Conference report: “Adventures in Copyright: Navigating Your Way Through Intellectual Property”

I recently traveled to Baltimore to spend three days among “my people” at the Center for Intellectual Property symposium. My people, of course, are those who spend a lot of their professional lives thinking about copyright. Just a few weeks before the conference began, the long-awaited Georgia State e-reserves opinion was handed down. Perfect timing for this crowd. It was the talk of the conference, as was the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries, which was released earlier this year. I’d previously taken several online courses through the CIP and was thrilled to see these engaging teachers, thinkers, and defenders of Fair Use in person. Plus my hotel room had a view of Camden Yard and I got to enjoy the National Aquarium on my way out of town. And I might have had a few crab cakes. Many of the talks were recorded and video is available online. My brief summaries of the talks are below.

“The Obligation of Scholars”
Lawrence Lessig, Director, Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University

Lawrence’s talk focused on the fact that scholarly research is not available to the vast majority of people. It’s hidden behind paywalls, accessible only to the “knowledge elite” who are affiliated with certain privileged schools with enough purchasing power. He believes that scholars should be outraged by this fact. He’s one of the founders of the Creative Commons and a very engaging speaker.

“The Elephant in the Room”
Peggy Hoon, Scholarly Communications Librarian University of North Carolina at Charlotte and CIP’s Virtual Intellectual Property Scholar

Peggy spoke about nonprofit mass digitization projects and her primary example was the (fantastic and groundbreaking) Grateful Dead Archive at UC Santa Cruz. Technological capabilities are rushing ahead while copyright law is static and lagging. The reality is that we can’t wait for the law to catch up with the technology – we need to make on-the-ground guidelines for ourselves if we are to proceed with preserving scholarly materials and making them available to users. The Grateful Dead archive contains a variety of materials – text, recordings, artwork, t-shirts – and became extremely labor intensive to digitize due to a lack of consensus of best practices. Peggy hopes that other schools embarking on mass digitization projects will post their guidelines and best practices publicly so these things aren’t behind closed doors.

“A Code of Best Practices in Fair Use”
Brandon Butler, Director of Public Policy Initiatives, Association of Research Libraries
Patricia Aufderheide, University Professor, American University School of Communication

Brandon and Patricia are two of the co-facilitators of the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries and I admire their work greatly. I was already quite familiar with the Code but was interested to hear them speak a little more about what constitutes transformative use, ways to manage risk, and the importance of documenting the principles and practices of an individual community. They also spoke about the GSU opinion and countered some common arguments by publishers regarding Fair Use.

“JeopARTy: Teaching Ethics and Law of Artistic Appropriation”
Paul Dobbs, Library Director, Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Paul gave us a taste of how the MassArt librarians teach their students about Fair Use.  An interactive session where we discussed what is fair vs. ethical vs. legal, what is parody or homage, what is plagiarism. A recent example of this issue was the artist Shepard Fairey’s use of an AP photo to create his Obama “HOPE” poster. Several other similar (although not as high profile) examples followed and it was fascinating to see how everyone in the room felt about certain appropriations of another artist’s work.

“The Shifting Legislative/Policy Landscape: An Update”
Joan Cheverie, Policy Specialist, EDUCASE

The Georgia State decision was touched on of course, and a host of acronyms you’ve probably heard of – DMCA, PIPA, SOPA, TPP – were discussed as well. This session was less successful than the others because the subject matter was so varied and complex and there just wasn’t much time to delve into any one topic. We could have spent the entire hour on SOPA alone.

“Emerging Issues in Copyright Law”
Karyn Temple Claggett, Senior Counsel for Policy and International Affairs, United States Copyright Office

Everyone was very excited to have a representative from the Copyright Office at the conference, and attendees came prepared with their tough questions. Karyn spoke about addressing online piracy in a way that still protects free speech and expression. She hopes that orphan works legislation will be helpful. She’s currently working on a way for people to deal with small claims of copyright violation without spending six figures on legal fees. Her team is also revamping the Copyright Office website to create better tools for the public.

“Panel of Professionals”: from Purdue University, Baltimore City Public Schools, and ARTstor

A general panel discussion on Fair Use that tackled a wide range of topics. Panelists shared favorite books and blogs, commiserated about struggles, and urged everyone to read, participate, and understand all sides so we can help and guide our constituents.

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