Finding the Balance

Copyright laws in America are more complex and more important to the public than I honestly ever realized. I never knew that arguments to keep extending copyright privileges meant stymieing intellectual and artistic creativity. Or, on the other side of the argument, that people and their families should be able to capitalize off their work forever. Obviously, this is a controversial debate that I am not well versed in but copyright is related to paying for the rights to use a product or idea in a digital humanities project like an online archive.

However, in looking at digital humanities and the ethics and commercialism of the field, I believe the copyright issue must be looked at on a case by case basis. In class, we looked at the Digital Public Library of America’s online archive. In huge, well-funded archives like this, it is important to give the public access to the resources because libraries are supposed to be accessible by anyone. Furthermore, if all the resources were donated or traded to the Digital Public Library of America (or any public library, museum, archive etc.,) their owners had the intent of giving the history to the public for their own use. The line is drawn, however, when public use turns into private projects. As a historian and a digital humanist, if I were to spend time and money on a project, I would want some profit or gain for my work. For example, if I put together a digital project and other people were using it for their personal gain, I would want something for my work. So, when small-funded projects are created with only a few people and no major supporters or funding, people should have to pay to use their work.

Digitizing resources should also be done on a case by case basis. If we digitize everything and make it free, people will be dissuaded from making new material and media. But if we do not digitize, the point of academic research, libraries, and sharing of knowledge is lost. Not everything should be digitized until the owner has given permission, the issues of the rights have been decided upon, and if people have to pay to use the digitized resource or not has been cleared up. By deciding on a case by case basis, intellectual creativity is encouraged for people and if someone wants to commercialize their work or property they can if the original intent is not for public use. There must be a balance between what is public and what you have to pay for because it simultaneously encourages creativity and gives people the opportunity to profit from their work.

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