Are you stealing stuff?

So there you are creating a presentation, learning resources, handouts, learning objects, handouts…

Now in those is there any stuff, such as text, images, audio, video that you didn’t create, have “taken” from somewhere else (such as a website).

Did you think it was okay, as it was “for education” and it’s not as though you took it, you merely made a digital copy.

Now I am not of the ilk that making copies or using other people’s digital content is stealing, however I do believe we should respect the wishes of content creators.

Personally I think we as teachers and educators should be setting examples to our learners. We should be seen as role models, that learners can look up to and respect.

As soon as we decide that there are laws we shouldn’t adhere to, what are we saying to learners; that some laws are okay to be broken. Then the question has to be asked, which laws should we obey and which should we ignore. The problem with that approach is that not everyone thinks the same.

Also learners may think that “as my teacher has downloaded video from the web, it must be okay for me to download video”. Even if you feel file sharing is no big deal, how do you think the parents of a learner getting a fine, an injunction, or their internet cut off; because they were “caught” downloading illegal copies of films and TV shows.

Part of the issue is that a lot of teachers are ignorant of the law or the terms of use of various websites. They are unaware of what is allowed and what isn’t.

A prime example is YouTube. In many schools YouTube is blocked for a variety of reasons, however many teachers wish to use videos from YouTube. So they use a YouTube video download service to download the YouTube video as an FLV or an MP4 file. This file can then be played in school. From reading on Twitter most people and teachers think this is fine, as it’s “not really copying” or “it’s for education” or “if tools are available on trh web then it must be okay!”

The thing is that this process of downloading YouTube videos is a breach of YouTube terms of use.

You agree not to access User Videos (as defined below) for any reason other than your personal, non-commercial use solely as intended through and permitted by the normal functionality of the Services, and solely for Streaming. “Streaming” means a contemporaneous digital transmission of the material by YouTube via the Internet to a user operated Internet enabled device in such a manner that the data is intended for real-time viewing and not intended to be downloaded (either permanently or temporarily), copied, stored, or redistributed by the user.

The Terms of Use are quite clear, you can only stream the video and you can’t download the video.

Many content providers put content on YouTube and only want you to stream the content, if they wanted you to be able to download it they would let you download it. Michael Wesch for example does allow you to download his videos, see the “more info” on his video page.

What could happen if everyone downloads videos from YouTube is that content providers would no longer use it and would use their own system or no system at all. Just because you have the tools, and technically you can, doesn’t mean you can and should.

Another reason, your college or school management have placed the block on YouTube, by downloading the video and showing it in class, you are circumventing the block and therfore you could be in breach of your institutional AUP and internet policy, which could be a case of misconduct or breach of contract.

It should also be noted that not all videos uploaded to YouTube are legitimate and showing the video could result in legal action.

All this for just one “innocent” activity, no wonder people get confused.

But as well as not knowing what isn’t allowed, many teachers also aren’t aware of what is allowed.

For example can you show a pre-recorded DVD in the classroom? In other words a DVD which has been rented from a video store, or a DVD purchased from a retail store? Most DVDs have a disclaimer at the beginning (or the end) which explicitly says that the video can not be shown in schools, colleges, prisons, hospitals, etc….

Under the Copyright Act, you can show a DVD in a classroom for the purposes of instruction without needing an additional licence.
If it is for entertainment purposes then you do need a public performance licence.

Part of the misunderstanding arises as generally when you play a DVD you get this huge legal message indicating that your DVD is for personal use only and can not be played on oil rigs, in prisons, schools and colleges.

Part of the misunderstanding arises as generally when you play a DVD you get this huge legal message indicating that your DVD is for personal use only and can not be played on oil rigs, in prisons, schools and colleges.

That is partly true for the purposes of entertainment and you would need to purchase a licence to show a DVD for that purpose.
However for informational and instruction (ie for educational reasons) it is possible to show that DVD in a classroom.

Teachers and lecturers have a statuory right (it is enshrined in law, the Copyright Act to be precise).

