The Need for Educating Technical Communicators on the Changing Face of Copyright and its Impact on the Public Domain and Fair Use
Williams, Karen J.
This thesis presents a framework for understanding the historical basis of copyright in the United States and the impact that recent events have had upon the public domain and fair use. The necessity of technical communicators as writers and educators becoming educated on copyright so that they can knowledgeably navigate copyright laws and emerging issues is the central argument of this thesis. Federal laws and international treaties have caused significant changes. The latest extension of the term of copyright under the Sonny Bono Copyright Act of 1998 has increased the length of copyright for another two decades, benefiting the copyright holder and trade interests, but causing a delay in the arrival of these works within the public domain. It's the public that reaps the benefits of these works when they enter the public domain since they may then freely use these works for knowledge or new creations. This is part of the historical balance of copyright where the creator benefits for a limited time and then the public gains access for its own benefit. Due to changes to copyright laws, this balance has changed, with critics of these changes arguing that the public benefit has been lessened. International treaties also have depleted the public domain since foreign works with an expired American copyright still receive copyright protection if their foreign copyright remains in effect. The eroding public domain also affects the ability of technical communicators and others to access important information for a number of uses. The passage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1998, which makes it illegal to circumvent technological controls that prevent unauthorized access to digital content, has made it more difficult for technical communicators as writers or educators to view this protected content. This lack of access may prevent them from finding the latest information, necessary for the production of a technical document. It also hampers the practice of fair use, which has historically occurred without permission, and allows for the partial and limited use of material. That use of material could include writing reviews or expressing opinions, including criticism. In the classroom, it could include using portions of the content to educate students. By preventing access, these technological controls create walls between information and knowledge and the public. Ultimately, this denial of access affects free speech since there can be no comments or criticism made about information that cannot be viewed. This thesis draws upon the research and writings of academics and lawyers who are concerned about these copyright changes and their impact on society. It argues that there is a need to educate technical communicators about these issues so that they may navigate copyright without infringement and be aware of their rights to use information in the public domain or through fair use.
Williams, Karen J.. (January 2014). The Need for Educating Technical Communicators on the Changing Face of Copyright and its Impact on the Public Domain and Fair Use (Master's Thesis, East Carolina University). Retrieved from the Scholarship. (http://hdl.handle.net/10342/4648.)
Williams, Karen J.. The Need for Educating Technical Communicators on the Changing Face of Copyright and its Impact on the Public Domain and Fair Use. Master's Thesis. East Carolina University, January 2014. The Scholarship. http://hdl.handle.net/10342/4648. April 14, 2021.
Williams, Karen J., “The Need for Educating Technical Communicators on the Changing Face of Copyright and its Impact on the Public Domain and Fair Use” (Master's Thesis., East Carolina University, January 2014).
Williams, Karen J.. The Need for Educating Technical Communicators on the Changing Face of Copyright and its Impact on the Public Domain and Fair Use [Master's Thesis]. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University; January 2014.
East Carolina University