Author Archives: Dr. K Matthew Dames

The Georgia State E-Reserves Decision

This article discusses the impact of a the recent federal district court decision [pdf] that, for the first time, provides colleges and university with some guidance on the use of copyrighted works for instructional purposes.

Justia provides a collection of filings and rulings in the case.

Case Summary

In April 2008, Cambridge University Press, Sage Publications and Oxford University Press sued officials at Georgia State University (“GSU”), claiming they were responsible for copyright infringement. The publishers’ complaint arose from Georgia State’s practice of allowing faculty to use university networks and university library E-reserves systems to copy and distribute book excerpts to students without paying licensing fees.

Officials for GSU, a public university, claimed that the creation and use of the unlicensed copies were allowable pursuant to the the fair use doctrine, and therefore not copyright infringement. The officials also responded that the sovereign immunity doctrine precluded GSU or its officials from copyright infringement liability.

Judge Orinda D. Evans ruled May 11, 2012, that GSU professors had committed five copyright infringements from four of the publishers’ titles. The publishers had alleged 75 copyright infringement claims. The publishers will file within 20 days their proposed injunction.

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History of the Special 301 Report

This article provides an updated history of the Special 301 process, including its and the annual report. It accompanies my auditorial on the U.S. Trade Representative’s 2012 Special 301 report.

For ease of reading and formatting, this excludes scholarly references, but all content I’ve used to develop the original report and this update is accessible in the Sources section. Works by Susan Sell and Peter Drahos provide particularly helpful historical context.

Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) maintains a collection of all the Trade Representative’s Special 301 reports since 1989.

The 2012 Special 301 report is available [pdf] from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).
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The Piracy Paradigm and the Special 301 Report


I speak about the 2012 Special 301 Report, which is available [pdf] from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).

My updated history of the Report and the Special 301 process also is available.

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Opening Statement

Several scholars have written convincingly about the role rhetoric and metaphors play in shaping contemporary copyright policy. Much of this scholarship explores the use and meaning of the term “piracy.” For example, William Patry’s Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars (2009) provides extensive research on the role of metaphors and their purported effect on copyright policy.

Another work, John Logie’s Peers, Pirates, and Persuasion: Rhetoric in the Peer-to-Peer Debates (2006), employs what the author calls “rhetorical historicism” to pay attention to the speaker and the institutions that are authorizing the discourse,. Logie also critiques the relationships between rhetoric and its broader cultural context.

Adrian Johns’ Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates (2010) chronicles the tensions between authorized and unauthorized producers and distributors of information, cultural and entertainment goods in British and American culture from the 17th through 21st centuries. Johns’ primary argument is that piracy, which he loosely defines as the unauthorized use or taking of works that are protected by one or more intellectual property regimes, is not new. Instead, Johns says, scope and an “antipiracy” industry that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s is the difference between the “piracy” of today and the “piracy” of yore.

As thorough as these efforts are, they attempt to analyze language and metaphors in isolation, without a thorough consideration of the political, social, and environmental conditions that influence language and its use. Rarely do metaphors and rhetoric occur in a vacuum; instead, they often emanate from a particular point of view, a way of seeing the world that the speaker holds. Of course, it is possible that a speaker can employ rhetoric disingenuously merely for political or economic; many lobbyists and public relations professionals do this daily. But just as many of those professionals truly believe the causes for which they advocate, and thus are as likely to be genuine in their language than not. This means that much of their language, meant to persuade, may not be insincere.

Any time we discuss rhetoric or metaphors, it is appropriate to explore the ideology, mindset, beliefs and values that support that language. To engage properly and thoroughly, such an exploration requires multidisciplinary historical and cultural research. In studying U.S. copyright law and policy since its inception, I believe the “piracy” meme has little to do with unauthorized “theft” or “taking” of another ’s creative “property.” Instead, “piracy” is the lens through which copyright law’s decision makers view the regime and its boundaries.

I call this lens the piracy paradigm. This project explores that lens.

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