From the Government Intellectual Property Office.

“Performing, playing or showing copyright works in a school, university or other educational establishment for educational purposes.  However, only teachers, pupils and others directly connected with the activities (does not generally include parents) of the establishment are in the audience.  Examples of this are showing a video for English or drama lessons and the teaching of music.  It is unlikely to include the playing of a video during a wet playtime purely to amuse the children.”

From Filmbank.

“A copyright licence is required to screen films in educational institutions under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (UK), if the film is being screened for entertainment purposes rather than for the purposes of instruction or as part of the lesson.”

So could you rip that DVD and put it on a laptop or on the VLE?

Ah no.

Ripping a DVD would be in breach of the EU Copyright Directive which “prohibits circumvention of copy protection measures“. So ripping the DVD is a criminal offence.

Confusing.

Of course.

This blog entry was inspired by a blog post by Simon Finch. He writes about society and using stuff, he makes an interesting observation towards the end of his post:

Web 2.0, and the rest, is making us a world of creators and publishers. We’re uploading pictures, music, videos, Flash activities, personal writing, presentations, teaching resources and more – and so are our learners. That image that you’ve found, is just the thing to add value and impact to the learning activity for that needy class of yours. But that image doesn’t belong to an international image company – no, it belongs to someone like you..

Now we are not just using stuff from faceless organisations we are also using stuff from people like us, people we know.

So how do we change things?

Most people I know think that 33mph in a 30mph zone is okay, a few people think 40mph is okay, a smaller number think that 50mph is not over the top…. the reality is that less than 30mph is best. Not because I think so, but because society thinks so.

If you don’t like a law then we need to change that law. The problem with copyright law is that the money to change that law is coming from publishers and not from the consumers – but having said that, that is often the case, the consumer suffers, whilst “big business” profits.

I also agree with Simon when he says:

Yet the real point is this; we must teach our learners to value IPR. It is simply wrong to take without asking. It is wrong to pass what’s not yours, as your own. We need to instill respect for one and other – that is our priority.

I don’t even think it’s all about money – it’s about acknowledging people’s value.

At the end of the day, my solution is to stop using “borrowed” third party content and start using content that I am allowed to use. As a teacher in the 1990s I did right click, now I use Flickr for creative commons licensed images.

The thing is that there are now lots of legal solutions to many of the copyright problems that teachers face, we can provide learners with content which is legal. Those of us who support learners need to provide solutions, not barriers to teachers. Teachers also need to be more creative and willing to compromise. Finally rights holders need to also be more creative in allowing people to use their content in creative and educational ways and allowing it to be used legally.

Update: as mentioned in the comments below, just saying “I use Flickr” was insufficient. I use creative commons licensed images from Flickr and properly attribute the photographer as required according to the licence. I made the wrong assumption that people would assume that I was talking about CC images from Flickr and not all images from Flickr.

51 thoughts on “Are you stealing stuff?”

  1. Lots of detail and clear information James- thank you. Your thoughts also put some meat on the bones of my blog post. I’m going to bung a link to this on mine as further reading.

    🙂

  2. This has been a dilemma for me for a few years. Streaming You Tube with our slow connection has been almost impossible and seems to be worse now than it was. I’ve found ways around this of course, but I’m not happy doing it.

    The other issue is with user generated content. I can upload my images to Flickr and mark them as CC (and I do). Is this an option for video uploaded to You Tube or does You Tube’s ToS override this?

  3. This is a great article, really got me thinking about the legal situation regarding content on-line. One question, you mentioned about the use of Flickr, does that mean Flickr photos are free to use or only some??

    Regarding Video’s – Also what are the rules about embedding? For example, every YouTube video has an embed option, rather than downloading the file, if a teacher embedsd it in their own blog, does that make it ok?

    Another question, if you use a photo and cite it’s author and location, is that legal or partly legal or not at all. Often a picture conveys a meaning that you wish to convey as opposed to taking a picture that you want to use for reproduction.

