Digital Media and Copyright like a good diet – it is all about the Balance!

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).


3 thoughts on “Digital Media and Copyright like a good diet – it is all about the Balance!

  1. Your title immediately pulled me in! It is all about balance. It is important to know the copyright laws. The Internet fosters an outlet for plagiarism, hacking and sharing to be center stage. I agree that copyright and intellectual property have not caught up to the digital technologies. Since technology is constantly changing, it appears hard for it to keep up.

    My district takes the copyright issue seriously. It is imperative that everyone understands the consequences of these laws as well. I think it’s imperative that people educate themselves for a deeper understanding of what these laws entail.

    Thank you for your insights and suggestions of Creative Commons and the educational uses of content.


  2. Nice summary. I like Creative Commons as an approach, because it moves away from the “all or nothing” aspect of copyright. From Wikipedia:

    “Creative Commons attempts to counter what Lawrence Lessig, founder of Creative Commons, considers to be a dominant and increasingly restrictive permission culture. Lessig describes this as “a culture in which creators get to create only with the permission of the powerful, or of creators from the past”. Lessig maintains that modern culture is dominated by traditional content distributors in order to maintain and strengthen their monopolies on cultural products such as popular music and popular cinema, and that Creative Commons can provide alternatives to these restrictions.”

    Every teacher, every student, every employer, every employee, every healthcare administrator, every patient … every person has the “ability” now to create and distribute, something only publishers could do in the past. It is important that this ability be tempered with fair acknowledgement of the work of others.

  3. I continue to enjoy your use of the dietician theme to draw from the discussion. As you noted, copyright concerns are especially important in academia. Ensuring the proper use of published information is essential. Likewise, I was familiar with the term intellectual property. The use of the term, intellectual property, provides a more explanatory definition regarding the importance of the concept.

    Thank you for sharing the resource, Creative Commons. From the site, there are so many ways to apply the source to document one’s work. This learning forum introduced me to an assortment of technical tools. The use of technology is endless. Apparently there are solutions for everything in the digital world.

    What motivated your interest in the topic and how might you gain from this exploratory experience?

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