Copyright Honor

One of my alma maters is known for the strictest of honor ©odes. To matriculate, we signed our allegiance to academic integrity and high standards of personal ©onduct. From time to time, these standards have been publicly ridiculed. But can you imagine a world where we could ®ely on them? Imagine a world where the return of a lost wallet would be ©ommonplace instead of ®efreshing.

©onsider intellectual property rights. Given the ©urrent technological access to almost any human ©eation, we’re told the best we can do is to engage services that attempt to catch and pull down the piracy almost as fast as it happens. See for example this discussion in The ©hronicle of Higher Education about this problem for university presses, which ironically lag behind in both access and protection.

Folks, there’s only one protection, and it is us. We’re on the honor system now.

For only fifty years, those who have raised their ©hildren with a strong sense of ®ight and wrong have been ridiculed. We’ve been told you can do what you want if it isn’t really harming anyone. Find your own north star.

Well, the earth’s northern axis is still ©ircling Polaris. The golden ®ule still applies, and every ©ulture on earth has its ©herished version of it. The same ©onscience develops in every heart where basic human decency and ©aring parenting have nurtured it.

Let’s quit excusing “little white” ©opyright violations along with every other honor code violation. The ®oyalties you save may be your own; the integrity you gain may be even more valuable.


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011. All Rights Reserved. Your conscience is watching.

A Word about Copyright

Copyright folder and stamp copyright Paga Design iStockPhoto 000014148465
© Paga Design, by iStockPhoto® #14148465

My composer son believes in copyright karma. In high school, while pirated music surrounded him, he could have played his iTunes around the clock for two weeks straight without duplicating a track, and every note of it was legally paid for. He wanted others to respect his intellectual property rights so he lived it.

In this era of downloadable music, photos, and books, the profits are tiny–we have to hope quantity compensates–and the connections between creators and buyers are rare.

On this site, I like to give copyright notice for the photos I use and their sources, even though that isn’t required. I do it to thank those artists and organizations who created and distributed them, and to protect their rights whenever someone wants an image they spotted here. I rename the files to include the copyright owner so they can’t be illegally used unwittingly. Remember, that just because we aren’t charging for our use of someone’s work does not give license to reproduce or display it.

Recently I learned that the stock photo service I’ve enjoyed for several years hosts a discussion forum to celebrate works spotted in use. Apparently, it’s the colleagues who usually post these, not the buyers. We buyers could be more thoughtful. I know that whenever I have taken time to thank a photographer and share my image placement, that gesture was enthusiastically welcomed. Here’s what I posted on the iStock in Action forum:

“Lately I’ve gotten lazy about contacting individual photographers to thank you for the great shots to illustrate my blog. And because I’m involved in WordPress’s PostADay2011 challenge, there are more of you to thank! I just learned about this forum, so I’m thanking you publicly and collectively.

“Thank you for the photos that fit my blog perfectly and made that touch of class affordable. Thank you for the ones I almost chose. Thank you for a few still waiting their turns. Thank you for images that inspired blog posts instead of the other way around. Thank you for those that stunned me or made me smile. Thank you for capturing the beauty in the world.”

“Today, I thank Parema for the ice cream cart:” (And I linked to Thursday’s blog.)

And now I’ve picked a new one, so I owe Paga Design a thank you note.


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011, All Rights Reserved

Photo © Paga Design, iStockphoto® #14148465

Some Lawyers Can Write

If you’ve ever wondered how privacy issues would be handled on Krypton with its x-ray vision, or whether the statute of limitations applies in cases of time travel or suspended animations, attorneys James Daily and Ryan Davidson have your answers.

James Daily of Multiverse
Ryan Davidson of Multiverse

Daily and Davidson (wouldn’t that make a great fictional law firm name?) say, “If there’s one thing comic book nerds like doing it’s over-thinking the smallest details. Here we turn our attention to the hypothetical legal ramifications of comic book tropes, characters, and powers. Just a few examples: Are mutants a protected class?  Who foots the bill when a hero damages property while fighting a villain? What happens legally when a character comes back from the dead?”

My interest here: they’re teaching (and researching when needed) real law. They apply American legal principles and precedents; they only feature more interesting case studies than usual.

I hereby add them to my honor roll of unlikely superheroes: lawyers who can write. (Real English required.)

Law and the Multiverse blog

NPR “All Things Considered” story

Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011

Likenesses lifted from Law and the Multiverse without permission. Author claims fair use for educational purposes, for immediate use, with no financial gain involved, and encourages readers to subscribe to Law and the Multiverse.