Intellectual Property

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Notes on CCCC Intellectual Property Caucus

The Intellectual Property Caucus at CCCC was quite productive this year, as always. Thirty-one people attended, and we started the meeting off by plugging our projects and celebrating the year's accomplishments when it came to intellectual property issues:

First, there's the publication of Stephen Westbrook's collection Composition and Copyright: Perspectives on Teaching, Text-making, and Fair Use . Also, Charlie Lowe and Pavel Zemliansky have created Writing Spaces, an open access, Creative Commons licensed space that can be used in lieu of a textbook (or in addition to one). Then, following our usual format for the meeting, we heard from the Intellectual Property Committee. The big news there was that we've been invited to write a regular feature for the NCTE Inbox, and Martine Courant Rife volunteered to spearhead that effort. (By the way, if you click the link, you'll see that you CAN subscribe to the Inbox on RSS. That was at issue during the meeting.)

Then we introduced our action tables, met for our breakout sessions, and reconvened to plan actions for the next year. For the purposes of the notes here, I am going to paste the abstract submitted by the action table leader, then right below it put my notes from that action table's report. The notes are notes I took during their reports in the caucus meeting, and since I didn't sit in on these discussions, they're kind of choppy and note-y. And as always, some of the action tables ended up merging, so what I have here isn't exactly what was in the original proposal re action tables.

Exposing Misunderstanding of Fair Use in the Case of the Harry Potter Lexicon

It's disappointing that Steve Vander Ark's proposed HARRY POTTER LEXICON
is coming under fire from Potter creator J. K. Rowling. However, the
attacks on the lexicon from the general public---visible in comments on
news stories and weblogs---are far more disturbing. Vander Ark has been
called a plagiarist, a thief, a crook, and a liar. The lack of support
for his work shows a profound misunderstanding of fair use Speaker #1
wishes to engage in two ways: (a) by sharing strategies for discussion
of fair use; (b) through encouragement of use of the rights all of us
have to create similar works which fairly use copyrighted content.

Notes and Next Actions:

different kinds of misunderstandings of fair use:
1. partial knowledge: some knowledge but misapply it
2. conflating legal and ethical issues: plagiarism of something in the public domain: ethically problematic but legally OK
3. ppl not knowing who to appeal to, governing bodies relevant. vague notions of punishment but not knowing where auth lies
4. misunderstanding of terminology
5. not understanding purpose of fair use

action items: fair use for dummies document
list of common misconceptions for teachers
more formal study: look @ court cases

Copyright, Fair Use, and Digital Delivery of Class Reading Materials

A recent lawsuit brought by a group of academic publishers against
Georgia State University has brought to our attention the dangers of
limiting educators’ Fair Use rights to distribute class reading
materials in digital form (Cambridge University Press et al. v.
Georgia State University). Speakers #2, 3, and 4 will discuss what’s
at stake in the recent debate over application of the Fair Use
exemption to the use of copyrighted works in coursepacks, library
e-reserves, and other forms of online delivery of reading material to
students. They will then take comments that may contribute to the
development of a position statement, directed to academic publishers,
that would encourage a rethinking of the current business model for
copyright permissions for educational use.

Notes and Next Actions:

concerns: for education: what can we do, what can't we do when it comes to digital delivery of online materials
article in CCC in 1998 on fair use. "Use Your Fair Use: Strategies toward Action." 2009
reissuing of article like that in light of course packs, ereserves, etc.
advocacy issues: 4Cs position statement would make a stronger claim re fair use guidelines and digital materials
georgia state case: intervention? 4Cs could begin exploring/supporting defendants in that case?
4Cs educate organization. american library assn. web site. write to house judiciary cmte regarding that decision. action letter. NIH, but implications for government sponsorship of research.
listservs: request to write

Open Access Publishing and Institutional Repositories

Speaker #5 will report on the progress of an OA Task Force that has
been brought together to educate CCCC/NCTE constituencies about OA
options and about mandates to provide open access to federally funded
research, as well as to develop guidelines for meeting those mandates.

