Friday, March 27, 2009

Intellectual Property

I just watched a great video that was recommended on Twitter by Alec Couros. The URL is and the video is called RIP: A Remix Manifesto. It discusses the notion of copyrighting ideas and explains the devious and greedy history behind copyrighting. I had no idea that a living organism could be copyrighted!

It was fascinating to listen to a former Clinton staffer explain the planned shift in the American economy from things to ideas. I had no idea that allowing low-wage manufacturing jobs to go to Asia was a conscious decision. The Americans miscalculated badly - they believed that they could convince the WTO to enforce American copyrights of American ideas. Their intention was, essentially, to create a closed intellectual world in which they would have to be paid for any use, extension, or manipulation of any idea they claimed to be their property.

American copyright laws extend even to medications for diseases such as AIDS. Thankfully, some countries, such as Brazil, are defying these laws to produce copies of these drugs at a fraction of the cost. This is an illustration of how amoral copyrighting can be. If we are to move forward and prosper not as a nation, but as a planet, we need to combine our thinking, not keep it private.

The video then discusses the creation of creative commons - a digital space where music is shared, altered, and recreated. This is a truly profound concept and I think it is particularly relevant to education. The PLC movement is a start, but on a really small scale. Technology provides the keys for educators to create our common spaces and develop our craft as a collective. The days of hoarding unit plans in dusty filing cabinets must end - by working together and thinking together, we all gain.

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