Sunday, August 12, 2007

The End - Or Just The Beginning?

What a long, strange trip it's been.

Delving into copyright and writers' issues over the last three months has been not only a great learning experience but also an adventure of sorts. All great adventures entail a journey, which is exactly what it felt like as I traveled from resource to resource, learning about the basics of copyright and building upon each thing I learned as I came to understand just how all these things fit together and affect writers.

Although I had a basic understanding of the issues I covered in this blog (which is how I determined I wanted to study them in the first place), I had no idea just how complex the topic really was. One of the things that most struck me was just how much copyright affects the lives of anyone working with intellectual property in America today, whether they are creators or consumers. Copyright and its associated rights and contractual implications are of great importance to writers. And yet it seems like copyright is one of the most confusing and least understood things writers find themselves grappling with in the publication process. The purpose of copyright is to protect creators, and it instead seems to confuse and hinder them in many ways. Just as confusing is the fact that many of the legal issues surrounding copyright are not clear-cut, black-and-white issues. Instead, copyright law is tinged a thousand shades of gray; the more you learn about it, the more confusing things seem to get.

In my blog poll, I asked what readers thought of the terms of copyright, and the majority of voters think the terms of copyright are too long. The life-plus-seventy term of copyright today is designed to allow copyright holders and their next of kin to exploit and reap the benefits that come with holding a copyright, yet more often than not, due to the quick turnover rate in the publishing industry, people's works quickly go out of print and it seems like the masses are the ones who are then deprived of access to information. Just as Abby learned in our previous entry, copyright can be just as much of a hindrance as a protection.

How do I feel about current copyright terms? While on one hand I do feel that authors (and all creators for that matter) have the right to be protected, I also feel that copyright terms are prohibitive, especially once an author is dead. As media change, so too do the ways in which we create, share, and use information, and thus I feel as though the way in which we use and apply copyright in the future needs to evolve along with our evolving needs. As the internet continues to expand, it will be increasingly difficult to police everything that goes on in cyberspace, including copyright infringements. The fact that we can now digitize entire books and use them in entirely new ways thanks to technology means that keeping a tight rein over information to prevent its dissemination would be counterproductive and counterintuitive. A happy medium must be reached in which authors profit from their works but users can also profit as well, without having to wait nearly a century for information to go into public domain so that it's easy to access. I feel as though authors should be able to create and assign their own terms of copyright to their works as they deem fit. I know Creative Commons has started serving this need, and I feel as though it'll start to become more of the norm as the century (and technology) progress. I certainly want to talk more about Creative Commons. And that brings me to my next point.

Even tough my project is technically over, I do plan to continue posting entries about issues as they arise. I'm not sure if I just didn't see it before because I wasn't studying it, but I seem to see news items come up more frequently that deal with the very issues I covered in this blog, so there shouldn't be any shortage of things to write about. I hope you've all found my blog an informative resource and I hope that you continue reading. And as always, if you have any feedback or suggestions, please let me know.

Stay tuned... it seems this is only the beginning.

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