Okay, this is the action table I participated in, so I can give a more thorough treatment of it. Most of our discussion was about the following:

Open Access and "The Extended CCC"

As has been discussed on the blogs, notably here and here, a lot of people aren't happy with the recent decision to move some of College Composition and Communication's features, such as review essays, interchanges, re/visions, book reviews, etc. online. My main concern is the open-access implications of that, which Karen Lunsford and I discussed in our action table meeting. For example, if I want to read "Rhetorics of Critical Writing: Implications for Graduate Writing Instruction" by Laura R. Micciche, a review essay in the most recent issue, I have to go here and click the title, then if I'm not logged in with my NCTE member number (which I pay an annual fee for), I get the following:

Please log in to view this journal PDF file: /library/NCTEFiles/Resources/Journals/CCC/0603-feb09/CCC0603ReviewRhetorics.pdf.

What are the implications for future access to this article, only the first paragraph of which will be in the print journal? Libraries, and by extension teachers and students, who already pay a subscription fee for the print and electronic versions of the journal, will not have access to these features unless they pay to join NCTE. Our action item regarding this issue is to query the Executive Committee: what provision has been made for permanent access to TECCC for libraries? The caucus members generally felt that this was the most alarming and pressing issue related to our field and open access.

We also talked about other issues, though, such as:

1. a letter to the executive committee recommending changes to NCTE's journals' copyright policy:
* change the contract to allow authors self-archiving of copies of their articles on their personal web sites
* allow open access to archives the way that JAC does

2. writing a resolution draft about open access -- open scholarship, open teaching materials, maybe even open access textbooks, but we thought that since many in our field write textbooks and textbook publishing houses give us a lot of support, we might have more buy-in with 4cs membership if we leave textbooks out of it and just focus on research

3. joining the Alliance for Taxpayer Access

Students' Rights and Responsibilities in IP

Students are facing more choices for how to treat their own
intellectual products and those of others. It would be helpful for
both instructors and their students to be aware of the legal, ethical,
and cultural ramifications of those choices. Speaker #6 will examine
students' rights in and responsibilities for treating their work
within the realm of intellectual property law issues.

students thinking of themselves as AUTHORS. plagiarism
if teachers aren't allowed to use it, they'd be forced to teach plagiarism in more complexity
let students opt in or opt out?
teachers don't have the right to use student writing in college english -- would have to get permission.
in what ways does turnitin repurpose student writing?
NCTE Inbox: we wish there was a simple way to teach teachers to talk about turnitin
ways other professors use the service?
something more user-friendly for NCTE K-12 and college
conversations with students about the business model
for paraphrasing exercises in class, ok use of turnitin

There was also an impromptu action table about research projects in IP. Here are my notes on that:

1998 Computers & Composition special issue on IP: plan to revisit that in a new special issue.
cultural cannibalism: CFP out before C&W
visual/digital rhetorics for kairos
CCCC panel together next year
sharing scholarship, continuing projexts: regular discussion table each year on research, momentum.
1/2 hour for everyone about research?
call out on lists: course materials about authorship, plagiarism, copyright, collaboration, contract negotiation, OA, OS, free speech/privacy/censorship

Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing

I'd like to encourage all of you to keep your eye on Writing Spaces. It is the start of an open access textbook for writing courses. They're calling for submissions; here's part of the call for proposals:

Volumes in Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing will offer multiple perspectives on a wide-range of topics about writing, much like the model made famous by Wendy Bishop’s The Subject Is . . . series. In each chapter, a rich variety of authors will present their unique views, insights, and strategies for writing by addressing the undergraduate reader directly. Drawing on their own experiences, these teachers-as-writers will invite students to join in the larger conversation about developing nearly every aspect of their craft. Consequently, each essay will function as a standalone text which will easily compliment other selected readings in writing or writing-intensive courses across the disciplines at any level. Thus with your submissions and the publication of subsequent volumes of essays, the Writing Spaces website will become a large library of student-centered instructional essays on writing for all across our field to use in the composition classroom.

The theme for Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing, Vol. 1 will be first-year composition, and we invite authors to submit a proposal for a chapter on any topic about writing suitable for a first-year class. For example,

* College writing vs. what you did in high school
* Freewriting
* Why invention is important
* Finding a topic for your personal narrative
* Drawing on personal experience in your writing
* Understanding the rhetorical situation
* What is creativity?
* What do we mean by that term "style?"
* Developing the appropriate voice for your audience
* Getting to the draft
* What makes a good thesis and how to focus your paper
* Best practices for conducting research
* The Internet as a space for communication and research
* Effective quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing
* Re-vision as re-seeing your text
* Why proofreading is important
* Primary research: the I-search paper, ethnography, or interviewing
* Logic in argumentative writing
* Collaborative writing
* New media writing

Because each chapter in Writing Spaces is an essay, authors will want to strike a balance between instruction and creating a text that demonstrates excellent essay writing, with an appropriate and strong, engaging voice for a student audience. An essay could provide students with good writing advice and strategies. Or it might exemplify the type of essay writing that presents perspectives that stimulate critical thinking and invigorating class conversations. Any essay that incorporates outside material should also serve as a student-friendly model for demonstrating effective attribution and integration of sources.

