Wallace (2004). Dealing with Digital Copyright Issues in Higher Education.

Wallace, L. (2004). Dealing with Digital Copyright Issues in Higher Education: No is Not a Helpful Institutional Response. Journal of Distance Education, 19(1), 92-104. Retrieved May 5, 2008, from here.

The article provides an example of how legal and marketing terminology within ICT (information and communication technologies) can obscure the purpose of an initiative.

“The instructional use of the Web has exploded over the past decade, and courses with online components have become the norm in many Canadian universities.” (p. 93)

Observation regarding instructors: …

“… instructors often have incomplete knowledge of copyright policy and clearance procedures …” (p. 93)

Copyright Act as obsolete: …

“… does not yet contain any specific reference to digital or electronic copyrights.” (pp 93-94)

  • What does the author mean by “digital copyrights”? (p. 94)

Confusion from US media outlets: …

“… information relating to this topic delivered by United States media outlets.” (p. 94)

  • Confusion of terms — author refers to “analog copying”. (p. 94) Is this the same as a “hard copy” or physical copy? What is the difference between “digital” and “analog” copy? There is an important distinction between “digital” and “electronic” that isn’t being made here. Science is exploring “quantum” computing that is vastly different from “digital” but is still “electronic” (as opposed to “photonic”).
  • In referring to “digital copying and distribution” (p. 94), author is starting to suggest that the conversion of media from analog/physical into digital is at issue. What about translations? What about transcription? These forms of conversion are likely already addressed in the Copyright Act.

Author describes but doesn’t recognize A/D conversion: …

“… that the educational exceptions … for analog copying also extend to digital resources.” (p. 94)

  • Author uses term “found on the Web” (p. 95).
  • What is the significance of a “password-protected Web site”? (p. 95)
  • The policy that was introduced has wording that both clarifies and obscures. For example, “may be digitized” (p. 97) speaks to conversion from analog to digital. Then it speaks of “materials copied from websites” (p. 97) without reflecting on how the technologies in place are already making multiple copies from the remote web server, to servers along the network path, to the local user cache. All this interaction leaves a trail of copies.
  • Some authors wish to apply old publishing models to a powerful new medium. They wish to take advantage of the powerful and inexpensive distribution mechanism of the Internet but want to impose rules that were conceived for physical copies of their work. The ease with which copies are made in electronic media …
  • Author provides four references: Canadian copyright law, information provided by a copyright holder special interest group, a U.S. resource, and the university copyright web site about which she writes. There is no reference to sources that would serve to illuminate the terminology that the author is using imprecisely.
  • Some discussion about responsibility of instructor for obtaining copyright clearance.
  • Author refers to “online click-through” (p. 98) without a context or explanation. Is this legally binding in Canada?
  • Author comments on “… how Web material may be presented (e.g., linking, external framing) … ” (p. 98). This discussion is naive because it ignores the creative possibilities of how electronic media may be repackaged. It is inflexible and limited.
  • Most copyright clearance requests (about two-thirds) were for existing electronic copies (p. 99). Of copyright clearance requests, 88% received permission (p. 99). There is no correlation presented that would indicate the proportion of electronic copies that received permission versus the “analog” works
  • Author admits to “ease with which digital materials may be copied and distributed” (p. 100
  • Instructors may see restrictions as “bureaucratic barrier to the tru mission of teaching” (p. 100).
  • “Providing clearance services” (p. 100) is seen as a solution, but isn’t provided with a guidance/insight for how extensive this might service should be. Further, the author says: …

“… placing the work of obtaining digital copyright clearances for teaching resources and the expense of royalty payments on instructors is unrealistic and invites noncompliance.” (p. 100

Author admits that providing clearance support: …

“… places yet another resource burden on the institution.” (p. 100)

  • However, the institutions typically provide bookstores, for example, on a cost-recovery basis. A copyright clearance service would be appropriate in such a context. Many resources in the form of textbooks have been replaced by online resources, but the cost was once presented to the student in the form of textbook prices. The students can now pay, instead, for copyright clearance for the materials they require

[Appendix quotes the university’s digital copyright FAQ. The following is from that FAQ.]

  • Sloppy phrasing in suggesting that the web is a form of digital copyright (p. 101). This would be akin to saying that a chair is a form of property right.
  • Narrow and simplistic perspective to say “view the material” (p. 101). The materials are copied, transmitted and stored on numerous intermediate computers across the Internet’s network.
  • Stating that it’s “always good practice to cite sources” (p. 101) is a little relaxed. It would be more correct to say that citing sources is demanded.
  • Reference to “deep-linking” (p. 101). Doesn’t address what this has to do with copyright.
  • Reference to “virtual classrooms” (p. 102). These are characterized as being password-protected. How are these different from any other network resource to which many members of the organization may have access in the course of their work? As described earlier, data is stored, copied and transmitted and it is backed-up and archived with no consideration as to whether copyright has been cleared. For free web resources to bear such restrictions is naive and …
  • Reference to “intellectual property theft” (p. 103). Alarmist marketing from corporate media. Canadian Criminal Code section 322 defines theft as depriving the owner of their property. The terminology that should be used may be plagiarism or infringement, but not theft. The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (www.ic.gc.ca/sc_mrksv/cipo/) does not use the term “theft” in its materials explaining infringement.
  • Reference to the “acceptance of the piece for publication” (p. 104). Alludes to old publishing model where owners of presses, publishing houses and distribution channels had the power to circulate knowledge.
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