CCCC Intellectual Property Caucus

John Logie began the CCCC Intellectual Property Caucus with a tribute to Candace Spigelman, co-chair of the Caucus, who passed away last year. Candace never lost sight of students in the process of talking about rhetoric and intellectual property. Institutions are here for the benefit of students. He set up a Candace Spigelman Memorial Fund, which will benefit the Caucus. Directions on how to contribute to the fund will be on the web site soon. Then he reviewed the MGM v. Grokster case and explained why we, as rhetoricians, should take an interest in it. He held up two sheets of paper, one in each hand, that said, "THE INTERNET IS A PEER-TO-PEER NETWORK." The Grokster case, he argued, represents the threat of suppressing technologies that merely have the potential to be used for copyright infringement. Jeff Galin (I think) posed these questions: Can we engage our students to get active in this as well? Can we imagine ways that free use and fair use might intersect? What roles are we going to play to challenge Congress and the entertainment industry?

Because Charlie ended up not being able to attend the Caucus, I presented on the new CCCC-IP web site (I attached my transparencies to this post). Charlie and I moved the content from the old site to this fancy new Drupal site. Basically, I encouraged everyone to register with the site (looks like three or four people did register since then) and contribute content: posts about IP/copyright news, source annotations for the Resource Guide, etc. After that, I introduced the "Just Ask!" campaign. Prompted by a Kairosnews thread, four journals announced that they'd be offering authors the option to license their articles under Creative Commons licenses:

  1. Computers and Composition Online
  2. Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy
  3. The Writing Instructor
  4. Lore: An E-Journal for Teachers of Writing (not official, but nb the CC license here, granted me because I asked.)

All this happened because people asked. I also have it on good authority that Enculturation would very likely let an author CC license a work if he or she asked, as authors who publish there retain the copyrights anyway. So ask! Remember to ask. I think a lot of people tend to forget that there's another way to do this, and that asking doesn't constitute an ultimatum (do this or I won't sign!!). In fact, I think authors should ask for CC licenses, Founder's Copyrights, etc. especially when they're sure the publishers will say "no." That at least lets the publishers know that scholars want this option. I'd like to emphasize the need for senior scholars, who have a wide variety of choices when it comes to publishing venues, to choose these journals, and to note, either in the body of the article or in an endnote, that they published in this particular journal because they support open access and Creative Commons (Logie has also made this point).

I have some brief notes from the action groups, one of which was on commercial plagiarism detection services. These companies, the action group leader claimed, appropriate students' work for their own commercial gain, work that was submitted under coercion in the first place. That group (of which I wasn't a part) discussed how we might redefine plagiarism (are we acknowledging "patch writing" as legitimate?) and what constitutes fair enforcement of plagiarism policies.

In my action group, which was originally slated to be about the internet and copyright law (regulation, Benkler's arguments about the layers of the internet, etc.), we took up the "Just Ask!" campaign again, and Matt Barton suggested that we invent strategies for how to talk to publishers, to show them that Creative Commons doesn't threaten their rights.

Also, in our group, we talked about recognizing the use of different courseware applications as an issue of academic freedom. At one university, a graduate student was told he could not use courseware other than the application his university had a contract with. [For background, see these two posts.] What happens if the professor's area of study is instructional technology? Professors and graduate students' freedom to experiment with software must remain intact. One of the possible arguments against this position, from an institutional standpoint, could be that the university would not want to fund tech support for open source initiatives. However, we're only talking about individual instructors who aren't asking for extra money, only the freedom to use the software that best suits their pedagogical objectives (open source or not). Another possible opposing argument is that universities might be afraid of bad press if course materials (especially overtly political or sexual content) are made public (MIT would be an exception). We're still hashing this out, but we thought it would be good for the Caucus to draft a position statement on courseware and academic freedom.

After splintering off into our Action Groups, we brought action items to the larger group. I wrote them down as fast as I could, but they're not all here:

  1. Draft an "ethics across the curriculum" statement, a multidisciplinary IP/plagiarism policy.
  2. Get professors in other disciplines to talk about IP in their fields of study.
  3. Publish in other disciplines' newsletters about IP/plagiarism.
  4. Add prompts and plagiarism statements to CCCC-IP web site so that we have a repository of these materials.
  5. Increase traffic and activity to the site, build the bibliography.
  6. Preserve the freedom to tinker with alternative courseware.
  7. Make information and case law resources available on the site for those whose campus IP policies are ambiguous with regard to work for hire, especially ownership of online courses.
  8. Do an edited collection of essays about IP and rhetoric/composition studies. (They prefer to find a publisher, but I suggested that they publish the essay online with a CC license if that doesn't work out. It's worth noting here that Parlor Press has a reputation of being progressive when it comes to copyright and open access...)
  9. Draft a position statement on the ethics of using commercial plagiarism detection services and students' rights to privacy.
  10. Collaborate with WPA, NCTE, and CCCC to write a press release (didn't catch what that was going to be about...)

Whew. That's all for now. Finally...finished...blogging...CCCC. Cross-posted to CCCC-IP.

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