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A Literature Review on the Ethics of Educational Technology

Cecilia Sun Student #: 40396020 ETEC 511

1. Introduction Conformity is not the norm, individuality is. This is the environment youth today is accustomed to. This change is progressively becoming reflected in educational practices. We are teaching students to be individuals and preparing them for jobs that are vastly different from what was available in the past and perhaps even today. Information plays a major role in this change. Its availability and ease of access makes it a valuable resource to educators and students. With it we ask ourselves what it means to own ideas and information. Along with this change, laws governing this information and its enforcement are evolving. Youth in North America are accustomed to this increasingly permissive culture. In opposition to this permissive culture is the protectionist (permission) culture. Copyright law most evidently highlights their differences.

2. Copyright Laws Intellectual property refers to the creations of the mind. It includes images, designs, inventions, and literary and artistic works. Copyright is a subsection of intellectual property, which deals with literary and artistic works. These comprise of novels, poems, play, films, music drawings, paintings, and photography (Patel et al., 2011). In part due to globalization and the ease of exchange of information, protection of intellectual property is becoming a necessity. The aim of copyright laws is to encourage the creator and to discourage others from benefiting commercially from it.

2.1. Copyright Law from Protectionist Perspective Tangible goods can be bought and sold, therefore transferring ownership. By that argument, intangible ideas can also be bought and sold. In the current climate of globalization and access to information through the Internet, ideas have the potential to be traded rapidly. Therefore it appears logical to regulate and enforce laws on this trade as we do with tangible goods. It would give each country the necessary leverage in this global market. Lindgren (1994) believe that to stay competitive each country must protect their assets. As in the case of American protecting their intellectual property in Japan. That patents need to be enforced and loyalties collected. The goal of intellectual property law is after all to encourage and to protect innovation. In a comparison of intellectual property law and competition law, intellectual property law is credited to give exclusive right of use, to reward the inventor, to give incentive to other innovators and to bring ideas into the public domain (Patel et al., 2011). The authors do point out that intellectual property law is monopolistic in nature but that it should not harm the public. They believe a balance of competition law is needed to offset this monopoly to ensure a healthy economy. They also argue that intellectual property laws protect the inventor because copyright only lasts during the lifetime of the inventor plus 60 years. After this period the intellectual property belongs to the public. This protection is solely on the inventor and prevents commercial gains from others, while encouraging other inventors. The enforcement of these laws seems to be the challenge. As in the case of protecting American intellectual property in Japan (Lindgren, 1994), which took over 30 years to patent the use of semiconductors.

While there are obvious differences in inventions that lead to mass production and large profit with the invention of allowing free viewing of e-books online, Lessig (2004) points out that having control and giving permission are not the same. With technology available today, control can easily be built into a program that only allows you to read an ebook and prevent you from printing it. Whereas in the past you might get away if you were not granted permission, assuming you are not looking to profit from the resource, in which case it would not be worth the time for the inventor to bring you to court. The possibility now is that a control can be built in, such as in an e-book, that will not allow you to use it in a way that you were not given permission for.

2.2. Copyright Law from Permissive Perspective We are accustomed to using the Internet as the first resource to find the information we need. Whether its for research, to check the news or to hear a new song. We also take for granted that much of what we find on the Internet we can take for free. In the sense that we do not need to pay for it or the knowledge that we can find a free version if we wanted to. What does it mean for something to be free? Lessig (2001, p12) explains that free can mean using without requiring permission or the permission is granted neutrally. Lessig (2001, p12) believes that the important question to ask is whether a resource should be controlled or if it should remain free. While the answer to this question will give us much insight, we also need to ask if it is at all possible to control some of these resources when we decide to. In the case of controlling e-books it is possible, however controlling innovative ideas someone expresses in their blog might be a challenge.

Giving resources away for free can be beneficial for the inventor as well. Immediate profit is sometimes not the only reward. Barlow (1994) points out that familiarity has more value than scarcity. He argues that by giving something away for free, such as the songs by the Grateful Dead, it increases the bands popularity. Lessig (2004, p79) also argues that Microsoft benefits from the piracy of its software. Many people may be using it for free. However the exposure the software experiences in the consumer market is not possible without piracy. The long-term benefit of establishing this customer base is immeasurable. In the previous section a form of control is mentioned where a program is encrypted to detect unlawful copying. This was proposed as a solution to fight piracy where enforcing the law in all incidences are unrealistic given the difficulty of tracking piracy in every individual case. Barlow (2004) argues that it does little to protect the resource. Users will find other ways to pirate the resource and through the process earn a sense of ownership for their effort. As is the case with pirated software being less than useful if you cannot access updates. This is also the case with the economy of open source programs. Lerner (2002) explains that it is profitable for everyone involved (programmer, developer and user) when source code is made freely available and open to contribution. This was seen in the success of Linux. The question of protecting the inventor and encouraging other creators may be raised by the protectionist point of view. It can be argued that monetary gain is not the only incentive that drives us. In the case of open source programs the user can benefit from his or her contribution and the reputation the contributor earns can lead to more career options and rise in status within the programming community (Lerner, 2002). This

then supports the idea that the creator can be fairly compensated beyond simply money profited from selling a resource.

