Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Copyright owners need to signal their intent (A rant)

I am as guilty as the next person in this, and I know that I need to change AND you do too!

This afternoon I had a conversation with someone who is building a repository.  More and more digital repositories are springing up to collect content of all types and make it more accessible.  While that is a good thing, the problem is that they often find content that they want to collect, but:
  • Don't know if the owner wants it to be redistribute  (distribution is a right of the copyright owner)
  • Don't know who owns is or how to contact him/her/it in order to seek permission
The universe drove this point home tonight when a colleague forwarded a white paper to me that might be useful to some of my students.  The white paper was created by an organization that is well-versed in copyright and it contains a copyright statement, but it provides no guidance on their expectation of its use.  So I have a great educational white paper on copyright that would be useful to give to students (and others), but unfortunately, the copyright owner hasn't explicitly told me that I can do it.  If I want to redistribute it, I'll need to seek permission...yet it seems stupid that they didn't just say "use this to educate your colleagues!"

In the United States, once words are in a fixed medium they are copyrighted.  Period.  We may want our words (text) to be disseminated or even to 'go viral', but legally they can't unless we give people permission.  The easiest way to give permission is through a Creative Commons license.  If you are unfamiliar with those, please follow the link and then use one of the licenses on works that you want people to share.  Doing so will help all of us.

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