If you're on facebook, you may have seen this piece already about a writer and editor's quibble over intellectual property and the web. Essentially, the writer found out to her great surprise that a piece from her blog ended up in print, without her permission, and the editor had the nerve to reply to her email with a pretty catty message. What's amazing is the editor's assumption that if something is printed on the Internet that it's public domain, and what's even more amazing is the tone of the response.
But the larger issue here is, of course, the devaluing of intellectual property, something that's happening more and more frequently, with lines that often blur. At what point does some kid's mashup of the latest Adam Lambert song become plagiarism? At what point does it infringe on copyright? And just because it's on you tube, that doesn't make it legal, right? And when is it appropriate to quote a snippet of someone else's blog, and when is it not? And how much of the material can legally be quoted without the author's permission?
In my research and writing classes at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, we discuss these and other intellectual property issues regularly. We talk about the ethics of using and even referring to other work, and, more importantly, the etiquette of asking for permission before reposting or recopying. Although I don't always succeed, I try to help students understand the basics of the law, what it means for them as students, and what it means out here in the big wide world.
In the ever changing landscape of social networking, blogging, and publishing, we're all out in the gunslinging world of the new century. But just because the lines haven't been drawn, that doesn't mean they don't exist. Even for Cooks Source magazine.
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