Digital Media and Intellectual Property Rights


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Unit 2 - Intellectual Property Rights

Contents:

Objectives

By the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Define Intellectual Property Rights
  2. Identify different types of IPR
  3. Develop an understanding of the role and implications of IPR in an educational setting
  4. Reflect on own role in upholding ethical standards related to IPR
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Introduction

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) protect individual, human creative ideas, knowledge or work from unauthorized or unlawful use. In most cases, IPR are governed by law as well as by professional code of ethics and personal ethical standards.

Rationale for Learning about IPR

The issue of Intellectual Property Rights becomes more prominent as today’s “knowledge based” economy where intellectual creations play such an important role in the global market. Despite regulations and well drafted legal definitions of what constitutes “Intellectual Property Right”, the issue with human, intellectual creation is that “ownership” of an idea, “intellectual creation” is not as straightforward as ownership of an object. Exploring IPR and views on “sharing”, “openness” and “information is free” helps us to understand the emerging legal frameworks and discourses on intellectual property and their implications on our role as educators.

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Types of Intellectual Property Rights

There are four major types of Intellectual Property Rights and while they cover different areas, the main difference among them is essentially related to time limit to these rights.

The difference between the types of Intellectual Property Rights is that Trademark retains protection for as long as the formulation, composition of a product is not discovered or revealed, whereas patents, copyrights and industrial designs are bound by time limits.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of protecting IPR

While ownership to a physical/tangible object is easier to assign, ownership of ideas, knowledge, or information is much more challenging to assign. Such a challenge creates various problems that often remain unresolved and become a source of controversy. In addition to that, activists and supporters of “information wants to be free” argue that the information should reach as large an audience as possible and therefore why should there be laws that prevent people from accessing information.

Freedom of information does not work well with the established economic models for producing and selling information. For years, specific industries have controlled the information content of our lives: Television networks controlled the air waves, the movie industry controlled the silver screen, the publishing industry stocked your bookshelves and delivered your newspapers, and the music industry vetted what music made it into the mainstream. In the past, these big information industries were necessary because producing a record, or distributing a novel, or producing a movie were expensive undertakings with a lot of risk.

And that is where the information industries take objection to freedom of access to information. Why should a publisher go to the financial risk of producing a novel if they are going to be undercut by pirated ebooks? Why should the music industry go to all the expense of signing artists and producing albums if their work will just be downloaded for free online? The economic model depends on information being securely in the hands of the producers, and consumers can only access it for a price.

This seems fair to expect people to pay for the information they consume (movies, music, etc.), since it costs money to produce it. However, with the coming of the Internet age, are these industries still relevant? The music industry is on the forefront of this battle. With the internet, artists no longer need the music industry to promote and distribute their art. Current digital tools make it possible to produce a studio quality record in your own home, and the resulting music can be marketed to an unlimited online audience.

As information industries fight to remain relevant, copyright law is often used as shield for these big industries. However, often the result of protecting these industries kills artistic diversity and creativity.

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Implications of IPR in an educational setting

Technological changes are affecting educational institutions and their staff alike not just in terms of adjusting teaching and evaluating methodologies to address such changes but also in terms of finances and managing institutional ownership of academic work. While the prospect of financial rewards for distance education is very promising for institutions, faculty created content is not fully recognized because the employer i.e. the institution is the recognized author. In that respect, some of the approaches to Intellectual Property Rights in an educational setting clash with the views and ideals of “academic freedom” since many educators feel that they themselves should have control over intellectual property they have created rather than the institution. Such a freedom will allow faculty and educators to share knowledge and information therefore increasing access to serve educational needs.

Another implication of IPR in an educational setting is related to the role educators can play in engendering awareness of Intellectual Property Rights when teaching and evaluating students’ work.

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Pre-Test Activities

  1. How do you define Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)
  2. As an educator, why is it important to understand the role and implications of IPR
  3. What is the difference between patent, trademark and copyright?
  4. What are the advantages and disadvantages of protecting IPR?
  5. What are your thoughts on Lessig’s opinion about user generated content?
  6. What are some of the 21st century’s piracy discourses and what insights do they offer in relation to IPR?
  7. How can IPR laws be implemented without stifling transformative creativity?
  8. What are the Implications of the technologically driven free market on IPR?
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Interactivities

  1. For an overview of some of the key discourse issues around authorship and piracy, read Kavita Philip’s article on “What is a technological author? The pirate function and Intellectual Property”
  2. Watch this video of Professor Lawrence (Larry) Lessig discussing user generated content and raising concerns over copyright laws as a way of stifling transformative creativity.



  3. Also read Lessig’s Chapter 10 on Property.
  4. Read Beaudoin’s thoughts on the implications of copyright on the role of instructors in distance education.
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Post-Test Activites

  1. How do you define Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)
  2. As an educator, why is it important to understand the role and implications of IPR
  3. What is the difference between patent, trademark and copyright?
  4. What are the advantages and disadvantages of protecting IPR?
  5. What are your thoughts on Lessig’s opinion about user generated content?
  6. What are some of the 21st century’s piracy discourses and what insights do they offer in relation to IPR?
  7. How can IPR laws be implemented without stifling transformative creativity?
  8. What are the Implications of the technologically driven free market on IPR?
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Assignments

Assignment # 1- The pirate function and intellectual property

In her article What is a technological author? The pirate function and intellectual property, Kavita Philip ( 2005) explores authorship, piracy and global “knowledge economy” issues and elaborates on some of the key 21st century’s piracy discourses. Philip’s analysis and questions help us look at the implications of new technologies on global relations and the need for us as global, technological citizens to explore and differentiate between an “author” from a “pirate” and become aware of IPR and techno-cultural legalities.

Based on the readings from Philip’s article, prepare a 250 word response to the following question: “How do you draw a difference between “an author” and “a pirate”?

Assignment # 2 - IPR restricts creativity

Legal scholar Lawrence (Larry) Lessig is known as a leader on free culture movement. He is also known as a champion of transformative creativity and strongly opposes power of the corporation and laws that unintentionally limit citizen’s potential creativity. Lessig draws a distinction between protecting genuine (good) creativity and defending simple (bad) piracy. According to Lessig, “the law controls not just the creativity of commercial creators but essentially of everyone.” Lessig goes on to explain that “the law's role is less and less to support creativity, and more and more to protect certain industries against competition.”

Watch this video of Professor Lawrence (Larry) Lessig raising concerns over copyright laws as a way of stifling transformative creativity.




Also read Lessig’s Chapter 10 on Property from: http://jus.uio.no/sisu/free_culture.lawrence_lessig/portrait.pdf Write a 300 word reflection on how IPR laws can be implemented without stifling transformative creativity.

Assignment # 3 - Group Wiki

Based on readings from Philip and Lessig, create a Wiki on the issue of “ Implications of the technologically driven free market on IPR”

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Resources

Beaudoin, M. (1990). The instructor's changing role in distance education. The American Journal of Distance Education, 4(2). http://www.c3l.uni-oldenburg.de/cde/found/beau90.pdf

Canadian Intellectual Property Office - About Intellectual Property. Retrieved from: http://www.cipo.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/cipointernet-internetopic.nsf/eng/h_wr00504.html on July 27, 2011

Lessig, L. (2004) Free culture - how big media uses technology and the law to lock down culture and control creativity. Retrieved from http://jus.uio.no/sisu/free_culture.lawrence_lessig/portrait.pdf on July 30, 2011

Philip, K. (2005) What is a technological author? The pirate function and Intellectual Property. Retrieved from http://www.humanities.uci.edu/critical/kp/pdf/PirateFunction_PCS2005.pdf on July 31, 2011

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