    Kind regards,
    Paul

    1. Hi Paul

      I have edited my blog post.

      I meant to say cc licensed images from Flickr (which is what I do) and have edited the article accordingly.

      Showing a YouTube video either through the YouTube site or through embedding is fine.

      Using or reproducing someone’s image, it is not enough to cite the source unless they have licensed you to use that image. So a lot of images on Flickr are copyrighted and can not be used, some are CC licensed and can be used if you attribute (cite) the photographer.

      James

  4. Good post James. I think this is a big issue, I wonder how many PowerPoints uploaded to institutional VLEs contain copyrighted images. There are so many staff development issues around online learning but copyright and IPR are often forgotten about. Like you I make use of Flickr images, but there are still many who don’t know about it or Creative Commons.
    Working in medical education, the NHS firewall issues are a major problem in making web-based resources available to learners. YouTube, along with other video sharing sites, are blocked and the NHS IT people say that staff need to find other ways to deliver this content. As you say downloading is against the terms of use, so this isn’t an option we can pursue and therefore we can’t use the resource. It’s great that people are sharing content and that there are legitimate ways to reuse it, but frustrating that many involved in education cannot take advantage of this sharing culture.

    1. Ok, I may be wrong with (c) being such a nightmare, but it’s my understanding that if the PPT are used for teaching and are only available to those on the courses, then fair use applies and it’s OK to include a certain %age of (c) matterials.

      …but if your VLE allows external/anon access then those matterials would need to be used.

      Similar distinctions exist for exam papers but basically you can use anything in the papers, but it all needs removing if you make those papers available after the assessment…

      But who knows, the next case law could change it all anyhow without any notice.

      1. Hi Nick

        Fair use doesn’t exist in the UK.

        You can show copyrighted works to a class for the purpose of instruction, however you can’t reproduce that copyrighted work. So you can show a copyrighted image to your class, but you can’t copy it and put it in a PPT.

        If you have a CLA licence then you are licensed to use some copyrighted material in your course work, but this doesn’t apply to images.

        Copyright in terms of exam papers is different yet again.

        James

        1. …but you can reproduce a %age of matterials for handouts under some rule as I understand, so use of images in PPT is different? Would use of a phrase or quote from a doc be different in a PPT too then or is it because an image would be 100% of the work reproduced?

          What if instead of PPT you used a web page for slides and one of them included an iframe to show the work from an original source but embedded to appear exactly the same as it would in PPT? Surely by even viewing an image on the web you create a copy of it in a cache…

          Ahhhg! This is why I hate (c)! While the intention is good to protect IP, in practice there are so many issues. I suspect because IP has no value until it’s shared or applied and by then trying to protect it is always going to be trying to squeeze the genie back in the bottle.

          eg Once I’ve seen your photo, there’s a ‘copy’ of it in my head which I can’t do anything about. If I conciously forget I’ve seen it but feel inspired to take a practically identical photo myself later and then use that in an ad, have I breached your IP? (recent tweet on this subject seems to indicate some people at least would think I have, but then what of synchronicity and zeitgeist?)

          I think that I’ll just stick to knowing that I know nothing about (c) and just apply best effort to not knowingly breach it rather than try to remember all the nuances based on shifting sand of case law.

          1. If the image is in a book covered by the CLA licence then you can digitally copy it and put it on the VLE.

            If the image was on a slide or a physical photograph then the CLA licence doesn’t apply.

            You can show the slide or the photograph, but can’t make a digital copy of it.

            The CLA allows you to copy 5% or a single chapter, whichever is the greater. See the CLA website for the actual detail of their licence.

          2. You can’t copyright an idea (that’s what patents are for). Therefore if you make a photograph which is similar to someone else’s you haven’t breached copyright law.

        2. Btw, frustration aside, it was my understanding that a PPT in a controlled VLE counted as ‘for instruction’ still which is why it would fall under the same nuance that allows use in a lecture. (my bad on calling that fair use, I did know that doesn’t exist in the UK)

          1. The problem is that the educational exemption only allows you to show the work, not copy the work. By making an electronic copy you are copying the work and therefore in breach of the act.

