Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Uploading Class Notes for Payment?

The University of Wisconsin-Madison student paper, The Daily Cardinal reports in its September 22, 2008 issue on a free new service, Knetwit.com that accepts uploads of student and faculty class notes from around the world ("New Website to Pay Students for Note-Taking"). Uploading students and faculty receive payment in "Koins" when their notes are downloaded by others. Koins can be turned into cash or used in the online store.

Employees of Knetwit.com say that the site "supplements" a student's class attendance and doesn't encourage absenteeism. Noah Simon of Knetwit.com adds that the site helps to "create another learning environment where students can network."

Discussion Questions:
  1. How do you know if someone else's notes reflect what a professor really said or demonstrated?
  2. Isn't it easier to go to class and take your own notes? Or bring a digital recorder to get everything a professor says (with their permission, of course)?
  3. Is it ethical and/or legal to post notes based on content developed by someone else (your professor)?
  4. Are notes so personalized that someone else cannot benefit from reading another student's writing? Do most students use so many abbreviations and symbols that the notes are useless to another student?
  5. Isn't it more efficient to ask the professor directly for clarification of a topic if you don't understand?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Rowling Victory in Copyright Case

Author J.K. Rowling prevailed in her case against a Harry Potter fan who wanted to publish a lexicon that added no original content to large portions of Ms. Rowling's work according to a BBC News story published September 8, 2008 ("Rowling Wins Book Copyright Claim"). Steven Vander Ark compiled his reference book primarily with Rowling's text from the Potter series. Rowling said this ruling champions the right of authors to control their creative material. Rowling herself planned to write a Potter encyclopedia with profits going to charity. Fair use allows for limited reuse of a creator's work providing that there is "criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research" added to the original content, based on the U.S Copyright Office's explanation of the practice. After the judge's decision, Rowling made a statement that seemingly supports the right of others to develop works "which offer original insights into the world of Harry Potter." However, she agreed that the lexicon did not include such unique material and that it should be considered "wholesale theft."

Discussion Questions:

  1. If someone can rework pieces of her writing into another type of work, why shouldn't they be allowed to make a fraction of what Rowling earns?
  2. Does "fair use" encourage a free flow of ideas based on another creator's work? Why or why not? NOTE: Review fair use details at the U.S. Copyright Office link above.