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Donna Wentworth
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Ernest Miller
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Elizabeth Rader
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Jason Schultz
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Wendy Seltzer
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Aaron Swartz
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Alan Wexelblat
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About this weblog
Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this weblog are those of the authors and not of their respective institutions.

What Does "Copyfight" Mean?

Copyfight, the Solo Years: April 2002-March 2004

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In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

Copyfight

« Induce Act 2.0 | Main | Copyright Terms Must Have Limits, Part II »

September 25, 2004

Toward a Gentleman's Agreement on Copyright

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Thanks to a tip from Siva Vaidhyanthan, I just spent some time perusing Elizabeth Townsend's terrific Academic Copyright weblog. Some of you may recall Townsend weighing in on the back-and-forth between Siva and Peter Hirtle on strategies for responding to unnecessary restrictions to fair use. It turns out she's been doing research on a number of issues of interest to copyfighters, including investigating the current state of scholarly access to unpublished works. Two recent posts explore the tension between copyright holders/publishers and academics/librarians/historians:

Copyright and Unpublished Papers - Three Different Approaches reveals that the people in charge of the Mark Twain papers have put everything on microfilm, claiming that this is "publishing" them, so as to prevent the works from entering the public domain after 2003. Remarks Siva, "This is, of course, great evidence in the argument for copyright formalities."

Some Thoughts on the Internet and Society in Relation to Unpublished Works, meanwhile, looks at a paper Peter Hirtle is writing on the "Gentleman's Agreement of 1935" -- "an agreement between librarians and publishers on what was ok to copy without anyone filing infringement lawsuits." The post takes us off the beaten path of the current discussions about copyright, reminding us that access isn't only about making materials available on the Internet: it's also about "continued access to materials with privacy to look, transparent copyright information for materials posted on the Internet and those still remaining soley in archives, and a better fair use scheme that scholars can actually use and depend on, particularly when literary executors DO NOT give permission to quote from materials (this is when it is needed most)."

It's an important point. Those of us who live and breathe the Internet are dazzled by the possibilities for enriching education, knowledge, and creativity, and we tend to talk about glorious futures snuffed out. But what we're aiming to protect is ancient. We have a history of scholarship, knowledge building, and knowledge preservation. We have communities that still understand and respect fair use, both in concept and practice. It's vital that they get a seat at the bargaining table, explaining what the formalities were good for, and why the gentleman's agreement should still hold.

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