Yesterday I came across an article written in 2003 by Stephen Downes about copyright and its relationship with ethics. The subject interests me due to its great impact on the empowerment of citizens. It relates to free access to educational/cultural products. It relates to culture and income distribution too. It’s also about exposing your work (and yourself) to those with opinions different from your own. It’s about controlling others. Need I say more?
As usual, I tend to agree with Downes’s points AND keeping my mixed feelings about the subject. Among other things he says, “Copyright, from my perspective, is a haven for thieves. It is a license to claim ownership over anything you might happen to find on the internet (and elsewhere) that isn't clearly nailed down. Worse, it is providing a means for those who enter this free and open space called the internet to put up fences and say "this is mine," to appropriate a network designed for open exchange and to convert it to a private publication and distribution system.”
This sounds quite right and fair. What bothers me is that going against (disrespecting) copyright is illegal. On one hand, well, it could be argued simply that it shouldn’t be illegal (at least not totally illegal), but, on the other, while it is, I don’t feel comfortable advocating for breaking the law. Then I come to a dilemma: as an educator who preaches for citizen empowerment, should I be advocating for a law that prevents/limits the access to education of those who need most? But shouldn’t empowerment and democracy be based on the respect of laws?
Monday, 12 May 2008
I was reading Donald Clark's blog about how much more public life's supposedly become and I thought of myslef. I’ve been fighting my tendency to fight personal transparency. My need to veil my life, my habits, my likes. My discomfort (disgust) for being too open to the world, too traceable, too public. I’m an e-Learning educator; I need to have a public/accessible online Anamaria. I need to socialize and share and learn and network. So far, it’s seemed like a reasonable price to pay, considering how much I’ve learned (and hopefully have helped others learn). So I blog (in English and in Portuguese), I’m on Facebook and Orkut. I’m on SCoPE. I read (with great pleasure) some edubloggers I have come to admire. Yet, every now and then, this weird suspicion comes to my mind… how public, transparent, open is this new world where I’ve come to be a constant visitor (and eventually a contributor)? And of course I don’t ignore the fact that it’s accessible to anyone with an internet connection. I mean open in terms of providing different opinions, opinions I don’t immediately agree with. How transparent is a world where apparently all inhabitants share the same core values, the same basic opinions about education and learning? Sure anyone can disagree—and some do in fact write about their disagreements, but, in general, I’m still protected by a cozy community of peers much like in my private life… Shouldn’t I be openly/transparently networking with those whose opinions I despise? I particularly liked a sentence I found in elearnspace where George Siemens says, “A few good cynics are always nice to have around”. Where are the cynics in the edublogosphere? Perhaps I need to look for them in the private, obscure, offline world?