Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The notion of value..

     As we in Canada are yet again awaiting the final outcome of renewed attempts to amend our Copyright Act, the subject of licensing and the optimal term of copyright seem very appropriate. But I think it may be only relevant to me (and perhaps other Canadians?).
     I thought when I started this Introduction to Openness in Education course late that I would find my blogging attempts resounding in a big emptiness as the conversation amongst the other bloggers in this course would have moved on. Sigh...Well, I think I need to get my reflections down (or is it up?) before I move on and forget them. I'll go trolling through other blogs later.
     It has been good to review the arguments about optimal length of copyright terms and to reflect on the purpose of copyright and who benefits and who should benefit in terms of our society and in terms of the rights of an individual.
     Watching Larry Lessig's presentation at TEDxNYED was a great start but it actually got me thinking about the impact of new forms of communication, new media and social interactions more than it got me thinking about license terms! I have copious notes and I am planning to go back and explore Julian Sanchez and the Cato Institute (whom I had never heard of before - my new media guy was Henry Jenkins of MIT fame)
     If Larry was trying to demonstrate the value to the public of open content, his choice of mashups didn't really convince me. Although entertaining and sometimes revealing, these kinds of videos don't really serve to convince me that copyright shouldn't be extended. What I think they demonstrate is the value of play and the need for people to be able to grab short pieces of music, writing, video to create something new. Whether that use precludes a creator being able to pass the value of his/her creation on to their children or family to benefit from is another point.
His four core values:
  • freedom
  • community
  • limit regulation
  • respect the creator
are useful as broad guidelines but it's in the practical realization of these values that are the devil to puzzle out. I believe in freedom with responsibility, community with a respect for individual rights, minimal regulation but meaningful enforcement, and a respect for the creator with a recognition that no one creates alone - we all build on what others have done and usually supported by those around us.
     I reviewed the Creative Commons licenses and played the game (which I really like as a teaching aid - will try to incorporate that when I talk about open content to my teachers - better check the CC license eh?). I've loved CC licenses since I first heard about them in 2004. I, along with many other teachers, have struggled with interesting content I've found on the Internet - who owns it? If I just use a little bit of it, is that OK? If a person put this content up and didn't tell me NOT to use it in education, can I presume that they wanted to share? CC licenses make everything clear (well not everything really but it's a good start). I know who created something and how they will allow it to be used. I have always credited my sources but not always in the exact way they might want to be acknowledged so CC licensing clears that up too. I like the fact that it puts the responsibility for defining rights on the creator, not on a judicial or administrative system.
     I enjoyed Pollock's "Value of the public domain" and "Forever minus a day" in a painful kind of way. I got a little lost in some of his more arcane calculations but found some of his citations and examples very thought-provoking. I'm still not truly convinced we can every accurately assess the potential value or costs of these kinds of decisions - how long to make copyright, how restrictive the terms should be to protect and thus nurture future creativity, to create value to the economy and society and contribute to the public good. For almost every point he made, I could find examples that might demonstrate the opposite of his suppositions.
     I think some form of broader fair use might do more than arguing about the term of copyright. If I create something that generates value, I would like to be able to leave it to my family. Perhaps it would be best to ensure that copyright is held by an individual or family group? It would be up to them to ensure that it continues to create value.
     I see no reason why we couldn't have a system that allows the protection of a unique piece of work from outright copying and reselling but also allows people to create something new with pieces of the original work. I don't really buy the argument that the entire work has to become public domain at some point in time or it will limit creativity? It can inspire and contribute to the public domain if we ensure that copyright holders have to allow some use of it to create something new - not complete copying but some new interpretation of the material. Perhaps a modification of CC-licensing combined with a broadening of fair use would protect the rights of creators and continue to stimulate people's creativity and new creations.

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