Copyright for Dummies… and Dylan Dylan Confusion

I found this week’s topic of why the U.S. Copyright Office should be separated from the Library of Congress to be rather interesting.  I wasn’t familiar with U.S. Copyright Office and ALL other functions that fell under the Library of Congress before reading The White Paper released by The Hudson Institute.  I think in the years since it’s implementation in 1870, many things have changed, and with the other priorities that the Library focuses on, there definitely needs to be a separation of the Office.  I find it ridiculous for the Register of Copyrights to have to wait on the library to approve budge requests, IT issues and for everyday issues they may need to sign off on (Tepp & Oman, 2015).  Clearly, either the Library of Congress doesn’t take the Office seriously to put the needs of their customers on hold, or they have too much on their plate.  The paper does make it clear that it isn’t a question of whether the Office needs to modernize- we know that it does, however, I do think they’ve built a good and valid case on the separation between the Office and the Library of Congress.

Oyy… now, this part always makes my head hurt.  I KNOW how important terms like plagiarism, copyright infringement, attribution and transformation is and the importance of relaying this information to our students.  I just need to make sure I get it right and understand it completely.  Plagiarism is probably the one term I am most familiar with from high school and college.  We were always told how plagiarism is not tolerated and would then be told the consequences if anyone was found plagiarizing.  I loved the note in the Plagiarism Today (2013) article that stated, “where copyright infringement is a construct of the law, plagiarism is a construct of ethics”.  I found that to be pretty profound.  We all know that plagiarism, the act of taking another person’s work and passing it off as your own, is wrong, but more so, it is morally unethical (Plagiarism Today, 2013).  When put in that sort of context, it seems to create a larger impact, especially when talking about the subject to students.  A very easy and often seen example is when a student turns in a paper and presents research or spoken thoughts without citing where they got their information and instead, making it look like it is their own work/words.

Copyright Infringement is the act of infringing on the rights of a copyright holder (Plagiarism Today, 2013).  Every year, our 8th graders put on the 8th grade play.  They have put on many different plays, including a handful of Disney plays.  It’s a huge production and the school usually sells t-shirts for fundraising.  Last year, they put on Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Jr. It was an amazing show, however, unlike every other year, they didn’t sell shirts this time.  It was basically a copyright issue.  While the school had permission to put on the play, we did not have permission to reproduce the art work and then sell t-shirts promoting the play.

From my understanding, attribution is giving credit where credit is due.  You are properly citing and giving credit to the source of your information, however, when it comes to publication, attribution is often not enough (The Copyright Detective, 2014).  For example, when publishing a piece of work, it isn’t enough to just credit the source of information, you must also seek proper permission for someone else’s work to be included in the publication.

Transformation is confusing.  From what I’ve been able to gather, transformation is taking parts of a copyrighted work and transforming it to give it new meaning or expression.  I don’t have a great example for this.  For some reason, one thing that comes to mind (and I’m not even sure it falls under transformation!) is from the movie, Dangerous Minds.  You might remember the part where Ms. Johnson is introducing the class to poetry and holds the Dylan Dylan contest.  She uses parts of Bob Dylan’s, Mr. Tamborine Man, and Dylan Thomas’, Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night. She uses the copyrighted works to give the students new understanding of the original material.  I don’t know if that’s a good example because it’s from a movie… and the Dylan Dylan contest wasn’t a published thing.  But then I think… wait,  it was part of the movie.  So was permission needed?  Does it fall under transformation?  I’m not so sure… help me out!

References and Applicable Resources

The Copyright Detective. (2014, August 13). Credit Due- Attribution.  Retrieved from

Plagiarism Today. (2013, October 7). The Difference Between Copyright Infringement and Plagiarism – Plagiarism Today. Retrieved from

Smith, J. N. (Director). (1995). Dangerous Minds [Motion picture].

Tepp, S., & Oman, R. (2015, October). A 21st century copyright office: the conservative case for reform. Retrieved from

Watters, A. (2011, September 9). Teaching Copyrights in the Age of Computers and Mashups. Edutopia. Retrieved from

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