That reminds me: I am continually annoyed by the main problem I see with the reading selections in composition textbooks, which is the dissonance between the readings in the book and the kind of writing we teach (or the writing our universities, I'd argue rightfully, expect us to teach). Usually we're assigning students research papers or some other kind of source-driven paper. For these kinds of papers, we expect information to be cited in the following style, with attributive tags and parenthetical in-text citations:

According to one published study, unemployment rates have "ebbed and flowed in an unpredictable pattern since 1977" (Wilson 5).

We want students to be able to integrate source materials in the above manner. So what kinds of texts do textbook authors put in books? Why, Amy Tan's "Mother Tongue" and George Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant," of course! Or op-ed pieces from newspapers and magazines, which don't cite sources that way either. Instead, it's simply assumed, based on the reputation of the magazine, that the writing is "researched" and fact-checked prior to publication. The burden of proof is then shared and is not on the author of the essay in the same way it is in academic writing.

Anyway, just grinds my gears. I know that Writing Spaces seems to be interested in literacy narrative types of pieces, but they also appear to be interested in pieces with a "teach first-year writing as an introduction to writing studies" approach, which would lend itself to citations of research in rhetoric and composition. Please, if you submit something to this collection, remember your MLA format.

Compounding Pharmacies

This issue wasn't on my radar until just recently when I had to get some prescription cream from a compounding pharmacy, but apparently there's a conflict between compounding pharmacists and the FDA over regulation of compound drugs. The drug companies have a lot at stake in this, what with patents for combinations of drugs and all. That's what interests me the most -- the view from the intellectual property angle. I'd really like to write an article about the way each side is using rhetoric, especially as it pertains to patent rights. There's a lot more information about the various issues in these white papers.

But if you know someone who's already doing research on this topic, kindly let me know so that I don't waste my time, and direct me toward the person doing the research so that I can read it with interest.

Trying to stay ahead of the demand

It has been a very busy couple of weeks. We had family in town for a week, then of course there's the daily Henry maintenance. On top of that, I have some outstanding committee work to do and several research projects: an article, a book proposal, a book review, and an article proposal. I'll be lucky to get even half of those done, I imagine.

Then we leave to see my family in a few weeks. Henry's first plane ride...any suggestions? Is the pressure going to make him miserable with ear pain?

Off the subject, but it's been on my mind: Andrea Lunsford said, in 2005 I believe, that research is needed about the concept of "common knowledge." This was at the IP Caucus meeting, by the way. She's right, of course; common knowledge is a nebulous concept in classroom practice. I'm wondering, if you were to do a research project on this topic, how would you start, assuming your goal is to historicize this concept? I can think of two ways, neither of which may be very good:

1. Search JSTOR for "common knowledge" in quotes

2. Find all the composition textbooks you can get your hands on, locate the section on plagiarism in each one, and see if there's a reference to common knowledge.

One goal would be to see if common knowledge is defined in any other way besides the following:

1. The magic number 3: if you find a piece of information in at least three of your sources, you may consider it common knowledge and not cite it.

2. By contrastive example (I admit I do this in my own teaching): Some examples of common knowledge that you wouldn't need to cite are a.) Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth; b.) the key to losing weight is to eat foods low in fat and calories and to exercise; c.) breast milk contains the mother's antibodies, which can help keep a child from getting sick. An example of something that is not common knowledge would be: Congolese diamond miners who were banished from Angola are dying from and spreading yellow fever. Obviously I got that somewhere specific.

Review: Documentary about Judith Butler

The great folks at First Run Icarus Films sent me a DVD of the excellent Judith Butler: Philosophical Encounters of the Third Kind several months ago. I watched the film recently, and I'm finally getting around to writing a brief review of it.

High points: Butler walks through an art gallery discussing photographs by Cindy Sherman, who is one of my favorite photographers. She points out how Sherman's images critique gender categories and norms, and her comments are illuminative.

