Should we have a right to benefit from our labor regardless of the form it takes? Be that labor a tangible item like a painting that hangs on a wall or a book that rests on a shelf should it be attributed to the creator and should the creator have the right to decide the future of that work? Should the creator be compensated for the current work and all future authorized derivative works from their labor?
Intellectual Property right is a hot topic of debate in the digital age. I find it interesting the debate was not as fierce in the non digital age. What is it about digital content as opposed to tangible content that causes others to feel it should be free and open? Is a thought, idea, or work less valuable or less important when conveyed in digital media as opposed to tangible media? Why would we ever state you have less rights in a digital environment than in a physical environment? Is digital less valuable to the contributor? Does it require less labor and less thought to create online as opposed to in print?
Why IP rights matter
The Washington Times piece, Why IP Rights Matter, raises an interesting thought on theft of tangible items vs theft of non tangible items. You would never walk into a store and take a CD that you did not pay for but we feel no remorse in lifting a song from the internet. However, theft of IP appears to be on the rise as noted in the Bureau of Justice report,
- IP theft-related investigations resulting in referral for prosecution increased 26% from 1994-2002.
- Conviction rate for IP related offenses was 88% in 2002
Would a company or individual create if they receive no benefit from the creation? In his piece, What Compels Writers to Write Richard Norquist fell back on thoughts from George Orwell who stated 4 reasons to write:
- Sheer Egoism
- Aesthetic Enthusiasm
- Historical Impulse
- Political Purpose
Without IP and Copyright protection the author’s work could pass through history without their name attached. If your work does not feed your soul would you continue to pursue it?
Where can you go wrong with Fair Use? It is not correct to assume you can do what ever you want to with content if it is for an educational purpose. You have to step back and ask the question, “are you costing the original copyright holder money?” If you take a print book and scan the book creating a digital version of the text and use that as your teaching material instead of buying either the digital version or the print version for each student you are indeed costing the original holder money, assuming the work is copyright protected. If you take a passage from a text to teach a literary element you are using the element for educational purpose and could be within Fair Use. The area is a grey area and a general rule of thumb is to ask does it impact the creator? If in doubt, ask. Contact the copyright holder, explain what you want to do and ask for permission. NPR had an interesting interview with a Dad wanting to create a derivative version of Goodnight Moon, The interview is Goodnight Moon Spinoff takes a look at Fair Use at a very high level.
In summary, IP is friend not foe. IP should apply to digital just as it does to tangible. After all, there is value in thought.