Aliens and Copyright

In class on Tuesday I said that school has killed my creativity.  Some people replied that they are more creative during class and not less.  I used to also be relatively creative during class, but this year has been both tiring and demanding, leaving me with little energy left for more creative pursuits.  Luckily there is light at the end of the tunnel, and even now my creativity is starting to return.  So in honour of our final assignment, here is the first story I have written since late December.  If I have a bit of time, I’ll post pictures this weekend as well.  Enjoy!

*

You see, the reason I don’t have my essay is a funny story.  I was walking towards my car with my essay physically in hand when all of a sudden I felt a tap on my right shoulder.  I turned and found myself face to face with a green alien, complete with a spaceship.  He peered at me from eyes on weird stalks, blue eyes that swivelled to take in his surroundings.  He was feathered with a large hooked beak.  He looked like he once had wings, but those wings had long since evolved hands with long, thin fingers and opposable thumbs.  After the initial shock, all I could think was birds look better without pants.

“My name is Tekna.  I am here to ask you about Canadian copyright laws,” he said in a strange, robotic voice; I think he must have had something translating his speech.  I know, it’s the weirdest thing!  I mean, why would he care about copyright laws?  And why was he specifically interested in Canadian copyright laws? 

“Well, you’re in luck, as I just wrote an assignment on copyright in the age of the internet,” I said, waving the papers I held.  Tekna snatched my assignment from me.  “Hey!  I need that!”

“This assignment may prove useful.”  He turned towards his ship, a rounded saucer that reminded me of a bird’s nest.  After fiddling around with some controls, he fed the paper into a strange computer, which immediately projected some strange symbols into the air.  They reminded me of musical notation.  He studied these symbols for a moment.  “What is CBC?”

“That’s the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.”

“According to your assignment, this CBC says copyright is ‘a bundle of rights granted by the Copyright Act, which prescribes when a person can enjoy exclusive rights in a work, which works merit protection and which activities a copyright owner can prevent others from engaging in1.’  Why would you want these rights?” 

That was when it dawned on me: his ship must have translated my essay into his language!  “Well, as Wikipedia says, it protects a person’s intellectual property from being reproduced without permission2.  Copyright was created once it was easy to write down and reproduce ides.  It is a way for people and corporations to ensure they make the money from reproducing a work.  They do not want anyone else reproducing something and selling it for profit.”

“But it says here that copyright has to be rethought because of the internet.  Why?”

“Do you even know what the internet is?” 

“That is not important.”

“Well, the internet is complicating the issue because information is available for free1.  So now people can easily make copies.  And they are missing the distinction between free to use and free to copy1 by freely making copies when they shouldn’t.  Oh, and people are now taking existing materials and changing them into something new.  But copyright is criminalizing this new kind of creativity that emerged with the internet.  Under our existing copyright laws, this is a criminal act3.  So we need to find a way to decriminalize the remixing of media while still protecting the economic rights of the original creators.”

“That sounds like a challenge to negotiate.”

“It will be.  Like I said, we need to balance the rights of everyone because both sides are equally important3.  We do not want creators of the new, remixed media to be criminals.  But we need to make sure people are still paid for creating their own original content.”

“And what sort of digital copyright law do you think will best serve your academy?”

This was definitely the weirdest question of all!  It made me think Tekna was some sort of weird test you must have cooked up for all of us students.

Anyway, I had to think about this one for a moment.  “I think that students still need to respect the ideas of other people with proper documentation.  But I agree with Michael Geist4.  Research that results from publicly granted funds should be freely available to the public.  The public is funding it, so they should not be denied access to whatever their money has bought.”

“That sounds like a good assessment.  Thank you for this information.  You have provided some excellent insights that will help my people in our own struggle with copyright laws.”

And with that he hopped back into his spacecraft and flew away.  It was only after I watched him take-off that I realized he still had my assignment.  Even more mysteriously, when I ran back inside to reprint the essay, the entire file was gone!  And that’s why I wasn’t able to hand my assignment in today. 

So can I please have an extension?

*

Notes

1. “Copyright and the Web.”  CBC.ca.  CBC, 22 Sept. 2006.  Web.  23 March 2010.

2. “Copyright.”  Wikipedia the Free Encyclopaedia.  Web.  23 March 2010.

3. Lessig, Larry.  “Larry Lessig on laws that choke creativity.”  TED.com.  TED, March 2007.  Posted Nov 2007.  Web.  23 March 2010.

4. Geist, Michael.  “Canadian Universities Too Close Minded on Open Access.”  Michaelgeist.ca.  19 Oct. 2009.  Web.  23 March 2010.

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