Butler also talks about violence and hate crimes, and while I was always convinced that the whole "Judith Butler doesn't pay enough attention to what's happening on the ground" argument was misguided and inaccurate, I think anyone who sees this film would recognize that Butler cares very much about real, material bodies and what happens to them.

One point of criticism, though. This has nothing to do with the content of the film, but rather the copyright policy (my emphasis):

We send review copies of First Run/Icarus Films releases with the understanding that if a review is published or posted (on-line), the reviewer may then retain the review copy sent for his or her own personal (but not classroom) use.

It's too bad that classroom use -- even, it seems, just showing a clip of it in class -- is prohibited. I had considered ripping a short clip as a sample so as to help sell the film, but I don't want to get a cease-and-desist letter from an attorney.

Bottom line, I would recommend that research libraries purchase the documentary. At $390 for the DVD, it might be a tad expensive for individuals, but if you're doing work on Butler, it might be worth it, especially if you have some grant funding.


In August of 2006, law professors William W. Fisher and William McGeveran of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard Law School, published "The Digital Learning Challenge: Obstacles to Educational Uses of Copyrighted Material in the Digital Age," a white paper based on their research and two all-day workshops in which librarians, teachers, lawyers, and scholars gathered to discuss their encounters with copyright law. Their collective efforts and the publication of this white paper constitute one of the top intellectual property developments of 2006 because revealed and clarified four central problems related to the intersection among digital media, education, and copyright law:

  • Unclear or inadequate copyright law relating to crucial provisions such as fair use and educational use;
  • Extensive adoption of 'digital rights management' technology to lock up content;
  • Practical difficulties obtaining rights to use content when licenses are necessary;
  • Undue caution by gatekeepers such as publishers or educational administrators.

To illustrate these problems, Fisher and McGeveran present four case studies of digital educational endeavors that were delayed or jeopardized by copyright law. These include: 1.) a proposal to create a network for social studies teachers share teaching materials; 2.) the use of movie scenes on DVD in film studies courses; 3.) the Database for Recorded American Music (DRAM), a repository of obscure music; and 4.) the conflict that arises when public broadcasters, who are allowed to use some third-party content in their programs, make programming available on the Web. In this review of Fisher and McGeveran's white paper, I make connections between their case studies and the situations faced in rhetoric and composition pedagogy, and I explain what composition scholars can do to help protect teachers' rights to use third-party content for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Works Cited

“Author Rights: Using the SPARC Author Addendum to Secure Your Rights as the Author of a Journal Article.” 27 Apr. 2007

“Authors – Elsevier.” 27 Apr. 2007

Bazerman, Charles. “Charles Bazerman | UCSB | Homepage.” 27 Apr. 2007

Day, Michael. “Michael Day: Selected Webbed Publications.” 27 Apr. 2007

Eidenmuller, Michael E. “American Rhetoric: Copyright Information.” 27 Apr. 2007

Fisher, William W., and William McGeveran. "The Digital Learning Challenge: Obstacles to Educational Uses of Copyrighted Material in the Digital Age." 27 Apr. 2007

“KU ScholarWorks: Home.” 27 Apr. 2007

Miller, Carolyn R. “Carolyn R. Miller: Publications.” 27 Apr. 2007

“Petition for Public Access to Publicly Funded Research in the United States.” 27 Apr. 2007

Reyman, Jessica. “Copyright, Distance Education, and the TEACH Act: Implications for Teaching Writing.” CCC 58:1 (2006): 30-45.

“Rhetoric and Composition – Wikibooks, Collection of Open-Content Textbooks.” 27 Apr. 2007

Conclusion: How You Can Contribute to the Open Access Effort

Fisher and McGeveran conclude their white paper with several suggestions for what scholars can do to help bring about copyright reform, some of which connect to the work that the CCCC Intellectual Property Caucus is doing. Scholars in our field can contribute to open access by doing research about it. Fisher and McGeveran point to several areas for future research, and I have highlighted the ones that may be of interest to rhetoric and composition:

  • An attempt to document how often educational users of content in fact are threatened with copyright infringement suits, and how often such suits are filed (the dearth of judicially decided cases in this area suggests that these numbers may turn out to be surprisingly low);
  • Analysis of how frequently rightsholders decline permission for educational uses of content and the typical reasons for such refusal;
  • Updated empirical data concerning policies and guidelines adopted by universities and school districts concerning educational use of content;

These projects would make excellent master's theses and dissertations for rhetoric researchers interested in legal discourse. Fisher and McGeveran also offer a series of recommendations for what kinds of action we can take to help the open access movement, and I end with these (quotations from pages 107-108 of the white paper are in italics):

  1. The “some rights reserved” licensing schemes promoted by Creative Commons and Science Commons, which can be easily customized at their web sites.

