Wednesday, 28 May 2008

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?

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