Copyright and the Internet

By Murray Bourne, 10 Oct 2007

This brief set of guidelines, Copyright and Fair Use in the Classroom, on the Internet, and the World Wide Web from the University of Maryland has some good pointers for students — and staff — of educational institutions.

This caught my eye:

According to the rule, the need to copy should occur closely in time to the need to use the copies. I call this the "one semester rule." If you use something for one semester it is likely to be seen as fair use. If you use something repeatedly, it's less likely to be considered fair use. The expectation is that you will obtain permission as soon as it is feasible. Using something over a period of years is not within the spirit of the guidelines.

As a champion of anti-plagiarism at my institution, I have a particular interest in the difference between copyright and plagiarism. As the guide says:

What Cannot be Copyrighted?
Works in the public domain:
# Ideas are in the public domain.
# Facts are in the public domain.
# Words, names, slogans, or other short phrases also cannot be copyrighted.

This is where it becomes interesting. Journalism is an area that has strict plagiarism rules, yet it is not common practice in newspapers or magazines to cite sources. This causes great confusion for students.

These are good:

Tips for the Internet
* Always credit the source of your information
* Find out if the author of a work (e.g., video, audio, graphic, icon) provides information on how to use his or her work. If explicit guidelines exist, follow them.
* Whenever feasible, ask the owner of the copyright for permission. Keep a copy of your request for permission and the permission received.

Does Copyright Law Need to Change?

At the recent State of Play conference in Singapore [no longer available], there was a lot of discussion about who owns the copyright for creative works in virtual worlds. It matters, because artists are suing copyright infringers who seek commercial gain. Different Worlds have different rules, and the lines are blurring. The conclusion that most presenters reached was that real-world law can be applied to virtual worlds.

In the current development of 'mash-ups' on the Web, it becomes increasingly difficult to figure out who owns what.

Maybe we should all use Creative Commons and be done with it:

Share, Remix, Reuse — Legally

Creative Commons provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. You can use CC to change your copyright terms from "All Rights Reserved" to "Some Rights Reserved."

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