    Rhetoric and composition studies scholars are already using Creative Commons licenses on their weblogs, and several journals, including Kairos, Lore, The Writing Instructor, and Computers and Composition Online, allow authors to use Creative Commons licenses. I will attest that Scholar and Feminist Online, while not a rhetoric journal, also allows Creative Commons licensing. Admittedly, these are all online journals and, as the common argument goes, they have nothing to lose by making this an option for authors. However, Parlor Press, which publishes print monographs, also allows Creative Commons licensing. The move to license more scholarship under a some-rights-reserved model is still new, and it needs leadership within the discipline. Specifically, junior faculty and graduate students may be especially loath to ask publishers to give copyright back to them after a period of a few years, or to give them permission to archive a copy of the article or book on their personal web sites, or to use a Creative Commons license for the work. Junior scholars are in a position of vulnerability with publishers, which is why it is particularly important for senior colleagues in rhetoric and composition (as well as other fields) to publish their work in open-access journals that allow Creative Commons licenses and to state openly that access and copyright reform efforts led them to choose to publish in these journals.

    Also, scholars can use the Author's Addendum, published by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition of the Association of Research Libraries, during copyright negotiations with publishers. The addendum is available at

  2. The Free Software Foundation’s GNU Free Documentation License, intended for use in “textbooks and teaching materials for all topics” and used as the license for Wikipedia entries;

    In rhetoric and composition studies, Matt Barton's open-access textbook comes to mind. He and students at St. Cloud State University co-wrote a rhetoric and composition textbook and published it at Wikibooks, and they continue to update it. The textbook is licensed under a GNU Free Documentation License. I would like to see more projects such as this one.

  3. Numerous open access journals, such as those sponsored by the Public Library of Science (PLoS) (a list can be found at the Directory of Open Access Journals);

    Open access journals in rhetoric and composition include KairosEnculturation, The Writing Instructor, Lore, Composition Forum, Across the Disciplines, and more. Support these journals by submitting work to them, reading them, linking to the articles on your weblogs, and citing their articles in your own work if applicable.

  4. Efforts by universities, including the University of California and Harvard, to require their faculty to make copies of their scholarly articles available in open access repositories, and to provide the faculty technical assistance in doing so;

    The University of Kansas has also joined the open access project with KU ScholarWorks, which “makes important research available to a wider audience and helps assure its long-term preservation” (online). The university passed a Resolution on Access to Scholarly Information in early 2005, and they strongly encourage faculty to keep copies of their publications in the repository.

  5. Increased self-archiving by professors and other educators on personal or institutional web sites;

    Several rhetoric and composition scholars already archive their publications on their personal sites; especially impressive examples are archives by Carolyn Miller, Charles Bazerman, and Michael Day. I would add that journal publisher Elsevier (whose general policies I am not endorsing) now allows authors to make and distribute copies of articles published in their journal for classroom use and for research colleagues. They also allow authors to post preprint copies of articles on their personal web sites, and they allow authors to post revised copies of articles on personal web sites as long as they are accompanied by a link to Elsevier's web site. Authors have these rights automatically without having to ask Elsevier for them.

  6. Multiple initiatives to make curricular materials, syllabi, and other educational content accessible to the general public, including Connexions, LionShare, MIT OpenCourseware, and the Berkman Center’s own H2O project;

    These initiatives are best carried out at the university level rather than the level of the discipline. However, rhetoric and composition scholars can contribute to this effort by serving on faculty senate and other university-level committees to set policy related to open access teaching materials.

  7. Increased discussion of legal mandates for open access to research funded by government grants – effectively including most major biomedical research in the United States and Europe.

    I would add that the Petition for Public Access to Publicly Funded Research in the United States, which would require open-access publication of all articles or books funded by the U.S. Federal Government, would help to create an archive of research available to the public. Over 24,000 people have signed the petition, available at

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