Blue Skunk on Copyright and a lawsuit

Blue Skunk Johnson did a great job of challenging all of us at last night’s SL gathering about the librarian’s role with copyright.  The text of his talk is here.  While enjoying the wonderful surroundings of the American Library Association Island, Blue talked about many things related to copyright and issued a variety of suggestions.   The ones the resonated most with me include:  teach the things you CAN do with copyright and when in doubt, error on the side of the user.  I thought Doug did a great job of covering all of the “sacred cows” us librarians have always been taught about.  I certainly do agree that there are more important things to worry about other than copyright and that we should not see ourselves as the copyright cops!  He concluded by suggesting that copyright is both a legal and moral issue – much like the moral decision made by Rosa Parks.  During the question and answer time, we learned that the Center for Social Media at American University and the Temple University Media Lab are doing ongoing research to lead the discussion about what is ok under current copyright law and what needs to be changed.

So, I was satisfied about the new learning and direction I had about copyright thanks to Doug,  Joyce Valenza, Scott McLeod and others, and then I read about this lawsuit.   Seems that this company, “How I Got an A” hires college students to take notes of lectures and then puts together lecture notes and study guides that other students can purchase.   University of Florida Professor Michael Moulton is suing the company.  His lawyer says:

But James Sullivan, Faulkner Press’ attorney, says the suit isn’t about money for the professors, it’s about protecting its intellectual property.

“Students are buying a particular note packet to do well on a particular exam by a particular professor,” Sullivan said. “The commercial appeal of the product is that it is a copy or close derivative work of that professor’s intellectual property.”

Apparently this company, after putting all of these notes together in study packets, then sells them to students, and then “puts a copyright notice on the cheat sheets and prints its material with black ink on dark green paper in an attempt to thwart photocopying.”

It doesn’t seem like this one passes the “smell” test…and it will be interesting to see what transpires.

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3 Responses to “Blue Skunk on Copyright and a lawsuit”


  1. 1 Cathy Nelson April 15, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    Hey Rob, I was there (AKA Bentley Noel). I loved all his innuendos and humor that only those who rad the Blue Skunk could really appreciate. (Except that I crashed 2/3 into it, and never did regain sound until we were being thanked for coming.)

    I hate that I did not get to hang out and get to know others, especially you. Maybe next time…

  2. 2 Doug Johnson April 16, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Hi Rob,

    I am very glad to hear you enjoyed the session. Coming from someone I personally admire like you, that means a lot.

    All the very best,

    Doug

  3. 3 robdarrow April 17, 2008 at 6:10 am

    The admiration goes to you for doing the copyright “group think” for all of us!


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