Assignment 2: Class Discussion
DUE DATE: You should use the e-mail link below to make at least one response to the discussion question below. You should make your responses by the due date. You are invited to send in additional responses to what other students have written. The more people who list answers early, the better the discussion we can have.
Note: If your answer is satisfactory, I won't respond directly to you on the class discussion questions, but will simply make a response on the class list, as part of our conversation. This is how we will handle grading for the class discussion questions. If your response is not satisfactory, I will reply to you privately. Remember to check your spelling and grammar before you send your answer. You should also read the responses of your fellow students that have already been posted prior to submitting your comments.
Class Discussion Question:
Much of what the Founders wrote in the Constitution is open to interpretation. Recognizing that creative work, including scientific inventions, art, literature, and music, had a potential value, the Founders gave Congress the power to provide copyright protection for a “limited” period of time. Today, copyrights are generally valid for seventy years after the copyright holder dies. This is long enough to obtain whatever material benefit is likely to ensue, in the view of some, and far too long to limit access to those who are well enough off to pay for that privilege, in the view of others. As your text notes, “fair use” provides some limited protection to scholars and others, but in general, we in the academic community do not have unlimited access to and use of even scholarly work (the library pays a fee for access to journals and buys books).
Some people argue that we have to take a strict and literal interpretation of what they see as an “enduring” Constitution that was written over two hundred years ago and still works today. Others argue in favor of a more flexible and adaptable interpretation of what they call a “living” Constitution as times and technology change. Certainly the Founders could not envision a time when with the click of a mouse, we could access untold documents and pictures. Many college students have gotten into trouble for downloading music illegally and some have even been sued by the music companies. Illegal copying of dvds is endemic; one is likely to see a graphic video at the beginning of every dvd reminding us that illegal copying is stealing and comparing it quite graphically to taking something physical off the shelves of a store and walking out without paying for it!
So, how do you feel about copyright law and fair use? Is there any difference between downloading a song without paying the artist and/or the music company and taking a book from a store? Should you be able to download anything you find on the Internet, like a picture or a thumbnail image that shows up when you do a search, or a newspaper article? As a student, should there be any limits on what you can quote or paraphrase (with credit given) in a research paper? Does it act to chill free expression and the sharing of ideas and culture, or is someone somewhere entitled to recompense for their work and creativity? Is this what the Founders meant to do, or does what they meant to do even matter at all today?
Click on the e-mail address below to compose and send your response to the above question. Make sure that you type "Class Discussion 2 -- your name" (e.g. Class Discussion 2 – Carol B) in the subject box, and put your first name and last initial at the end of your comments, e.g. Carol B. To protect yourself, make sure that you save your comment on a disk before you send it.