Intellectual Property

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Bestselling classics and the public domain

The Shifted Librarian has a post reviewing Book Magazine's list of the bestselling classic novels of 2002. Per the Shifted Librarian's request, Eliot Landrum enhanced the list to reflect each book's public domain entrance status. The Great Gatsby will enter the public domain in 2020 if F. Scott Fitzgerald's estate doesn't file for an extension--but of course they will! Right now I'm trying to imagine works of literature, postmodern literature and any other 21st-century literature that isn't "postmodern literature," that are being inhibited right now by practically-perpetual copyright laws. Gah.

As an addendum, I have to wonder about Book Magazine's definition of "classic." The Red Tent by Anita Diamant is on there, which is a very new book (other newbies are on there too). Don't get me wrong; I loved the book and really think you should read it if you haven't, but is it already considered a classic? I'm proud to point out that The Red Tent is a brilliant derivative work of a public-domain text: the Bible.

Cross-posted at Kairosnews.

'Entrepreneur' a trademarked word, court rules

The word "entrepreneur" has been trademarked since 1978, and a recent court decision upholds Entrepreneur Media's ownership of the trademark. Scott Smith, who named his company EntrepreneurPR, had to change the name. He makes this interesting comment:

"It's like being sued for using the word 'golf.' There's 'Golf Magazine,' 'Golf Illustrated,' " Smith said. "Most publishers are not that insane. But these people have this thought that they made the word 'entrepreneur' what it is today."

Do you agree? All I have to say is, if Minority Business Entrepreneur magazine and Female Entrepreneur magazine are affected by this decision, I'm going to be angry.

Link via Paul Cox. Cross-posted at Kairosnews.

Clancy Ratliff :: Curriculum Vitae

64 Classroom Office Building | 1994 Buford Ave. | St. Paul, MN 55108 |


Research Interests

Weblogs, Feminist Rhetorics, Intellectual Property, Internet Studies, Genre Theory, Cultural Studies, Composition Theory, Technical Communication, Pedagogy


  • Editor, Into the Blogosphere: Rhetoric, Community, and Culture of Weblogs, 2004.
  • Contributor, Inman, James. Computers and Writing: The Cyborg Era. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc., 2003.
  • Contributing Editor, Literary Culture: Reading and Writing Literary Arguments. 2nd ed. Ed. L. Bensel-Meyers, Susan Giesemann North, and Jeremy W. Webster. Boston, MA: Pearson, 2002.

Courses Taught

  • University of Minnesota
    Rhetoric 1101: Writing to Inform, Convince, and Persuade
    Rhetoric 1223: Oral Presentations in Professional Settings
    Rhetoric 3562: Technical and Professional Writing
  • Roane State Community College
    English 1010: Composition I
  • University of Tennessee
    English 101: English Composition I
    English 102: English Composition II
    Interdisciplinary Studies 493: Technical Writing Module, Ronald McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program

Conference Presentations

Professional Activities

Sites of Resistance: Weblogs with Creative Commons Licenses

Here's the abstract of my presentation for this fall's AoIR conference...Saturday 4:00-5:15 if anyone wants to see it! :-)

Recent scholarship about intellectual property has taken issue with recent legislation that extends the terms of copyright and has argued that, in order for creativity and innovation to be possible, the public needs a realm of ideas and content to use freely. Long-term copyright delays the entrance of ideas, images, and songs into the public domain. To demonstrate resistance to current legislation, Creative Commons (CC) was established. CC licenses allow creators to give up varying degrees of copyright protection to create a "Some Rights Reserved" model. In this essay, I will explore the growing trend of weblogs that have CC licenses and why bloggers are choosing alternatives to "All Rights Reserved." I will state ways that bloggers and weblogs are making a particularly important contribution to the realization of the Web as an intellectual commons: first, influential bloggers whose weblogs are widely read and linked to have gotten CC licenses, which has produced a mimetic effect; second, the weblog is a genre that lends itself to building upon others' content and does not operate on the assumption that one needs a financial incentive to create; and third, it is significant to note that with popular blogging tools Movable Type and Userland, CC licensing options are built in at the software level. I argue that part of what makes blogging a public-domain-oriented genre is its cultural context: the fact that blogging evolved pari passu with the rise of open source and publicly licensed software, the tightening of copyright restrictions, and the popularity of peer-to-peer networks.

I know that's Very Broad. My presentation will be mostly about bloggers with CC licenses in particular, with just a few remarks at the end about the intellectual property implications in general.

Humorous IP Anecdote

From The Rub's 25 June post:

That poor, mistreated roadie. Apparently, this joe claims he came up with the title for Blink 182's last album, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. Try again, roadie. The only thing older than that pun is the pair of orange and purple Jamz you bought in high school (yet, continue to wear nightly).

