Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Copyright protection

Picture from here.
   This post will have nothing or very little to do with Korean stuff. This has, on the other hand, a lot to do with the reality. Or even if we claim it has nothing in common with our hobbies, with our internet lives, it will still be a concealed lie, OK, I admit.
Last Saturday I met with few ladies working with me in the same Department at our Uni. And today, during our monthly meeting, we demanded some crash-course on copyrights and how ACTA affects our line of work.
The problem is - ACTA makes it darn hard.

Not entirely impossible, fine, but it does not ease our academic life either.
Let me explain without revealing much.
I do have courses I'm teaching students. Some of you probbaly know that. Since few years, we've been adopting e-learning system. We have all our courses online, we have lists of students, fora and discussion boards there. We have lesson plans.
Under this 'lesson plan' we can construct the entire course. It was useful last year when I had Japanese Literature course. I planned all texts accordingly and I uploaded them on the course page.
Yes, you read that right, I uploaded. I don't want to moan how many hours of work it took me to select the texts, choose them, and finally copy and scan them. I was happy I can show those to some students who could never ever possibly come accross some of them.
Turns out - all that was illegal, in the light of ACTA law.
Some texts are available freely on the internet. So if I find this kind of text (book or article) and use it during my course - I do this illegally?
Following the same logic, libraries are all illegal too. They work as p2p programs. You go, take some books, don't pay, return.
But if you like the book much, chances are - you'll buy it.

E-learning is used to enhance our learning experience - both sides: teachers and students. Not once and not twice it happens that I (or any other) lack the time to cover the whole material. I had no time to show my students short documentary. But I added it on e-learning platform as the element of the subject page. They can watch it or they can download it.
And as the attachment has limits (around 100 Mb), some of the bigger files are uploaded on third-party filehosting site and only links are posted on the subject page.
That's how it worked. Shutting down MU killed my entire course on literature. I saved scans and pdfs (those were not on MU), but I lost ppt presentations for entire 60 hours.

As far as I'm concerned, all content may be used for educational purposes or for non-commercial uses. I meet both those criteria. But still, damned ACTA may see fit to deem it as illegal activity and copyright infringement. I have the account on British Museum website. Why am I mentioning this? For one article I needed a print. So I went over to BM site and I read all policy concerning their treasures. And guess what - you may write them and they will send you back the biggest resolution of any work you ask for via email. Under one condition - non-commercial or educational purpose only.
Easy? Yes. Copyrights? Protected.

Academic field relies heavily on other people's work. We base our own knowledge on pillars erected by others. We smash them when we have different opinions, but still, be it agreement or disagreement, it cannot be done without the main object of the discussion.
So yes, we use texts written/translated by someone else. We DON'T claim those as ours though. We are paranoid about plagiarism case enough to double-check every freaking quote.

OK, I'm fortunate enough to read in few languages. But students are not that fortunate, even those who study this little Japanese we have here. They are not on the level to read Tosa Nikki in original (hell, they are not ready to read modern newspaper still). But I have also students that never learned Japanese/Korean. How on this blue orb I can prepare the lecture? I can't throw the original and 'who-care' them. Plus, not everything is available in library. I do have my own books, or I get the special access to those I don't have. They don't. Making a scan of the fragment of it is the only one solution we all see here.

What else? Having course on culture, I'd like to present maybe some short documentary? Maybe some article? Should I go to the country I'm talking about and record ie. dancing and then show it? Oh that would be great but it's an even bigger illusion than Diva being a male. So I use videos I find on the net - mainly non-English websites.

And now main point - one lawyer said this: if any movie is screened publicly (in theaters), has premiere, etc. - it is made public now. Meaning - everyone has the right to it. If a book is published - it is made public now and everyone has the right to it. What follows - re-publishing it (as uploading) within small, closed community is completely legal.

Courses, and students enrolled to those, are small circles of closed communities as such. Following what this lawyer said - it's not illegal for us to upload scans and pics for students.
But, some of us already started to get the messages asking if the documents uploaded on the course page are our own property.
What will be next?