One key to a healthy diet is balance. It is important to balance dietary intake to maximize health. The same is true of copyright and intellectual property laws as it relates to digital media – balance is the key!
Digital media and the Internet have created a faster more convenient way for others to quickly copy or distribute another person’s work. Copyright and intellectual property have always been issues. The Internet provides a platform that makes unauthorized use of materials and ownership of materials very complicated.
Copyright is a federal law that gives authors of any tangible medium the exclusive rights to publish, copy, and distribute their creations for a limited time. Intellectual property is any product of human intellect that is protected by law from being used by others without permission.
As leaders it is important to understand the basics of the copyright and intellectual property laws. It is important to understand how to use someone else’s creation and how to protect our own materials so others do not take unfair advantage of the material or profit from our work. As an employee of a public institution of higher education, copyright and intellectual property policies are in place.
My role at the university is to help community-based educators extend the knowledge and resources of Purdue University to the residents of Indiana. We expect our community-based educators to respect others intellectual property. Before they use any educational materials they must seek the proper permissions from the author/owners and emphasize copyright on the educational materials we create. We work hard to disseminate the knowledge of the university so we often give permission or licensing to use the educational materials we create.
The challenge with copyright and intellectual property laws is that they have not caught up with digital technologies. Copyright and intellectual property laws can be barriers in getting valuable information and educational resources to communities. According to McGeveran and Fisher (2006), digital technology provides exciting opportunities for educational purposes but significant obstacles confront the educational content available through these technologies.
The McGeveran and Fisher (2006) white paper highlights the following copyright-related obstacles to educational uses of content:
- Unclear or inadequate copyright law relating to crucial provisions such as fair use and educational use;
- Extensive adoption of digital rights management technology to lock up content;
- Practical difficulties obtaining rights to use content when licenses are necessary;
- Undue caution by gatekeepers such as publishers or educational administrators.
So as leaders we must help find a balance between protecting intellectual property and disseminating valuable information that can and will improve the quality of life in a community.
One tool that seems to help with the balance between protecting intellectual property in the digital world and yet providing a platform for sharing your work with others for the greater good is Creative Commons. Creative Commons lets the author manage their copyright terms. Those copyright terms are then shared on websites for other users to see and act on.
Digital media is an opportunity that should support intellectual property of authors with the copyright access to encourage others to use and enjoy the media developed.
McGeveran, W., & Fisher, W. W. (2006). The digital learning challenge: obstacles to educational uses of copyrighted material in the digital age. Berkman Center Research Publication, (2006-09).