Wednesday RDP – COPYRIGHT
“the exclusive right to make and sell copies of an intellectual production,” 1729, from copy (v.) + right (n.). As a verb, “to secure a copyright of,” from 1806 (implied in past-participle adjective copyrighted).
This is a familiar symbol to anyone who reads, writes, does art, anything that can be considered intellectual property. What is really surprising is how much copyright law has been developed since someone first had the idea to protect intellectual property from being plagiarized, copied, wrongly claimed or attributed.
I’ve never applied for a copyright on anything, but from what little I know it’s a lengthy process–one of the many examples of the red tape and bureaucracy that has grown with time in our country.
There are two sad aspects of all this. I am not a lawyer, and I don’t have any specialized legal knowledge. But I do understand the human heart quite well, and am rarely surprised at what contrivances people are capable of in order to steal something from someone else. Art, for example. There are people who are truly gifted, but they make their living by copying the old masters and selling them at quite outrageously high prices. If they would spend as much time and effort creating their own work, they probably wouldn’t become millionaires overnight, so they choose the dark side instead.
On a lighter note, I taught English and history for high schoolers for several years. Because I taught both subjects, I assigned a paper that would draw from both subjects, and the students were given a grade in history for content, and in English for mechanics, spelling, grammar, and appropriate form. There was a young man who thought the whole assignment was stupid, and I guess he thought I was stupid, too. He wrote the first couple of pages on his computer, and then he stuck in several pages that were copied out of an encyclopedia. A couple more pages of his own were at the end. I don’t know for sure, but my best guess is that he didn’t think I would really read all those pages, and that as long as the required number of pages was met, he’d get a good grade.
He was furious when I handed it back to him with a big, fat red zero on the cover. Did you get that? HE was furious with ME! He came storming up to my desk after class demanding to know why I’d given him a zero.
“Well, Stanley, (not his real name, of course) that would be because most of it wasn’t your own work. You cheated. You tried to pass of an encyclopedia as your own writing, which you and I both know is nothing like your own writing. You didn’t complete the assignment, and you cheated. That’s a zero.”
“You can’t do this! I’m going to tell my dad what you did to me!” And he went charging out of the room in a temper
What I did to HIM? Good grief. As it turned out, I had a short chat with his dad, and Stanley turned in a second paper a week later. It met all the requirements of the assignment, but it was a week late and it was full of grammatical errors. Gave him a C-. Again, he was furious, but this time he had the sense not to confront me. His dad was on my side, glory be! Parents aren’t always willing to back up the teacher in these situations, which I find very sad. What the kid learns is that the teacher doesn’t matter, has no authority, and that he doesn’t need to waste any effort on any assignment.
I used to laugh when some kid came up to me wanting to know why I “gave” him such a low grade on his report card. My stock answer? “I don’t GIVE you a grade, my friend. You EARN that grade, and here is your line in my grade book which, if you look, you will see there are many assignments you didn’t turn in. That’s what the zeros are for. Then, take a look at your major test grades. They hover between C and F. You earned that grade. And I will also remind you that I sent regular notes home, alerting your parents that you were not doing well. I’ve done my job. You didn’t do yours.”
That kid would usually walk away muttering “no fair” under his breath.
And isn’t it amazing where one little word can take a person?