Revolution Lullabye

May 26, 2009

Woodmansee and Jaszi, The Law of Texts

Woodmansee, Martha and Peter Jaszi. “The Law of Texts: Copyright in the Academy.” College English 57.7 (Nov 1995): 767-787.

Woodmansee and Jaszi show how the history of modern copyright is aligned with 19th century literary theory that privileges the solitary autonomous author, a theory that is currently outdated. Even though this theoretical foundation has shifted, copyright has not shifted with it, instead becoming even more restrictive. They argue that compositionists need to take the lead on framing and arguing for balance in copyright protection through 1. taking public stances on educational fair use and the extension of copyright protections and 2. changing their pedagogy from one that depends on the solitary author to one that teaches students about the collaborative, social nature of composing.

Quotable Quotes

“What is needed, in short, is an ethos of collaboration which would encourage students to acknowledge their debts, and a corresponding rhetoric of attribution to help them identify and name these debts – in place of the punitive rhetoric that is typically found in the chapter devoted to the research paper in our current composition textbooks and handbooks” (784).

“The intellectual commons on which we may draw freely as writers and readers, scholars and teachers, is shrinking fast” (772).

“The enclosure of the public domain” (772).

fear of “worldwide uncontrolled piracy” (from “Controlling Electronic Rights” Rights 6.2 (1992): 3-4.)

Notable Notes

extending copyright and restricting fair use – Kinkos photocopying case (does not recognize authorship as arranging and selection, Romantic understanding of the author); absolute 1st publication right restricts the use of unpublished materials

academic writers don’t need the protection of copyright for financial reasons, they write books for status, tenure, not direct profit, so they can turn to copyleft protection

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