        3. James you write “You can show copyrighted works to a class for the purpose of instruction, however you can’t reproduce that copyrighted work. So you can show a copyrighted image to your class, but you can’t copy it and put it in a PPT.”

          So to clarify that, if you want to show your class the Mona Lisa, and the Louvre won’t let you borrow it for a couple of days, your options in class are:

          – show them the painting on the Louvre’s website
          – show them a reproduction in a book (on assumption that the publisher has got all necessary permissions to reproduce it)
          – if you have a CLA licence, make 1 photocopy of relevant page from the book for each student

          You could also put a link to the image on the Louvre website on your VLE (or indeed any publicly-accessible website).

          And if you have a CLA digital licence, you could get your library to scan the image from a book, and you’d then be able to make that available to your students (but not to the student population at large, only members of the specified course). This also appears to be the only way in which you can legally insert a copy of the image into your Powerpoint presentation – and you’d only be allowed to show it / make it available to the specified student group.

          And this applies regardless of whether you are uploading the PPT to your VLE or “merely” showing it in class. Have I got that right?

          1. Ok maybe not the best example I could have chosen. But even with the Mona Lisa, surely one ought to photograph it oneself (which I seem to remember is almost impossible) rather than simply copy from http://bit.ly/bEv7kd – or one of the 3,090,000 images which are available from a Google image search.

          2. Sorry I’m even more confused now. The UK position is that there is copyright in a photograph of the Mona Lisa. So we can’t just blithely copy that photograph. But surely if the photographer has uploaded it to Wikimedia Commons, he/she thereby grants us a licence to use it?

          3. I might have to change the blog layout if this discussion keeps going….

            If I take a photograph, I have rights over that photograph.

            However in the USA, a photograph of a 2D painting can not be copyrighted. Therefore can be uploaded and used via Wikimedia Commons.

            This photograph can also be used in the UK, as it would count as public domain.

            However a similar photograph of a 2D artwork taken in the UK CAN be copyrighted.

            This is why it gets confusing. There are photographs of old artwork online that you can use and there are photographs of the same old artwork that you can’t use. It depends on who took the photograph!

            In the Mona Lisa instance I would use Wikimedia Commons as then I have a fair chance that the image is okay to use.

  5. Saying I use Flickr is inadequate. You need to seek creative commons licensed content (visit creativecommons.org to do a search) and abide by the terms of one of several licenses,. Flickr can be a source of creative commons licensed images, but there are plenty of images in flickr that uploaded and tagged with a CC license by individuals who did not have the rights to that image. I believe they think by making it CC that it is ok to do it. There is still some due diligence required by the potential user to look at the stream to see whether a reasonable person would believe that the person providing the image had the right to do so.

  6. ‘Terms of Use’ is not law, and terms do not over-ride fair use (fair dealing in Canada).

    If you have not broken the law (eg., by downloading YouTube videos en masse and selling them commerically) the while YouTube can enforce its Terms of use from banning you from their service, it doesn’t have a case against you in law.

    And I think we do ourselves more harm than good by insisting that ti is up to us to go overboard in avoiding any possible infraction. It ends up in our self-censoring to a far greater degree than is required by law.

    1. Under UK law it is perfectly fine to show the YouTube video in a classroom for the purposes of instruction.

      However by downloading the video and using that you may be infringing the rights of the rights holders (ie not YouTube) and they may well decide to seek recompense if they found out.

      Infractions happen every day in every institution in the UK. I agree with you we don’t want to go overboard. The key is to inform and educate people about not only what they can do, but also all the possible solutions. Use CC images from Flickr, video and audio from Archive.org , use CC licensing themselves, share materials, share content, etc…

      James

      1. If I whistle Dixie I *may* infringing. The word “may” is the most pernicious word in this whole debate. What “may” be infringing is orders of magnitude greater than what *does* infringe. By holding people to the standard of “may” you are depriving them of a large body of legitimate actions.

