Over the past few decades, the technology of writing has been changing at an unprecedented pace, and intellectual property law has been struggling to keep up with these changes. As online courses proliferate and blogs enter the classroom, the growing tensions between writing and law have become increasingly relevant to daily educational practices. Since the founding of the Conference on College Composition and Communication’s Intellectual Property Caucus (IPC) in 1994, questions of fair use and copyright in one capacity or another have begun to define a significant subject of scholarly inquiry. Those of us who teach text-making—particularly new media composition—often find ourselves encountering specific areas of focus: whether we are determining how to advise students when they want to appropriate and incorporate images from the internet, or wondering who may claim legal ownership of the teaching and research materials we produce for our employing institutions, we always want to keep our text-writing goals working within the legal parameters.
Composition and Copyright: Perspectives on Teaching, Text-making, and Fair Use (Edited by Steve Westbrook, Suny Press, 2009), the first book collection to emerge from the IPC’s conversations, offers a thorough investigation of how copyright law is currently influencing processes of teaching and writing within the university. Drawing connections between legal developments, new media technologies, and educational practices, the volume’s contributors explore the law’s theoretical premises, applications to traditional and online writing classrooms, and larger effects on culture and literacy. Central to the volume is the question of what may constitute “infringement” or “fair use” and how the very definition of these terms may permit or prohibit specific writing or teaching activities.
Divided into three sections, Composition and Copyright offers a diversity of perspectives from writing teachers, legal experts, and industry professionals. It includes contributions from Jessica Reyman, Sohui Lee, Clancy Ratliff, Brian D. Ballentine, Steve Westbrook, Lisa Dush, Martine Courant Rife, TyAnna Herrington, John Logie, and Jeffrey R. Galin. In the first section, “Defining Cases and Concepts,” contributors draw connections between legislative developments, precedent-setting legal cases, and educational practices, examining, for instance, the implications of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and MGM Studios v. Grokster for teachers and students of new media composition. The second section, “Teaching the Conflicts,” focuses pointedly on how writing teachers address problems of copyright pedagogically. Contributors to this section analyze the ways in which textbooks frame discussions of fair use, explore students’ understanding of legal and illegal textual practices, and offer strategies for discussing questions of appropriation in blogs and visual texts. Contributors to the book’s final section, “Concluding Polemics,” argue for increased awareness and activism on the part of faculty members; pointing to the restrictive and censorial capacities of copyright law, they suggest that writing teachers take proactive roles to protect writers’ freedoms. As a collection, Composition and Copyright provides an excellent resource for teachers and students working in the fields of composition-rhetoric, professional and technical writing, communications, and jurisprudence.
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