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Saturday
Nov222008

Do not remove under penalty of law

  • Tom Hoffman left this comment in response to Fair use scenario - Mr. Jones and YouTube: The thing is, some of this stuff isn't really ethics. I don't even know what it is. How do you categorize whether or not you ought to honor arbitrary terms of service statements on websites. Or, looking at it another way, I can't imagine what the "ethical" argument for not allowing you to save a local copy of a video you're viewing in a flash player.
  • Francey Harris asks whether the terms and conditions of a database or Fair Use guidelines take precedence when making a decision.
  • Several commenters state that they are very nervous about cracking copy protection schemes (criminal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) in order to use other's work within Fair Use provisions.

Ah, it seems that the use of intellectual property in schools may still be complex and worrisome even with new fair use guidelines with many interrelated moral decisions that need to be made. And, of course, there is another entire body of ethical choices around the personal, non-educational use of IP.

Increasingly I see the wisdom of the statement, "Applying fair use reasoning is about reaching a level of comfort, not memorizing a specific set of rules." from Temple University's 10 Common Misunderstandings About Fair Use. I suspect that if there are three people in a room, there will be three levels of comfort regarding how or if copyrighted materials should be used.

Perhaps one reason this topic is so confusing is that there is not "one right answer" to any of these choices we are making about IP, but only "individual right answers." Is it time to revisit our old friend Larry Kohlberg and his Stages of Moral Development from our Ed Pysch 101 classes?

From "Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development" (at About.com):

Level 1. Preconventional Morality

  • Stage 1 - Obedience and Punishment  The earliest stage of moral development is especially common in young children, but adults are capable of expressing this type of reasoning. At this stage, children see rules as fixed and absolute. Obeying the rules is important because it is a means to avoid punishment.
  • Stage 2 - Individualism and Exchange  At this stage of moral development, children account for individual points of view and judge actions based on how they serve individual needs. In the Heinz dilemma, children argued that the best course of action was whichever best-served Heinz’s needs. Reciprocity is possible, but only if it serves one's own interests.

Level 2. Conventional Morality

  • Stage 3 - Interpersonal Relationships  Often referred to as the "good boy-good girl" orientation, this stage of moral development is focused on living up to social expectations and roles. There is an emphasis on conformity, being "nice," and consideration of how choices influence relationships.
  • Stage 4 - Maintaining Social Order At this stage of moral development, people begin to consider society as a whole when making judgments. The focus is on maintaining law and order by following the rules, doing one’s duty, and respecting authority.

Level 3. Postconventional Morality

  • Stage 5 - Social Contract and Individual Rights At this stage, people begin to account for the differing values, opinions, and beliefs of other people. Rules of law are important for maintaining a society, but members of the society should agree upon these standards.
  • Stage 6 - Universal Principles Kolhberg’s final level of moral reasoning is based upon universal ethical principles and abstract reasoning. At this stage, people follow these internalized principles of justice, even if they conflict with laws and rules.

Do we get a variety of answers about IP use because each of us may be at a different level of moral development?

It's interesting that the arguments that Lessig is making in his book Remix and that Richard Stallman and others in the Free Software movement fall squarely into Stage 6: Universal Principles - that society's ability to use and build on IP property should be given precedence over unlimited control of the IP by its owners.

At what stage do your responses to questions of intellectual property use fall? Does it still make you nervous to rip the "Do not remove" tag from your new mattress?

Saturday
Nov222008

Fair use scenario - Ms DaVinci and the wiki

In a continuing series of scenarios that explore educational fair use issues.

Humanities teacher Ms DaVinci’s assignment asks students to examine how different ancient cultures portrayed the human figure. Students search subscription databases containing high quality art images, as well as the free web, to find examples of the art works they will analyze. Students share the images and collaborative analyses using a wiki only accessible from within the district. This year, Ms DaVinci wants to open the wiki up to the general public. The media specialist is concerned doing so would violate the terms of use of an art database often used.*

  1. What is the copyrighted material? Who owns it?
  2. Does the use of the work fall under fair use guidelines? Is the use transformational in nature? Can this be considered "educational" use?
  3. What is your level of comfort in helping create such a product? Are there any changes or limits you might like to see that would make you more comfortable with this project?

Your level of comfort with this use of copyrighted materials: High 5 4 3 2 1 Low

You comments are most welcome.

* This scenario was based on a question posed by Frances Jacobson Harris (author of I Found It on the Internet) from the University of Illinois Lab School. Here is her further discussion:

*The fourth principle of the new Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education addresses student use of copyrighted material in their own academic work. It makes specific mention of comment and criticism, which is the purpose of this exercise. We find that though password protecting the wiki isn't crippling for students, it raises one more barrier to access and simplicity of use. The third principle addresses the rights of educators to share media literacy curriculum materials. In this case, password protection means that other teachers and librarians cannot draw on this unit in creating their own instruction. In my mind, the new Code would allow us to un-password protect this wiki, at least on those two grounds. The kicker comes in this phrase of the Terms and Conditions of Use for the art database we use the most: "You may not distribute, make available, and/or attempt to make available, any of the Content in the XXXX Digital Library (whether alone or incorporated into other materials) to persons and/or entities other than: (a) your institution and/or other Authorized Users at your institution." It goes on to make exceptions for scholarly or educational presentations, etc.

So my question is, what wins out? The TOA or the Code?

Francey adds: As an epilogue, I think I'll go ahead and open access to the wiki, but I should probably let the appropriate administrators know. Our principal often reminds us that he doesn't like surprises and I can't really blame him!

Other scenarios you'd like to see discussed here, readers?

Saturday
Nov222008

Obama's verbal tic

 For those of us who were once English teachers, to funny not to share... Doug

Obama’s Use of Complete Sentences Stirs Controversy: Stunning Break with Last Eight Years - Andy Borowitz

In the first two weeks since the election, President-elect Barack Obama has broken with a tradition established over the past eight years through his controversial use of complete sentences, political observers say.

Millions of Americans who watched Mr. Obama's appearance on CBS' "Sixty Minutes" on Sunday witnessed the president-elect's unorthodox verbal tick, which had Mr. Obama employing grammatically correct sentences virtually every time he opened his mouth.

But Mr. Obama's decision to use complete sentences in his public pronouncements carries with it certain risks, since after the last eight years many Americans may find his odd speaking style jarring.

According to presidential historian Davis Logsdon of the University of Minnesota, some Americans might find it "alienating" to have a President who speaks English as if it were his first language.

"Every time Obama opens his mouth, his subjects and verbs are in agreement," says Mr. Logsdon. "If he keeps it up, he is running the risk of sounding like an elitist."

The historian said that if Mr. Obama insists on using complete sentences in his speeches, the public may find itself saying, "Okay, subject, predicate, subject predicate - we get it, stop showing off."

The President-elect's stubborn insistence on using complete sentences has already attracted a rebuke from one of his harshest critics, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.

"Talking with complete sentences there and also too talking in a way that ordinary Americans like Joe the Plumber and Tito the Builder can't really do there, I think needing to do that isn't tapping into what Americans are needing also," she said.