“A Call to Focus on Copyright” is an article recently posted on Inside HigherED. Written by Scott Jaschik, it reports on Pamela Samuelson, a leading expert on intellectual property issues, and her presentation to attendees at the 2013 Educause annual meeting.
According to the report, Ms. Samuelson starts by advocating an activist approach in maintaining recent legal gains in “fair use” in cases like the Georgia State University and Hathi Trust as they enter into the appeals process. But Ms. Samuelson goes further insisting that such activism is also critical in light of the fact that Maria A. Pallante, the U.S. registrar of copyrights has “proposed a Congressional review of the law” and evidently, Congressional leaders plan to begin such a review next year.
While she admits that the academic community is highly skepticism of Congress, Ms. Samuelson says that academics need to stay involved and make their voices heard. In fact, she insists that as part of the debate, higher education needs to “reposition itself so that it is not just viewed as a consumer of copyrighted materials but as a major producer of them.” But more importantly, she argues, it needs to be made clear that many in the academic community want their works available as widely as possible and are not in favor of copyright restrictions. In order to help put her ideas into action, Ms. Samuelson is starting an “Authors Alliance, for academics “who want our works available.”
In addition, she advocates that academics “push back” and “refuse to sign over copyright to publishers, or to impose limits on any rights they turn over.” Faculty have more leverage than they realize and they should take advantage of it to make their works more easily accessible.
However, despite the importance of such actions Samuelson ends by returning to her main point that “academics participate in in the political debates over copyright.” Regardless of their misgivings about Congress they need to ensure that their concerns about fair use and other copyright issues are on the agenda if copyright legislation is considered next year. In short, she is advocating that the academic community increase its involvement and not abandon the field because of a distaste for Congress and politics.
Of course, as usual we are just offering a summary. In order to get the full impact of Ms. Samuelson’s presentation you will want to read the whole account.