Copyright: A Tale with Two Sides

CSPDFrontCover  I recently read an interesting little piece about copyright in comic book form, “Tales From the Public Domain: Bound by Law?” by Keith Aoki, James Boyle, and Jennifer Jenkins.  It can be found at .

The comic book series, produced by the Duke Center for Study of the Public Domain, focuses in particular on the arts, and on issues related between intellectual property and the public domain.

The focus of this particular issue dealt with the creation of documentary films. Nowadays, with the advances in technology, readily available and inexpensive technology, and access to materials of all types and formats, just about anyone can decide to make a documentary. It is becoming increasingly important for the layperson to be familiar with copyright laws; what they are for and how to navigate them.

Besides its format, what I find interesting about this tutorial about copyright issues is its focus on both aspects of copyright laws; that is, the laws are intended to protect works as well as foster and promote creativity by giving artists access to raw materials.

Artists should be aware that unreasonable denials of fair use have and do occur. Knowledge and understanding of major court rulings, for example, can help artists in their pursuit of the fair use of copyrighted materials for their artistic creations. One example is cited where a court ruled in favor of artist Tom Forsythe, who was sued by Mattel for using transformed images of Barbie dolls for a parody that he had created. The court ruled that the lawsuit was “…objectively unreasonable and frivolous,” and ordered Mattel to pay “substantial attorney fees.”

More information about copyright produced by the Duke Center for Study of the Public Domain can be found at .


Handling Properly Physical and Digital Items: An Early Age Educational Requirement

This discussion has one goal; to emphasize on the necessity to educate younger children on how to handle properly physical and digital items. The two categories have a completely different approach. Physical items handling has to do with taking care of a book or a CD, for example, while digital items handling deals with copyright. The two categories are discussed separately below.

We all know how young children (and older in some cases) mistreat books. It can be a constant effort and fight to convince a young child not to rip pages from a book or write in it. Even the specially made books for early ages cannot stop children from damaging them. This means that the effort must be focused on teaching the child to respect the book. Especially with library books, children must be monitored and constantly reminded that the book they hold in their hands is important to other people also, who should be allowed to have access to it. The same applies to video tapes, CDs, and DVDs, media that can be cracked easily. Educating children how to handle all these media should start in early ages in school and at home.

The new era has brought an increase of digital items and, along with it, a huge copyright issue. I have discussed copyright twice on this site. This discussion is about how to handle copyright. It is very easy to download anything from the web. Then, when we think that it is ok to use it anyway we please, we found ourselves into trouble dealing with a lawsuit. Adults don’t know; we cannot expect children to know. We can educate children to know. Children must learn to avoid pirate sites and know how far they can go with a downloaded item. I would not expect children to be able to distinguish right from wrong in every case. I would expect adults to teach them the big picture and then monitor them. The bottom-line is that, it is unacceptable to have so many examples of colleges students not knowing where the limit is and being sued by music and film producers for violation of copyright laws. Again, education must start early.

Open Access and Copyright

I have discussed copyright a couple of times on this site. This is an ongoing topic and will continue providing debates for a very long time. The problem that the concept “copyright” creates has to do with our world’s approach. It seems that it has been set in stone that any type of free distribution of works will deprive their creators of their profits. This is one way of thinking about it. This way of thinking does not allow open access to expand as fast as we would want it to. This way of thinking has brought up the recent more strict copyright laws. Are there only creators behind this way of thinking. Of course not; creators are only the last part of the chain. Before and above the creators are industries, especially the Music and Film ones. They are the biggest problem because they exhibit the one way thinking mentioned above at its maximum.

We are still living in a primitive society, a weak construction based on money. This mentality does not allow us to see alternatives. Can open access exist for all works, including the newest ones, along with industries and creators’ rights of profiting from these works? The answer is simple and based on a different approach. There are three types of “consumers”, the ones who buy to possess, the ones who borrow and return, and the ones who do both, depending on the work and their interest in it. Is the second type of consumers so damaging to the industries and creators or the other two types can cover the loses from the second type? I will dare to say that there is enough purchasing going on to cover any potential loses from the “borrowing” type of consumers. Let’s not forget that part of this “borrowing” type are the students who need access to information as part of their studies. Stricter copyright laws or vendors’ greed will only harm these students and the education in its entirety. We need to consider the alternatives. Even if we allow everything to be accessed freely and immediately after its creation, there will still be a lot of purchasing to bring profit to the industries and creators.

Copyright Webinars

I am encouraging everybody who has the time and the interest in expanding their knowledge on Copyright law to register for the two spring courses taught by a colleague, Ms. Gretchen McCord J.D., M.S.I.S., on her site “Digital Information Law: Legal Counseling and Training”. I have posted below the site’s home and webinars page links, as well as the courses offered. There are only a few days left for registration. The knowledge provided in these two courses is of immense value to our field, so, if you are not taking courses during the spring/summer semester, I urge you to consider it.


  • The Why & How of Copyright Policies
  • Addressing Copyright Issues in Mass Digitization Projects

Speaking of Copyright……!

A LinkedIn connection from Greece, Dr. Anthi Katsirikou, Librarian, PhD, MSc, professor at the Technological Educational Institution of Athens, Greece and Co-chair of the international magazine: “Qualitative and Quantitative Methods for Libraries”, sent me a YouTube link of a historical documentary video about ancient Greece. The name of the video is, “Greece, Secrets of the Past” and the link: When I went to the specific link to watch the documentary, I found this message in the video window: “This video contains content from Image Entertainment, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds. Sorry about that.” So, the video is blocked in the United States and maybe other countries. It may be available only in Greece for whatever reasons this is happening. Apparently, the world is not allowed to share a documentary with historical facts about the biggest ancient civilization on earth; not even the people (like this author) who are descendants of this civilization!