3. Modern Implications of Intellectual Property Law To shed light on the arguments made by the protectionist side against the permissive side, we should examine the question whether an idea can be owned? Ideally wed like to give a fair share of credit where its due. But how do we know who to give it to if we dont know who the author of the idea is? Philip (2005) makes the comparison of Lawrence Liang and Lawrence Lessigs definition of author. While Liang would like to bring authorship to the background, Lessig talks about bringing authorship to the foreground. Liangs theory about author is perhaps idealized, but it may be the direction we are moving towards. Does it matter who came up with the idea first? When few are completely original and most are extensions or reorganization of whats already available? When copyright lasts 60 years after the life of the creator (Patel et al, 2011). Isnt it what you do with the idea that counts? Ownership can sometimes fall on a blurry line when the item is intangible such as an idea. The question may be that the user is not looking to claim ownership. He or she simply wants rights to use it. If someone takes their favorite song and made their own version of it, he or she is not claiming ownership but usership. Lessig (2008, p80) relates an example of the use of remixing media in schools to engage and excite students. It is more than copying. It is a valuable way for students to learn. In another example Lessig (2004) explains that manga artists in Japan take existing characters and recreate them. This is not frowned up because it benefits the creator of the characters through exposure of

their work. Perhaps we should be less concerned about fighting over ownership and focus instead on other incentives to encourage innovators. Piracy has a negative connotation. It refers to the act of robbery. If we think about ideas as having an owner then robbing that idea is possible. Therefore on the premise that ideas can be owned, it is important to distinguish the bad piracy from the good kind of piracy (Philip, 2005). Good piracy benefits the economy and creativity. Lessig (2008) points out that remix is a kind of creativity as well. We remix our words through quote. The same should apply to media where we remix digital technology. Perhaps the value in this is that students can learn by example. We might learn to write a poem by using the template of a well-known style. We should also be able to stitch together a video using preexisting clips. Lessig (2001) tells the story about the film director who finds his creative outlet restricted because of having to ask for permission for a long list of items that appear in his film. This roadblock on creativity is an issue in film but I can see its parallel in education as well. If a teacher creates a website for her class and uploads a file that she copied but did not create herself, she runs into the problem of asking for permission for this file to be viewed publicly. It is a problem teachers might be able to ignore where a film director cannot because of the size of the audience each reach. This good kind of piracy, or copying, in part fuels the rise of the creative class. As explained by Florida (2002, p14) more and more people today are seeking a creative outlet. More and more jobs fall into the creative class category. If the environment we are moving into is no longer a read-only one (Lessig, 2004, p37) but an actively participating one then the good kind of piracy is not going to go away.

Through the use of the term piracy, ownership is implied. If the possibility of ownership is not in question then the permissive culture view will clash with the protectionist culture view on this issue. While one will argue for the good kind of piracy and the other will argue to protect the author or the owner of the resource.

4. What It Means to Todays Youth This rising creative class is what our students will join. They are not characterized by passive learning. They are growing up in a culture where the technology has made it easier than ever to remake a song and then share it with their friends and anyone with access to the Internet. Feedback is instant and engagement in learning is without a question. Creativity is nourished. Perhaps there is not a sense of ownership of the final product in the traditional sense of owning a tangible property. Its not an original work, some might say. But being able to contribute, even in a small way will earn you satisfaction and pride in your work. Copyright laws do not fully support this culture of free flow of information at the present time. Its existence is based on protection of ownership. Youth are accustomed to a more permissive culture. This culture characterized by the frequently necessity to ask for permission from an author, while at the same time looking for ways to bypass this permission-seeking process. The border of which is often drawn between large profit-making ventures and personal projects. Should we be concerned with teaching students about copyright? Definitely, because copying is still a problem which students can easily find themselves drawn to and it is unethical to take someone elses work and claim it as their own. In addition it has no positive learning value for the student. The students motivator is not based on economics and therefore some of the arguments

for incentives that drive this freeculture may not be applicable here. Discussions and modeling with students should extend beyond referencing hardcopies of literary works and into referencing digital information.

5. Conclusion Perhaps the more convincing arguments are to categorize the ownership of ideas differently than those of physical goods. Less convincing are the arguments that focus on protecting the author from financial loss. As we saw from the examples, ownership of idea may be an outdated notion because it is based on what we know about ownership of tangible things. Therefore, protecting an idea in the same way we protect the hard copy of a movie should not be viewed in the same light. Immediate financial loss can be compensated by financial and other gains in the future. It may be necessary to examine copyright laws in other countries and look for solutions there. The manga artists of Japan have a system of remixing that would appear to infringe on the author right in our culture. The idea about protecting goods so they retain their value in the global market should be reexamined. If each country has different sets of copyright law that does not transfer over borders, then are the copyright laws really protecting who it should be? The majority of the general public, youth included, are not bending copyright laws and looking for loopholes to make profit. Certainly some are, but they may be tarnishing this quest of exploring information in the digital age, which often comes down to an outlet of creative self-expression. Keeping this in mind, who then is more vocal in this clash between permissive versus protectionist culture? Who can gain the most from enforcing

current copyright laws? Perhaps looking at who is the driving force behind each side of the argument will help to put their arguments into context.

References: Barlow, J.P. (1994). The economy of ideas. Wired, 2.03. Retried from http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/2.03/economy.ideas.html Florida, R. (2002). The rise of the creative class. New York: Basic Books. Lessig, L. (2001). The future of ideas. New York: Random House. Lessig, L. (2004). Freeculture. New York: The Penguin Press. Lessig, R. (2008). Remix. New York: The Penguin Press. Lindgren, J.C. (1994). Protecting American intellectual property in Japan. Santa Clara Computer and High-technology Law Journal, 10(1), 1-34. Patel, A., Panda, A., Deo, A., Khettry, S., Mathew, S. (2011). Intellectual property law and competition law. Journal of International Commercial Law and Technology, 6(2), 120130. Philip, K. (2005). What is a technology author? The pirate function and intellectual property. Postcolonial Studies, 8(2), 199-218.