        If you don’t *know* that an action si wrong, you are making things worse by telling people not to do it.

        Instead of informing people about what they can’t do, show them what they can. Highlight legitimate uses of online materials. Show podcast and slide shows where the material has been used without complaint by the rights holders.

        Leave the enforcement to the lawyers. It is way to easy and far too damaging to run around saying “beware!” “beware!”. Adopt an attitude of enabling use, not preventing use.

        1. Such refreshing good sense as ever. But the thing is that there is a culture in the UK of being terrifed of stepping over any lines, as a consequence of which, we are occupying a smaller and smaller space in an effort not to steer clear of anything that even *looks* like a line.

          Don’t stand on a desk to change a lightbulb or the health and safety police will have you. Don’t take pictures of your kids’ ice hockey games or the child pornography watchdogs will get you. Don’t use the term ‘hard-working’ in your recruitment ad or the political correctness gestapo will descend.

          These are all genuine scenarios that I have listed. The same ethos pervades the whole copyright issue.

          Half the time (at least) said bodies will do nothing of the sort, and have far bigger fish to fry, but it seems to have become inculcated into our culture. We appear to have taken refuge in (so-called) compliance and box ticking instead of meaningful enabling.

          Sigh.

  7. Great blog post – I also read ‘Proper Tea is Theft’ by Simon Finch.
    A few things popped into my mind, whilst reading both blogs.

    Don’t we teach our students about Plagiarism? So why do our Staff copy other peoples work (inc. photos, videos, presentations), incorporate it with their own, without acknowledging the author/source?

    Even CC ‘licensed’ content needs to be referenced appropriately.

    I think in Simon’s blog, he mentioned taping ‘Top of the Pops’ from the TV. Often technology allows people to carry out what is fundamentally an illegal activity – however, that is not to say we have to do it. The Internet gives you the potential to copy/download virtually anything you can think of or get access to – but it doesn’t make it legal or morally right.

    Perhaps we (staff) should be reflecting on our own activities first, reviewing our information construction techniques and encouraging learners to respect the original work of others.

    Great blogs – very thought provoking.

  8. One of the common support questions my team and I get asked which we can’t give the solution people want is “how do I download this video from YouTube so I can play it in the classroom”. The answer ‘well, it’s technically possible but…’ is never popular.

    In my role, I often need to understand legal issues such as copyrite to give advice for others and as a result I’ve attended a number of briefings on it – and after each I’ve ended up knowing less about it than I started with as just about everything I thought I knew turns out to be wrong or very over simplified.

    This is especially true when the institution is party to additional aggrements which in our case cover both photocopies and off air recording ammongst other things.

    How anyone is supposed to feel confident to do anything with anything with such a confusing mess of laws and resulting case law is beyond me.

    I do respect intellectual property rights, but it is partially this legal moras that led me to post this on my blog recently (tongue in cheek):

    http://nicksharratt.blogspot.com/2010/01/fair-days-pay-for-fair-days-work-new.html

  9. Thanks, this is all very useful. I fund whenever I raise the issue of copyright with teachers, they get rather angry – probably because they feel caught out! Having experienced a teacher submitting one of MY lesson plans to be marked for HER assessment on a course, I agree we should recognise that “people like us” are affected as well as big corporations. Many teachers hide their head in the sand over copyright.

  10. I’m not sure the law will ever catch up, no matter where the money’s coming from. The rate of change in this kind of culture on the internet is increasing, while the speed of lawmakers seems to be slowing down.

    For another interesting perspective on this, check out Cory Doctorow on copyright and culture:

    http://www.locusmag.com/Features/2008/11/cory-doctorow-why-i-copyfight.html

    Personally, I recently had a disagreement with someone on the internet because I saw one of my “All Rights Reserved” photos used on a blog, without permission. But once the dust had settled, I thought for a long while about copyright and the internet.

    I realised that my own photo licensing was at odds with what I actually believed in, and I’m now defaulting my licensing on Flickr to Creative Commons Non-Commercial, rather than All Rights Reserved.

