Archive for January 2009
Copyright restrictions have long been a challenge to professors who look to use additional teaching aids in the classroom.
With the recent change of power in the federal government ‘- switching to a democratic based congress and a democratic president ‘- school officials are saying the future of extensions on copyright laws are up in the air.
“For the last 20 years the tilt has been in the direction of copyright holders and turning it into a property right,’ said Dr. Gerald Herman, university copyright officer and assistant professor. “It’ll be interesting with a new administration to see which direction it goes.”
The laws are actively being changed as new mediums for content continue to form. In the past decade, there have been numerous advances in copyright usage laws through the federal government, and they continue to be challenged with 22 current proposals to amend the laws.
Now though, the laws are growing more and more in the favor of publishers rather than users, Herman said.
“It’s becoming harder to see any reasonable works in print being available to the public without going through hoops,” Herman said. “All of these extensions are good things if you look at the education we’re involved in and making intellectual property available.”
Current laws complicate the daily learning process and make students go to greater lengths to obtain the copyrighted material.
“My college writing teacher mentions that she wishes she was able to copy readings but can’t [because of the laws] so we have to buy the books,” freshman biology major Jana Thompson said.
The largest expansion of the law in user’s favor to allow lenient usage of copyrighted material was in 2002 with the TEACH [Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization] act, which states that ‘an educator may show or perform any work related to the curriculum, regardless of the medium, face-to-face in the classroom.’ There are numerous restrictions surrounding this, however, like the clause that states the only materials that can be used must be from that university’s film study department’s library.
“[The] TEACH act has made it more possible to use others’ materials in classes, but the law is very complicated and the library is under certain restriction,” Herman said.
Other complexities arise with the current laws because fair use, the limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders, is not clearly defined, he said.
“Fair use is part of the law, made under the register of copyrights,” Herman said. “No one really knows what the parameters are, you just take your best shot with what you consider reasonable.”
Additionally with new technological mediums such as Wiki’s , the gray area has increased even more.
“The law is complicated to begin with, and with new technology [the law] is silent and you have to wait until someone sues someone else to see what the exact law is,” Herman said.
However, many of these mediums allow others to view copyrighted material with ease, such as viewing television clips on YouTube.
“If I watch TV on the internet I don’t know where it’s coming from,” undecided middler Sam Bartfield said. “[My professors] are a lot better. Even though sometimes they will show clips from YouTube, a lot are really conscious about [following copyright laws].”
Any of these exceptions that are currently being proposed by various groups such as the Library Copyright Alliance and Music Library Association, will most likely not effect how the university deals with copyright, he said.
“What the university is doing now probably won’t be affected, it’s just a question of what will happen in the future,” Herman said. “We try to secure the rights for what we use, but the copyright clearance center doesn’t control the rights to all publications and when you have to deal on a publisher by publisher basis, it gets very expensive trying to do it legally.”
In order to keep the university running without legal infringements on copyright usage, Herman often talks to professors over what they can and cannot use, but hopes that the laws do change and restore balance.
“We just have to pay attention, and if we want to try to restore some of the balance we have to be vocal about it,” Herman said. “The problem is that most people are both authors and users, and they want to use everyone’s work but don’t want people to use their’s so it puts us on the horns of dilemma.”
Due to the current economic crisis and shortage of loans, more and more students are finding it harder to make steep tuition payments. Rather than the traditional methods though, some are choosing another path to get into college – joining Northeastern’s ROTC.
“The economy is impacting decisions for a lot of people,” Lt. Col. Kate Scanlon said. “Army ROTC is an attractive offer in an economic crisis.”
The ROTC has experienced a nearly 60 percent increase in members this incoming year, and Scanlon said she expects a steady increase next year if the economic trend continues. Scholarship opportunities, such as a 20 percent tuition grant alongside aided room and board also contributed to the enrollment increase, although Scanlon said financial offers like this are nothing new.
“We haven’t changed our financial aid offers,” Scanlon said. “We’ve just seen an increase in those that are applying for scholarships.”
The increase in scholarship applications, however, has led to an increase in scholarship granted money, coming from the congress’s Department of the Army budget.
“I have had a number of submitted scholarships, and I’ve never been denied one,” Scanlon said. “I’ve been allowed to get more money than I am allotted to receive.”
Last year there was a Leadership Training Course for those who had two years of school left but wanted to be part of the ROTC. It is a month-long intensive training period, designed to catch up those who are joining late.
Three participated last year, but only one met the requirements and will continue to Northeastern’s Liberty Battalion. Another three students have already signed up to participate this summer, including middler criminal justice major Chris McCrobie.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “You’re submersed into it [for the month]. It’s like boot camp for officers that they normally don’t get.”
By completing the leadership training course, successful participants gain $5,000 along with the other financial aid offered for being in ROTC.
However, not everyone joining ROTC currently is signing up solely because of economic situations. Scanlon said the past two classes that have had the most drastic increases are just as motivated and determined if not more than previous classes.
“Our freshman and sophomore classes are excited and much larger than we’ve had in the past,” she said. “There’s a greater sense of energy, and camaraderie isn’t as tight knit but there’s more enthusiastic participation.”
Also, anyone who joins because of the wrong reasons won’t make it very far in the program, Scanlon said.
“Once you’re in ROTC you have to really commit,” she said. “It’s competitive and there’s a lot of work in it. I mean there aren’t a lot of college kids in the gym at 6 a.m three days a week. They find out pretty quickly that you really have to commit to be in the program, and if they don’t want to they leave.”
The economy has recently led the army to appeal as another opportunity to join, McCorbie said. He had previously considered joining, but because of the current crisis he reconsidered and decided now is the time, he said.
“This past year it’s been getting harder to pull loans so it’s a reason that people will [join],” McCorbie said. “Doing ROTC is a two-in-one deal, and I think that people want to join the military, so a lot of people are relooking at it because of the economic situation. Hopefully when I come back in the fall I’ll be contracted, get the scholarship and school will be set up from here on out.”