Category Archives: State of the Profession

Copyrights & Wrongs

Lessig’s (2010) article on the need to reform copyright law for the 21st century is both fascinating and terrifying. Rubin (2010) makes some interesting points about how content creators and providers are increasingly using licensing (esp. of digital content) as a means of skirting the rights provided by First Sale to reuse/redistribution of materials.

Griffey (2010) argues that digital content is a whole new ballgame and that it needs a completely reworked conceptualization of copyright in order to both provide for the needs of society and protect the rights of content creators. It would seem Lessig is making an argument for adapting the current print regime to the digital age, and I have to say on the surface of it it’s convincing. I have to admit I like the argument for having content creator’s shoulder the responsibility of registering their works within “five years after a work is published” (Lessig 2010) but I wonder if it falls prey to just the sort of short-sightedness Griffey bemoans in his article.

For example, if I create a research paper and then post my work to a public blog, is it then “published”? Would I then own the copyright, or would I need to register the work? If part of a collaborative project and stolen or otherwise used without my consent prior to its registration, would I have any recourse? Lessig seems focused primarily on books/magazine articles/etc. and to a lesser extent films. What about the range of new media born digital? When is one of these works “published”, or is that a term that can’t really apply anymore? If it can, we need to create or redefine a whole range of terminology before we can even start to re-write the rules.

I agree that copyright law needs to be updated, and relatedly perhaps as a group libraries could find a way to negotiate collectively for some kind of updated copyright rather than trying to make due with ever more restrictive licensing agreements. It seems like someone needs to stand up for the reader/patron/user/etc. who has a vested interest in both sides, content creation and reasonable rules for access and distribution. I’m not sure who else represents a more neutral party.

Griffey, J. (2010). Ebook Sanity. Library Journal (1976), 135(13), 25-6.

Lessig, L. (2010, January 26). For the love of culture: Google, copyright, and out future. The New Republic. Retrived from:

Rubin, R. (2010). Foundations of library and information science. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.


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