This blog documents my LIS 753 MLIS Graduate course at Dominican University.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Blog Post #3: Copyright and the First Amendment

Access to information in today's society has become more of a commodity than in previous years, decades, and so on. The digitial world has made access to information more of a commodity than a U.S. constitutional right. "Librarians [are] targeted in [the] latest copyright battles". One the one side, librarians, the defenders of informational first amendment rights, on the other side, the publishers, those who own the copyrights to said information. The power struggle ensues when the two sides go head-to-head regarding the accessible rights to copyrighted information. "Fair use" to copyrighted information is what the two sides hold over each other's heads.

There are currently four factors [that are] considered in order to determine whether specific [information] is to be considered "fair use." These factors are: "1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes, 2. the nature of the copyrighted work, 3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, and 4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work." (Fair Use in Copyright (BitLaw))

The above factors attributed to the "fair use" of information, in my opinion, heavily defend the librarians' side of the battle, for aren't librarians' desires to gather and have information applied to "nonprofit educational purposes"? I ask the following questions: 1. Why is there a limitation on the access of information in the United States? 2. Is the United States society not tailored around freedoms such as stated in the U.S. consitional amendments, and why does access to information not apply in this case? 3. Is not the limitation of access to information "unconstitutional"?

The first amendment of the U.S. constitution clearly states that, "The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable...To subject the press [or for that matter, the public] to the restrictive power of a licenser, as was formerly done, both before and since the Revolution, is to subject all freedom of sentiment to the prejudices of one man, and make him the arbitrary and infallible judge of all controverted points in learning, religion and government".
(Findlaw: U.S. Constitution: First Amendment: Annotations pg. 6 of 21)

So, why do publishers feel that they can change U.S. constitutional law? Correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't the U.S. pride itself on "freedom"? If monetary value is placed on freedom, is freedom no longer "free", but non-existent? I believe that the U.S. has to weigh how it truly gauges things...Is placing monetary value on supposed freedom more important than freedom itself? And, it copyrighting materials a freedom? A freedom for who?


Blogger Dan_S said...


I agree with a lot of what you said. I too find it puzzling that publishers or any "owners" of information can keep information for an increasingly obsurd amount of time. I think what the founders of the US forgot was that the number of lawyers and accountants would grow exponentially as the country was formed. The best way to fight is to continue to put relevant, valuable, and trusted information out through user controlled options such as wikis and blogs.

4:44 PM

Blogger Michael Stephens said...

Fascinating post... and intriguing comment... How do you think the Creative Commons will play into this?

5:52 PM

Blogger DebbieG. said...

You are correct...I agree completely. I find it upsurd that publishers can take their time and keep information from others. I also agree with Dan's comment that placing your information through wikis and blogs is one way to get your thoughts out there.

8:37 AM

Blogger K Tucker said...

Don't forget that copyright law ITSELF is part of the Constitution, though!

Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution empowers Congress "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

Fair Use is actually a later-developed precedence, created by the Supreme Court through a number of cases dealing with the inherent conflict between free speech and copyright protection. It was only considered to be "common law" until 1976, when it was incorporated into the Copyright Act (17 USC. Sec. 107.)

So, long story short, publishers DO have a Constitutional leg to stand upon, whether we like it or not. Indeed, whether we like it or not, they are not, in fact, changing constitutional law, as you indicated. In a way, what they are doing with such things as the Sony Bono Copyright Extension Act is, shall we say, creatively reinterpreting the phrase "for limited Times."

12:12 PM

Blogger K Tucker said...

Oh, and, let me hasten to point out that as a librarian and a rational human, ha, I DO think that publishers' efforts to lengthen copyright term and tighten copyright restrictions, while TECHNICALLY based on US Constitutional law, are reprehensible, and benefit no one but the publishers themselves, rather than the totality of the people, as was originally intended.

12:32 PM


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