UNCP Faculty Corner

Intellectual Property

This is a discussion of copyright concerns taking into account the university does not have a copyright office.



  1. Very well stated Jamie – the digital age has only made the lack of understanding of what intellectual property is even more apparent. The record companies were just the beginning. Publishers of all types are going after digital infringement in university settings on P2P networks, university websites, course management systems, and course reserves with lawsuits totally many hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more. While it is not plagiarism, as George points out, it is still copyright infringement, which when done using University resources places the University in a position to be liable in a lawsuit. At up to $100,000.00 per infringing act, this can add up quickly if we were to consider the many different types of infringement currently taking place on campus. While copyright law still has a long way to go in meeting the needs of the digital age and now often prevents uses that some would consider a fair use exemption, it is still law and publishers who are worried about their intellectual property in the digital age are pursuing their rights aggressively.

    Comment by June Power — February 20, 2009 @ 2:18 pm

  2. Recently I read George Guba’s comment that he posted to Inside Higher Ed and shared with us via the faculty listserve. Although the gist of his comment regards plagiarism, George begins with a statement that disentangles the discussion from any comparison to the ethics of music downloading: “I don’t think that downloading music and videos from peer-to-peer networks is the same as plagiarism or even related. I think that most of us borrowed and taped our friends albums, CDs and tapes, made mix tapes, and shared them with friends. Technology has enabled the ability and has taken it beyond a circle of friends. If fact there have been many articles stating that this has probably increased the sales for many songs.”

    I must respectfully disagree with the analogy made to people’s previous practice of making inferior copies of music on audio cassettes that were distributed to friends. Copyright law at that time allowed such behavior (while disallowing tape copies that were larger in scope and sold—that’s why they’re called “bootlegs!”). Current federal copyright law does not permit downloading of music that is not paid for or cleared in advance by the copyright holder. The statutes (and the case law) is clear. Rather than increase the sales of many songs, P2P file-sharing robs the record labels and related copyright holders of the payments they are entitled to for their property. Entertainment media are one of only three industries in which the U.S. has a trade surplus with the rest of the world. One might think that Mariah Carey or P. Diddy and other performers are overpaid and can afford to take the hit from people’s illegal downloading , but most performers make their real money from touring and related businesses and commercial sponsorships. Meanwhile, it’s the record companies (their shareholders and employees and session musicians, etc.) and their partners in manufacturing, distribution, and retail sales who take the hit.

    Intellectual property is not taken seriously by “the masses” as property. They engage in all kinds of popular resistance to the notion of copyright, a concept that is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, for better or worse.

    Downloading music illegally is not the same as passing off someone else’s work as your own, to be sure, but (in my opinion) people should recognize it for what it is. Universities HAVE been forced to take a stand on this behavior, when they have been made party to legal actions taken by record companies whose recordings have been shared by students across universities’ networks.

    Comment by Jamie Litty — February 3, 2009 @ 2:33 pm

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