    This makes me less likely, as someone who has some (possibly too much!) respect for the law, to come into conflict with the increasing number of people who believe that if it’s on the net somewhere, then it’s okay to take…

  11. Here are three key questions any educator should be able answer all in the negative if they wish their act of copying or communication to remain ethical:

    1) Does it endanger anyone’s life?
    2) Does it violate anyone’s privacy?
    3) Does it impair anyone’s apprehension of the truth?

    If you also wish to respect Queen Anne’s suspension of the people’s liberty and natural right to make copies in 1710 then you need to answer this question:

    4) Does it infringe any copyright holder’s monopoly?

    1. How about “Would the person who created the work I’m copying be okay with me copying it”?

      I’d have thought that the wishes of the person whose work you want to use would to factor in an ethical decision. Otherwise you’re just imposing your own ethical code on everyone else, without considering their feelings.

      1. It is only through indoctrination by copyright that so many people believe their permission should be required before anyone sings their song, or copies their poem.

        If you believe it is right that you have been granted the privilege of a reproduction monopoly then it’s not surprising you will be indignant that anyone might infringe it.

        If the privilege is unethical, then it is not a matter of ethics whether people obey it, but a matter of law.

        Ethically, the law should protect people’s natural rights. It should not grant privileges.

        From a utilitarian perspective you may feel the sacrifice of individual liberty is worth the commercial incentive of a monopoly provided to manufacturers of copies (and the consequence of a controlled press).

        But you still have to decide if the ends justify the means, that the prosperity of the Stationer’s Guild justifies the loss of cultural liberty, and is therefore ‘ethical’.

        We know copyright law. We know how complex it is (given it is a commercial privilege, and not a natural right whose violation is as plain to any person as bodily harm, burglary, or deceit).

        However, the question is not what cultural exchanges are legal according to copyright, but whether copyright itself is ethical.

        I’d Question Copyright itself.

        Here’s an article from that site about a music teacher questioning copyright: A Music Teacher Describes How Copyright Hinders Music Education.

  12. “Teaching and Facilitation” is what we can, not what we can’t. I think we need to balance between what was laid down as rules, and what could be do to support education and learning. Could we break the rules? May be not, but the rules are human made, and would only draw us back to ancient time, and withhold changes. What would happen if we impose our own censorship, and yes, everyone has to respect everyone else, then we need to ask for permission to even use the language of others, because everything else could end up in “international debates”, embargos, allegation of “conflict of interests” and copyright infringement. Ah, please quote me for any infringement, as I have used the words from the dictionary, though this passage is purely of own thoughts, and you are free to copy them.

    Thanks for your post, which offer some good points.
    John

    1. Beautifully put – illustrating the ambiguities and conflicting duties of the issue. The spark of understanding that you hope to elicit from a learner when you’ve found a resource or picture that’s JUST RIGHT, is the thing that makes us use it anyway, even though we’re not always sure if it’s allowed. And helping people learn is a noble pursuit, after all. More Robin Hood than the Great Train Robbers, perhaps?

  13. I dread to think what teachers would say if we enforced all of this. I mean, I can inform, tell and instruct until I’m blue in the face, but enforce?

    1. deKay, here’s an article in which I gave the following example:

      “Imagine if you had a child who was excluded from school for making a Photoshop collage from scanned magazines without first having obtained clearance from the publisher for such use, and you were told that they weren’t allowed to watch TV, listen to music, read books, talk to their friends or go into any shop during the exclusion.”

      Making a collage is a traditional task set to school children. I did a Google search for the modern equivalent: using Photoshop with source material obtained by scanner. It wasn’t difficult to find such an example. However, I suspect that as a consequence of my linking to it as an example of teaching children to infringe copyright it was then hastily ‘unpublished’. It shouldn’t have been.

      It is as natural to make a collage with a scanner and a computer as it is with scissors and glue. The only unnatural thing involved is the 18th century anachronism that is copyright.

