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Report of the Meeting of the Annual CCCC Intellectual Property Caucus

Meeting Date: Weds. April 6, 2011
Location: Atlanta, Georgia

In April, the Intellectual Property Caucus met in Atlanta, GA at the annual Conference on College Composition and Communication. Open to all registrants at the conference, the yearly meeting of the caucus provides an opportunity for participants to learn about intellectual property (IP)-related developments during the previous twelve months as well as to join in roundtable discussions about continuing or pending IP issues likely to affect instructors and students.

Summary of Roundtable Discussions

Among the roundtables this year was one at which participants discussed the implications of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for teaching and learning. Participants at this roundtable agreed that it is necessary to advocate for the extension of current exemptions that allow university and college instructors, as well as and film and media studies students, to bypass encryption in order to make fair use of video clips. They also resolved to advocate for the extensions of those exemptions to K-12 students and teachers, as well as to all college and university students regardless of whether they are enrolled in film or media studies courses. To these ends, caucus members will need to respond to upcoming calls for comments and testimony on the DMCA and to encourage their colleagues to do likewise.

In terms of reaching out to their colleagues, caucus participants set two additional goals: to inform educators and administrators of their current rights under the DMCA and to legally point them in the direction of tools that allow users to bypass digital protection in order to make fair use of videos for educational purposes. Finally, DMCA roundtable participants set a long-term goal: to advocate for a change in the law that restricts the dissemination of information about how to defeat encryption. This is an important goal since the current law is rather paradoxical: while current exemptions allow users to break digital codes (in order to make fair use of video clips for educational purposes), there is no clearly stated exemption for the dissemination of information about how to defeat encryption. As a result, instructors and students may desire to make fair use of video clips but lack the necessary tools. Roundtable participants agreed that the right to make fair use of resources is meaningless without the means to do so.

Another roundtable discussed the relationship between students’ rights to their own writing and to the writing of others.  In questioning how new media technologies (listservs, blogs, wikis, social networking sites) complicate traditional conceptualizations and definitions of IP, the participants of this roundtable found themselves looking carefully at the ways in which plagiarism policies are articulated institutionally and nationally.  Participants agreed that there may be a need to revisit and revise such plagiarism policies and statements so that they are responsive to new media technology.  Participants were also interested in how best to respond to institutional pressures to use plagiarism detection software as well as the general trend toward “surveillance mechanisms” in course management tools.  In thinking about the recent conflict over access to a university professor’s emails in Wisconsin, these kinds of questions are not only relevant but of great importance to our profession.

Among the issues discussed by other roundtables were how best to teach IP issues to our students, to understand the implications of current open access/fair use court cases to our work in the classroom, and to identify and utilize the current research and publications on IP issues.  Each of these tables addressed the need for educators to advocate for and implement open source software solutions, as well as to address the fact that plagiarism, fair use, and “remix” are often introduced as restrictions in the writing classroom, rather than as concepts to be explored and understood.  In particular, the participants at the “Teaching IP with RiP!” roundtable looked at the ways in which Brett Gaylor’s documentary RiP: A Remix Manifesto can be used to help students understand the landscape of IP and the corresponding ways in which they can compose and create in that “contested” space.  Those participants tracking the open access/fair use court cases were most interested in the Cambridge University Press et al. v. Georgia State court case as its ruling will have far reaching implications in terms of the form (print/online) and amount of material that teachers can use (fairly) in their courses.  Caucus participants reiterated the need for educators to provide unrestricted access to data through the creation of open access archives where both scholarship and student work could be deposited.   To that end, participants suggested a number of specific IP resources that could be created, such as a “web style guide” written specifically for student use.  Members of the caucus will continue to follow the process by which the federal government develops its intellectual property enforcement strategy in hopes of keeping the needs of students and educators in the forefront.  This will become especially important in the coming months, as the DMCA tri-annual rulemaking hearings are just around the corner (2012).

Next Year’s CCCC-IP Caucus – St. Louis, Missouri 2012

Caucus members are in the process of preparing proposals for roundtables for the 2012 caucus, which will take place in St. Louis, Missouri .  Coordinating the proposals is the new senior chair of the caucus, Martine Courant Rife, a professor of writing in the English Department at Lansing Community College, Michigan, who has been teaching online, face-to-face, and hybrid freshman composition, argumentation, technical and business writing, and advanced writing for over ten years.  In addition to chairing the caucus, Martine has served for the past two years as Editor of the NCTE- IP Committee/Caucus Inbox Project.  Anyone with questions about the caucus and/or the plans for its annual meeting in 2012 can contact Martine at martinerife@gmail.com

Submitted for the CCCC-IP CaucusTraci A. Zimmerman Ph.D., Senior Chair of the IP Caucus
Associate Professor
School of Writing, Rhetoric & Technical Communication
James Madison University

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