Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Intellectual Property Corner: Plagarism / Copyright questions

Cory Doctorow over at Boing Boing asks whether flowcharts are in the public domain. I totally agree that copyright is a legal mess.

I like to blame it on the Mouse. While that is a vast oversimplification, Disney and their corporate counsel have worked hand in glove with the RIAA and the MPAA to subvert the basic rationale of copyright law to protect their interests.

Bastards. The urge to find a scapegoat for copyright's complex evolution is hard to resist...

I've read some about the machinations at the WTO to enforce copyright law, but it's hard to know who to believe and how to get a handle on the situation. The politics of patenting recombinant DNA and genetic manipulation is a whole Pandora's box of interesting questions.

Not only do I wonder about flowcharts, but also about powerpoint slides published on the Internet. If you copy someone's powerpoint slide in toto, you should give them credit. But what if you replace all the text? What if you just borrow a phrase or a backdrop? What is it's a free Microsoft backdrop? Should you give Microsoft credit? Am I obligated to go hunt for metadata to figure out who made it? If I don't, am I vulnerable to a plagiarism charge. Surely the plagiarism issues are the same in powerpoint slides as they are in texts and journal articles.

What if the person I borrowed it from stole it from somewhere else?

Suggestions welcome. Not that I lose sleep over this issue, but I wonder about it.

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