    2. I don’t think it is about enforcing, a better option is to provide solutions.

      Show them places to get good images, great audio, film clips.

      Get licences to use third party content.

      Use creative commons to both find content but also share your content with others.

      It’s not about saying NO, it’s about saying, here’s an alternative.

      1. Actually, it’s all about whether society believes permission should be required and obtained from the copyright holder (explicitly or via license), OR whether copyright is a fundamentally unethical anachronism to be ignored, and abolished as soon as possible.

        Post ACTA there will be no way to be immune from copyright enforcement measures – irrespective of any permission you obtain. That’s because copyright holders will only need to ACCUSE someone of infringing their copyright, and the accused faces a ‘graduated response’ of disconnection from the Internet. No evidence of infringement is required. So, it doesn’t matter what licenses or exemptions a school, university, or library has. If it is accused of infringement two or more times it is peremptorily disconnected, and then has to pay for an appeal process if it believes it can prove the accusations to be unfounded (tricky).

        So, educational establishments are just going to have to keep their heads down and pray no vindictive copyright holder is going to gaze upon them as easy prey. It really doesn’t matter how squeaky clean their policies and practices are, how disciplined they are in enforcing absolute respect for copyright, or how rigorously records are kept of any licenses.

        Creative Commons is a palliative sticking plaster upon gangrenous legislation. A kindness, but not a cure.

        You can close your eyes to the corruption, and pay witchdoctor lawyers to tell you what ridiculous actions you have to take to keep the evil spirits at bay, but ultimately, you will be undone.

        Cultural liberty is your natural right. Its suspension by copyright is a privilege for publishing corporations, continuously extended and enhanced. You may be prudent to respect the privilege in the short term, but that won’t keep it at bay. It is metastasising…

  14. Are we talking about ‘copying’ something, OR taking a copy of some prior work and embedding it into your own documents? If it is about ‘copying’ then I think that’s a totally different thing.

    Can I ask Crosbie Fitch, Do you think it is acceptable to copy a CD, DVD or book in its entirety?

    Taking a copy of some prior work (e.g. a published academic paper) and rehashing it as your own work is plagiarism. Is that acceptable?

    Let’s also not forget – it’s not always large corporations who make money from copyrighted materials – there are plenty of self-employed folks and academics who make their living selling licensed copies of their original works. They’re called books (or eBooks).

    1. I think it is ethical to copy a CD, DVD or book in its entirety. However, I doubt it is commonly acceptable in a society that has been indoctrinated by copyright to believe that permission must be obtained.

      This is why it is the youngsters growing up with the instantaneous diffusion of the Internet and the ease of digital communications that are finding copying acceptable where the older generation does not. This should be recognised as a reversion to nature, not as the descent of youth into antisocial delinquency. It is copyright that is unnatural, not the cultural liberty of youngsters enjoying the natural right to share and sing each others songs that they were born with.

      Plagiarism is unethical. It is misattribution, misrepresentation of a work’s authorship, a falsehood and deceit. It should not be acceptable. Unfortunately, you’ll find an author’s (moral) right to identify themselves as the author of their work is not protected by legislation in all jurisdictions. Thus authors can alienate themselves from such a right, i.e. to sell themselves as a ghost writer. In so doing the public is deceived as to a works true authorship. Indeed you’ll find that it is fear of copyright litigation that most persuades authors to avoid crediting their sources.

      I suggest that instead of selling copies/books, that authors should sell novels, i.e. their intellectual work, not copies.

      You may not have noticed, but copyright is no longer effective as a monopoly. eBooks will be as widely shared as mp3 files.

      The market for digital copies never existed. It was a mistake to think it could. A digital copy costs nothing and can be made by anyone. There is no dishonesty in making a copy. The dishonesty is in misattribution, not the infringement of a printer’s monopoly.

      That said, it is still unethical to violate someone’s privacy, to burgle an author’s house and make a copy of their manuscript, or to raid a musician’s studio and copy their as yet unreleased recordings.

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