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Hey, that’s mine.

Intellectual property: creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images and designs in commerce

This is the definition provided by WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) an agency of the United Nations.  It is also the topic of discussion for my Gospel and Global Media Culture seminary class for this week.

I can’t help but think back to childhood and life in the sandbox as I mull over all of the details regarding copyright (and copyleft), patent, trademark, private property, public domain and numerous related topics. Basically, what information which has been created by an individual or group can be used by whom, when, for what purposes and to what extent.

File:Our Community Place Sandbox.jpgBy Artaxerxes (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

There was always a kid in the sandbox that no matter what I wanted to play with, would snatch it out of my hands proclaiming, “Hey, that’s mine”. I hated that feeling of having the object of my desire taken away from me- partly because it didn’t seem I had any control over the situation and partly because I didn’t feel I had any right to possess it. And it didn’t matter if the other’s claim to ownership was valid or not. And if there were more than two kids in the sandbox, there was usually the “plays well with others” variety there, too; the kid who was always willing to give you whatever toy (or stick or random detritus) they had…or even better, would join with you to create something together using whatever was at hand.  I guess that is typically considered “playing nice” or “playing fair”.

In the world of “intellectual property” (IP), there are those who claim ownership; some rightfully and others not. In the real world rather than in the sandbox, that ownership is usually tied to matters of monetary gain associated with the idea/concept/product. This is typically accomplished through the legalise of copyright, patent and trademarking ventures. There are also those who believe that ideas shared create better ideas.

In the world of IP, fair use mean borrowing from another’s ideas and creativity without exploiting it for your own personal gain whether that be economic or simply glory by assuming his or her work as your own. I understand that use in terms of limited scope settings such as a classroom, but I still wonder how it all applies in the larger, public world where Internet dissemination of material can occur within seconds.  That can become a sticky wicket mired in issues of not only moral and ethical dilemmas but also litigation. Giving credit where credit is due is an essential component. If you are putting something out on the Internet that you didn’t create all on your own, cite the origins of the material. If you can’t track down the source, say that, too and maybe someone else out there can supply information that you don’t have.

The Internet was designed as a tool to share information. There is a volunteer organization, The Internet Society, that addresses standards and usage issues. Who knew?

7 Responses to Hey, that’s mine.

  1. Kathi, do you have any thoughts about how this might be applied in faith communities? Has it ever come up in a congregation where you have worked or worshipped?

    • In my own experience, it often boils down to financial resources in congregations. The larger congregations that can afford it purchase licenses such as CCLI for music purposes. Smaller churches usually just limit themselves to what they already own, hymnals and occasionally some choir music. It’s also larger congregations that can afford media resources like projectors and sound systems that venture into video productions where images and music are usually credited somewhere, perhaps in a scroll at the end which nobody sees as they rush to get out of the sanctuary to get in line for lunch at a local restaurant! Again, smaller churches which lack those resources just stick with the low tech versions which rarely carry the same implications.

  2. Liz Cheney says:

    I really appreciated the use of the idea “hey that’s mine” in terms of talking about this topic of fair use. It brings it down to a sense of childhood as you stated. This really isn’t all that complicated of an issue. If you follow the rules (which mostly are common sense) you will be just fine. It is so interesting the types of things that bring our anxieties through the rood and then we let our imaginations go wild on the what ifs… So thanks for thinking about this in terms of our childhood sandbox play – we all survived that, we will work through this too!

    • “In house” usage issues are easier to determine. It all becomes infinitely more complex once anything gets posted/published to the global interface of the Internet.

  3. Sometimes, churches try to say that “sharing” is good – but kids are really hurt when they are the ones giving up all their toys while others just snatch it. Sharing is fine, but stealing isn’t, so how do we share with only those who are willing to ‘borrow’ and not steal? We’re doing the 7th commandment in Confirmation this week – and we might talk about this!

    • Excellent distinctions between sharing and stealing, Kelly. I like the idea of discussing this in confirmation in relationship to the 10 Commandments. This would be worthy conversation about Christian ethics for any age group.

      • sarah shanks says:

        Thanks for the great info on WIPO! Great use of the child analogy of “its mine.” I can just picture people saying this when they see that they’re material was used without they’re permission. LOL