, but as far as copyright goes my personal views favor much heavier toward that of the public and consumer. This ties in with Rosensweigs idea of instructors not institutions owning their products, and thus allowing them to become open access. As still a learning historian, I depend incredibly heavily on CCSU for access to many of my sources. Because of my work schedule, the blessing of being able to access a source from my computer when I want to is greater than I previously would have ever thought. I depend on CCSU, and if I wasn’t a student the cost of gaining access to the variety of databases at their disposal would simply be too much. Open access to the public would increase viewership, and thus the spread of data and knowledge, and “more knowledge and education is hardly ever a bad thing”.
Last week I had a geography presentation for my Cultural Tourism course focusing heavily on car culture and route 66. To help highlight this to the group of geography students (many of whom were undergrads and were unfamiliar with the terminology and even what route 66 was) I showed a quick three minute clip from the hit Disney movie Cars. Naturally I don’t own cars, but it was protected by fair use as I was using it for educational purposes while also giving credit to the proper owners (quite literally “classroom use”). This makes my point with YouTube tying into the article “Pushing Back Against Legal Threats by Putting Fair Use Forward”. Copyright is meant to protect the creator from having his idea stolen, but should someone want to build upon or springboard off the idea into something new, that should be not only accepted but encouraged!
In my mind, the TV show South Park said it best in the episode “Free Hat” (Season 6, Episode 9) where they ironically strive to protect movies from their own creators. While this would be excellent commentary on the whole archivists/families vs researchers conflict in the strive for authenticity, I’ll leave that mess for another post.
The point Matt Stone and Trey Parker so eloquently make is that “when an artist creates, whatever they create belongs to society.” (Kyle Broflovski). I feel similarly in regards to content created in the scholarship.
How to do this is a problem that is posed by Rosenzweig. My favorite of his suggestions is delayed release (where premium payers get early access) or partial release, where an abstract with some tantalizing information is released, and to get access to the full would require subscription. This way the public can get access while creators can still earn some revenue.
…and this post went far longer than I thought it would. A lot of these topics create a response a lot longer than 300 words from me. As Mark Twain wrote, “forgive me for writing a long letter, I did not have time to write you a short one”, and while a consise response may be more appropriate, I do feel there is more than enough subject material to go over this limit.