One of my interests, as you know, is intellectual property. This is a great example of just how absurd this stuff can get, and Paul's accompanying commentary is hilarious; I had to pass it on.

We live in an oligarchy

just the beginning of a blog entry... more later today.

Thoughts on Open Source Software

For the past few days, every time I've opened Microsoft Word to view a file or create a new file, as soon as I opened it, it would say "This program has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down." Then, when I'd click "Details," it would give me the "INVALID page fault at 151.8375.938493 blah blah." Stymied, I'd go to my office. But today, I decided to uninstall and reinstall Word to see if that would help. First I tried selecting the "Repair Word" option on my installation CD, and it didn't fix the problem. So I completely uninstalled Word, and when I went to reinstall, it of course asked for the 25-digit special number that is on my certificate of authenticity. Wherever that is!--I've moved three times since I got this computer (Word came with my Gateway, which I got in 1999 before I was wise to Microsoft and the fact that Macs are better).

Today is the day I decided to ditch Word entirely and go open source. I had heard that Abiword and Open Office can handle .doc format, so I tried to download Open Office, which will have to wait for another day as it would have taken about 6 hours to download with my 56k connection. Abiword's site was having problems, so Charlie did a temporary upload of Abiword to his web space so I could download it. I've been viewing my existing .doc files in Abiword and creating new ones too. I heart Abiword. It's a beautiful thing! Didn't cost me a penny, and it's a decent word processing tool that isn't giving me that "illegal operation" crap! I'm starting really to see the awesomeness of open source. Abiword isn't, of course, my first open source tool; Kairosnews is run on PostNuke, and this tool I'm using right now to blog is open source too. I've always been an advocate of open source in general, but have never quite understood the implications of it: a software tool that people work on as a labor of love for the community in general, open source is really activist work. I'm a member of the Digital Divide listserv, and there has been a lot of talk about using open source in low-income communities, but now I see how great it would be and how within reach it puts software. I wouldn't have bought another copy of Microsoft Word even if I could have afforded it, but I can still create documents.

Today I attended a needs assessment tour of the computer labs on the St. Paul campus. Three administrators, another graduate student, and I discussed what the labs need and what our vision is for them. When we got to the question of software, I asked if we might have Inspiration, a fantastic mind-mapping tool, and then I asked, "What's stopping us from going open source?" I knew they wouldn't decide to start using it, but I just wanted to know what their reasons were for using commercial software. Their argument centered on the fact that commercial software is more dependable, as it often comes with tech support, better documentation, and some kind of recourse if the software doesn't work. That's a good argument, but my interest has been piqued by the potential of open source, so I'm going to do some more thinking and reading about it.

As a side note, Charlie pointed out that Abiword doesn't automatically associate .doc files (or any files with a certain document extension, like .rtf) with Abiword. The user has to specify if he or she wants certain file extensions associated with Abiword. He said that there's a feminist study to be done on the design of tools like Word, which don't give the reader a choice and do many things upon installation for the user. I've been thinking more about this, and I'm reminded of a phrase my adviser from the University of Tennessee, Mike Keene, used to use: dummy user. The user is very often feminized and made to be passive. Charlie's on to something! If I still had Word I'd make more notes on this idea. :-) Heh, seriously, it can be a little project I do on the computer at my office.

Improving the reputation of peer-to-peer networks

bIPlog's Mary Hodder has some good observations of the potential uses of P2P networks. She says that

[b]ecause most P2P apps are for piracy purposes, companies and others have not explored and used P2P for more legitimate purposes, but increasingly sophisticated P2P apps are being developed that in future might relieve the burden on file caching companies so that individuals will spread freeware, collaborative work projects and other legitimately shared files. This kind of distributed sharing and collaboration is likely the future of Internet based work for knowledge sharing and development. So the success of certain kinds of P2P may hold back or delay the development of technologies, due to DMCA related fears of prosecution, as well as the development and adoption of information technology based work practices that rely on P2P applications.

This quotation is from Hodder's summary of the article, and it made me want to read the piece in its entirety, but I wonder why Hodder doesn't mention that the article is, in large part, an promotion of BitTorrent, a new software tool for P2P networks. BitTorrent sounds like an improved tool for P2P; a couple of things I like about it are that it finds out how much of a file you already have and arranges it so that you only download the chunks you need, and also it makes sure that users aren't leeching off the network, that they are uploading as well as downloading. ComputerWorld offers this sidebar story of BitTorrent's pros and cons. In a sidebar story of my own, when I was going through my newsfeeds and found this story, I immediately thought of Laurie, since this is her area of interest. Laurie, how's it going? No one has heard from you in a while. Are you on vacation or something?

Edited version cross-posted to Kairosnews.

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