For next time…

If you’re looking for your exam paper, scroll down the page — I posted it a few days ago.

Now, I’m writing about what we’ll be doing in Week 9. I still don’t feel we’ve adequately covered the issues covered by Week 5 group and Week 7 group, so while I wanted to move to other topics, I think we will also spend some time on the following:

1. The issue of different (competing) models for protecting the income of content creators.

Copyright is not an “issue” in itself: it is simply one of a number of different models that exist for the assignment and protection of the rights of contents… and, since the rise of the internet, a pretty controversial one. While students presented Copyright vs. Copyleft as an either/or choice, it isn’t: Copyleft is in fact simply a movement calling for both the preservation of, but also the liberalization of, existing copyright laws. In other words, Copyright and Copyleft are both philosophies of copyright, just as Catholic and Protestant religions are both forms of “Christianity,” or rock and pop music are both forms of “popular music.”

Copyright is not the only model there is for the protection of rights-holders of creative content, however. Another model that exists, which is not legal but technical, is DRM. We will discuss the strengths and problems of each: DRM, copyright, and some other form of rights-protection.

(For the foreign students in our class, you might want to review the Chinese expression 修身齊家 治國平天下 (or, in Korean, 수신제가 치국평천하).)

2. The irony that, in the last panel discussion, the advocates of copyright conservativism are admitted content pirates.

I will set aside the ridiculous hypocrisy of this position, and simply suggest that reflecting on the fact suggests something very important about copyright laws… and something that Dr. Lawrence Lessig has in fact pointed out in his book Free Culture. I will not bother to assign the book for reading this semester, not even because it is freely (and legally) available in English online, since I am certain both from experience and from your performance during the first half of semester that most students will not read it (not even in translation) — though I encourage you to read it if you are in the minority that is interested — but I will bring up one very important observation he makes regarding the conflict between copyright law, and common practice, and what he suggests is the inevitable outcome of this conflict.

Also, I suggest you reflect on the fact that, when asked, most students in our class mentioned spending money on music only occasionally; the copyright conservatives’ defense of conservative copyright laws (which are much stricter in Korea since 2009, but don’t seem to be more effective) is just as nonsensical as the opposition, which imagined Copyleft as some kind of anti-Copyright movement. Which it isn’t.

Which is to say, yes, I was not impressed with the panel discussion. And from what I saw of students surfing the net on their phones, doodling, and otherwise not listening, neither were other students. I expect better from the Week 11 and the Week 13 groups.

3. The issue of self-censorship as a component of censorship policies…

…and what the Real Name system and witch hunts have to do with it. Top-down censorship is far from the only kind in existence today, and it is important to recognize other forms as well.


  1. Check out this lecture by Lawrence Lessig, with a flash presentation onscreen. (It’s the link after “View It!” (here) but there are also mirrors you can try if it doesn’t load.) Listen to it several times, or until you feel you have a good understanding of what Lessig is saying. And yes, it will be on the exam.
  2. Spend some time thinking about the positives and negatives of copyright from different points of view. Not just your own point of view, which is basically a useless way to think of policy questions: think about the effects (positive and negative) on famous creative artists; on new (un-famous) creative artists; on students and educators; on big corporations; on society generally.
  3. Do a little reading about DRM, so that you have some idea about what I’m going to explain. Also, spend some time thinking about the Chinese expression I wrote above, and see if you can figure out where I’m going with my argument.
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