I’m not sure if my allergies or reading about copyrights has given me a migraine this morning. Copyrights, based on the charts posted for this week (and others explored in Clio 1), are in some ways pretty straightforward. Then a comic book arrived to clarify things, and I think wound up muddying the view. Page 30 of the comic book, particularly Munch’s Scream, pretty much summed up my feelings reading it. Now mind you, I grew up on comic books, so I appreciated the forum. But the authors presented the pros and cons of copyright in a manner that left me with more questions, and not less. At one point I felt fine about using a 30 second clip in the DST assignment, the next minute I’m worried that some French TV company will want to sue me for 4 1/2 seconds of their footage, and on a graduate salary I can’t face a $10,000 litigation cost and pray I get a judge who will make the French pay the court costs.
The problem, it seems, is that copyright laws are in constant flux. And there’s a good chance that 10 or 15 years from now, what holds true today will not look very similar. But, at the cost of sounding like some pessimist, I do believe that creators should be protected and allowed to produce ground-breaking work and copyright laws protect them. Even if the cost of such freedom is an evil Bart Simpson, Mickey Mouse, or Big Bird ready to pounce on it. I am reminded of such freedoms in our modern political discourse. Yes, I can hardly stomach some of the vitriol that you see at tea party rallies, talk radio, and on either side of the political spectrum. But, the protection of free speech is worth it.
In the end, Dan Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig really put forth some practical reminders and a sage advice:
“…copyright law, like history, is subject to conflicting interpretations as well as sharp contention between advocates of the rights of the owners of intellectual property and those seeking to enlarge the public domain…In large and small ways, the web has reconfigured the legal landscape for historians.”
So what should I do? Here is their advice:
“We believe that a more aggressive assertion of the rights and claims of that commons, when followed sensibly, does not entail excessive risk…Even if the rights holder later shows up, most reasonable people won’t sue you if you offer at that point to remove the material or pay them a fee.”
So, it may just best be served to be aware of copyright laws, use discretion, and be willing to remove material on the off-chance some French TV company comes knocking on your door.