Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Copyright: A Definition Only Goes so Far

Zachary D. McClintock
Dr. Pfister
October 21st
Copyright: A Definition Only Goes so Far
      Many discussions, laws, fights, court cases, and general bad feelings have been associated with the term copyright. Different court cases throughout the years have created specific ways that cases of "copyright infringement" are looked at and judged. The definition of copyright straight from Google is as follows, "the exclusive legal right, given to an originator or an assignee to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same." That definition itself is extremely confusing and hard to interpret. When the definition is broken down into its sub-parts, it becomes a little clearer and easier to understand.
      "The exclusive legal right" means that the author of whatever the copyright is written for is exclusive; private, solely owned by that person, and restricted from everybody else. The next word in that snippet is legal, which adds that the exclusivity of the idea, movie, game, ect. is protected by the law. The word, right, in this definition talks about what has been determined in court as moral, correct, and justifiable. That exclusive legal right is then given to an "originator or assignee." The originator or assignee is the person or entity that created or designed the item to be copyrighted. An example of such a person would be George Lucas and the movie series of Star Wars. That creator is then given the right to "print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material." What that section of the definition is saying is that the author and creator has the right to publish and distribute his or her creation by various means and pathways. The definition also states in its last words that the person given the copyright has the ability to "authorize others to do the same". The definition is giving the author the sole ability to allow others to publish or take the story/music/idea/ect. and do what they want with it.
      Google is great to give a definition of a word, or a phrase, but is completely inept at saying everything and bringing human emotion into the playing field. A huge part of copyright is the definition by which Google relates and that has been broken down here. Even a broken down part by part definition of the term copyright can not fully explain the term. A much more expansive way would be needed to explain fully the term that has caused so much money loss, hate, laws, court cases, and senses of entitlement. Many people copyright an idea or a song and have no idea exactly what the law they just stamped onto their product really does for them. They don't have any kind of idea the extent of what the laws attached to the term copyright entail. Most of the people in that category just want a sense of their product being safe from other people and think it is all encompassing. In other words, nobody reads the fine print until they feel like somebody else has stolen something of theirs.
      Inside that mass of fine print, where is the line where something changes from free speech and an acceptable use of a copyright material to copyright infringement?  The previous question begs another; Who should get to decide whether a specific incident is copyright infringement? How long should the copyright on a given material last? A definition of the term copyright in denotation terms can be very useful, but it can not take away the fact that something as general as copyright has a mass of connotation associated with it. 

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