by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
copyright, research

Is Copyright Holding Back Research?

from the but-of-course dept

When we write about copyright issues here, it's not uncommon for people to say "well, fine, if you don't like copyright, don't use it, but why do you care if others use it?" Indeed. If copyright didn't interfere with the rights of others, that would be a reasonable point. The problem, however, is that it quite frequently does interfere with all kinds of rights. Michael Scott points us to a recent study of communications professors, which determined that copyright quite frequently stifles or interferes with the research they're doing. One interesting aspect of this, however, is that it's often the perception of copyright law that is the problem:
A survey of communication scholars' practices, conducted by the Ad Hoc Committee on Fair Use and Academic Freedom in the International Communication Association (ICA), reveals that copyright ignorance and misunderstanding hamper distribution of finished work, derail work in progress, and most seriously, lead communication researchers simply to avoid certain kinds of research altogether.

Nearly half the respondents express a lack of confidence about their copyright knowledge in relation to their research. Nearly a third avoided research subjects or questions and a full fifth abandoned research already under way because of copyright concerns. In addition, many ICA members have faced resistance from publishers, editors, and university administrators when seeking to include copyrighted works in their research. Scholars are sometimes forced to seek copyright holders' permission to discuss or criticize copyrighted works. Such permission seeking puts copyright holders in a position to exercise veto power over the publication of research, especially research that deals with contemporary or popular media.
Now, one response to this might be that these professors need to be better educated on the boundaries, exceptions and limits to copyright law. However, it's not so simple. Part of the reason why there is so much fear of copyright law is because of the actions of many copyright holders, who not only aggressively push an extreme version of copyright law out to the public -- such as the MPAA's infamous (infamously wrong) "if you haven't paid for it, you've stolen it" education campaing -- but who have used ridiculously high statutory rates to publicize the idea that for very marginal copyright infringement, you may be liable for millions in damages awards (not counting legal fees).

The copyright holders themselves have been trying to paint this picture of copyright as being much more than it really is -- and as a result of that, it's now actively stifling all kinds of important research.

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  1. identicon
    Darryl, 8 Jun 2010 @ 9:57pm

    Ignorance is no defense of the law.

    Lack of knowledge of a law is not a defense.

    this is a clear, and concise fact of law, it's up to you to know what laws apply to you, and abide by those laws.

    So to say that some academics, in communications DONT KNOW about copyright law, makes me think that these people are in the wrong game.

    It's takes all of 10 minutes to confirm you're rights and abilities that apply to copyright law, especially in education, (where "fair use" is applied, and it's what fair use if for -- NON-Profit Educational.

    So academics are one of a very small group of people, that copyright laws specifically addresses and makes allowence for.

    "A survey of communication scholars' practices, conducted by the Ad Hoc Committee on Fair Use and Academic Freedom in the International Communication Association (ICA), reveals that copyright ignorance and misunderstanding hamper distribution of finished work, derail work in progress"

    So "communication scholars" DONT UNDERSTAND a very simple, consise, clearly defined concept of "fair use" as applied by the balancing test.

    send those "communication scholars" to me please, If I cannot show them how fair use works, in 30 seconds, then they might want to consider a job as a brick layer.

    And again, ignorance of the law is not a defense of the law.

    And if a "communication scholar' cant figure it out, he's not that good to start with. And I would have to ask what the heck does he/she do all day ?

    Particularly, as this is exactly the reason 'fair use' exists, for educational non-profit research, not for lifting huge chunks of others work, but to take snippets, or comments for study and research.

    It's not about how much work of someone else you can lift and just drop into you're own research, en mass.

    All of which are clearly defined (and easy to understand) fair use, and balancing test.

    Those 'scholars' need to go back to school, and stop admitting that they have little or no knowledge of their supposed field of expertise.

    So if you tell the police man you did not know the speed limit of the street, so you could go any speed, you would still be booked for speeding. It's a simple rule, that everyone 'should' be aware or.

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