Corporate Copyright

Tonight copyright law caught up with me for the first time. Jeni and I, are having a baby as most of you know. As is the case with most babies our son to be, Brendan, will be needing a room of his own. The nursery has come slow but is getting there over time. Now we are at the point where we want to paint a saying from one of the Dr. Seuss books on Brendan’s wall. The saying is “Oh, The Places You’ll Go”. I am sure most parents are familiar with this book. It is about all the wonderful places your child will go, and the things they will accomplish. Anyways, this seemed like a simple enough task. We just need an overhead projector, a bucket of paint, a paint brush, and a color transparancy of the title of the book to trace and paint over. All of this seems easy enough, but I was wrong….sort of. Apparently it is a violation of, Dr. Seuss’s rights for me to copy the cover of his book onto a transparency. This did not suprise me too much, until I through out the teacher card. My wife Jeni is a teacher, and my rough understanding of fair use taught me that you are allowed to make copies for educational purposes. Apparently Office Depot, Office Max, and FedEx Kinkos do not agree with that.

To validate my rant, I decided to do a two second google search for some information on the topic. I found a document from the University of Maryland Univserity College. The document goes over the technical details of fair use, but I was just intersted in their discussion of how fair use applies to instructors. If I can ask you to ignore the fact that my copying of the document was not for use by Jeni in her classroom, we can continue on our journey down my rant. The first portion of the document I want to point out is that it states that there are a couple of criteria to consider when deciding if you are potentially infringing on copyright:

Copying by teachers must meet the tests of brevity and spontaneity:

Brevity refers to how much of the work you can copy.
Spontaneity refers to how many times you can copy.

Brevity: I wanted to copy one sentence.
Spotaneity: I wanted a single copy of the one sentence.

So far so good, My wife is a teacher, and I wanted one copy of one sentence of the work by Dr. Seuss.

Finally under “What can be copied” I looked for images or cartoons. Low and behold it is allowed. Regardless of this I was not allowed to copy the document at the two of the three retails above. I will say before going any further I have my transparency in hand, and all is well on that front. Brendan will have his wall painted.

So why am I upset? I am upset because Office Depot, Office Max, and FedEx Kinkos all have company policies assuming people are lying. This seems to be all to common in America today. This does not suprise me though, because America seems to be willing to let go of any rights they have because we have all been brainwashed to believe that government, and corporations are demi-gods and not to be questioned. You can probably see this every in your life, someone will not be sure if something is sanitary in a restaurant, but “Oh I am sure they wouldn’t serve us anything that wasn’t properly cleaned or cooked.” I don’t know about most of you but I have worked in two fast food restaurants and trust me, if it looks unsafe, it probably is. I am not sure why Americans began “trusting” these corporations with our decisions, and letting them dictacte what is right for us.

I have so much more to say about this topic but I am not quite sure how to express it. I just think it is a sad state of life we live in that, we don’t stand up for our rights because we are afraid we can’t afford to fight it. That is what most of this boils down to, because coproations can afford to pay those top lawyers, and legal bills, but Joe Nobody can’t. I just hope that our legal system cathces up and realizes the state of American and attempts to fix it soon.

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