Tuesday, November 15, 2005

My essay topic (Ross)

So, I know this is a bit late, but... I'm currently working on my outline of my paper on the topic of how copyright has been justified as necessary to preserve the integrity of works. Basically, I'm interested in looking at how 'moral rights' arguments about copyright as a tool to stop corruption of a work work. These sorts of laws are much more prevalent in the European tradition of copyright, the English & American traditions being based much more fundamentally in an economic argument. Still, 'integrity protecting' arguments are often made by both authors and copyright holders as a reason to block appropriation of their works. I plan on looking at both how these arguments are made (historically and recently) in relation to copyright as well as how other laws enable this sort of blocking behavior (trademark, etc).

Some recent examples I hope to use to tie together this discussion - the trend of colorization of classic movies and the uproar around this, as contrasted with the controversies over recent 'updating' of movies by their creators (Star Wars, E.T., etc), and the decisions of scientific organizations to use copyright to block Kansas from using their works in a curriculum critical of evolution. This is another take on the same question - can/should a creator (or their representatives) stop a use of their work if it would be in a framework that the artist might disapprove of? It is a key tenet of copyright that one can quote from a work even if doing so to point out how awful the work may be - is there a line between this sort of use and 'corrupting' of a work by using it in a way that its creator might strongly disapprove of? (Contrasting this with the 2 Live Crew parody of 'Pretty Woman')

Also of interest is how this argument differs between European and English/American law - in Europe, certain rights to prevent this sort of corruption are fundamentally those of the creator, and may not be sold or traded away, whereas in English/American law, because of the fundamentally economic nature of copyright, often those arguing about the importance of preserving the 'integrity' of a work may even be working against the wishes of the creator. This example may reference the 'Jib-Jab' parody of 'This Land is My Land' from the last election, which was fought by the copyright holders even though many argued that the songwriter would have had no objection.

So that's the general idea... Any thoughts?


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