Gorman on Copyright

Michael Gorman’s recent Brittanica link-bait attack on users of the Internet mentions copyright. It disturbs me that a former president of the American Library Association would offer both such a simplistic view and one not backed up by research- especially since this article complains of that very issue.

There is today a concerted and multifront assault on copyright spurred by monied interests and the desire of consumers to use digital technology to get something for nothing. This assault has created a mindset that sees the notion of intellectual property as a barrier to progress rather than what it is—an affirmation of the singularity of the human intellect and personality. Because few people like to admit to being motivated by greed and self-interest, these assaults on intellectual property are often couched in high-minded digital jargon and/or weasel words.

First, the suggestion that the concept of intellectual property has been used as a barrier to progress goes far, far beyond the straw man argument that he presents, as he makes the intellectually dishonest conclusion that the “assault on copyright” is the work of those who trade files. We have well-reasoned, published (and therefore presumably at least moderately more acceptable to Gorman) works by Lawrence Lessig, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Kembrew McLeod, and others who strongly argue for copyright reform, and many are critical of the property metaphor. Furthermore, the Romantic view of the genius of the Author has been a subject of much debate in academia for decades. Additionally, copyright law in the United States is not solely based on this view of authorship, but on the utility of offering creators that limited monopoly for the ultimate benefit of the public. I could go on, but I’ll spare people the relatively common arguments against the narrow view that Gorman presented. It is possible to respect the author and advocate copyright reform.

Now, I’m fairly certain that Gorman has at least heard those arguments, since many of those views are actually reflective of the policies of the American Library Association. (Recall that I am an American Library Association Copyright Scholar.) The work of libraries and the research that Gorman holds in high esteem benefit from not holding his view. I am adisturbed that I fail to see research backing his arguments in his texts. I am more disturbed that Gorman’s beliefs will be forever associated with the views of the ALA.


  1. Eli said,

    June 19, 2007 @ 3:44 pm

    First Lessig, now this? Ay caramba … thank you for the analysis.

  2. b Kurlek said,

    July 10, 2007 @ 9:16 pm

    It is always amazing rationalizations when there is often ( if not always) a hidden agenda by many authorities on the copyrights issues.
    It often comes down to control , profit and loss of both.
    You cannot stop progress so to speak.
    Look at newspapers and how they will go down kicking and screaming.
    The head in the sand approach “Ebay” “We are not concerned” “We are G.M. ” “We are the New York Times ” etc etc etc
    Either you embrace technology and move with it or you will be out of business . Old men with old tecbnologies.
    In a way who cares but these idiots will go down kicking and screaming regardless of any harm they do to others and the very industries they pretend to be protecting .

  3. minyak lintah said,

    February 7, 2008 @ 2:37 pm

    Its nice to see the spirit you have. Not everybody are willing to stand for what they belief.

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