Copyright for You and Me – My censored post

As I mentioned in my last post, I wrote an informational piece on how copyright is relevant for post-secondary students, even if we aren’t writing novels and recording music. It was censored, so I’m posting it on my own blog. I don’t think there was sufficient cause for censorship, but oh well.

This post is based on just one day of casual research. None of it should be taken as legal advice! Think of it more as a motivator to stand up for yourself.

I always thought that copyrights were something for people who were writing books, or recording music. Never did I think that it was something that would affect me, unless it was from the perspective of potentially violating a copyright.

In fact, it’s something that’s quite important for students. Did you know that all of the original content that you produce is automatically copyrighted? When you write a paper for a class, or freelance as a blogger, your content belongs to you. Regardless of whether you remember to put that little © on your work, it’s yours to do with as you wish. But not everyone will let you believe it.

Have you heard of TurnItIn? When I was an undergraduate student, I was required to submit my work to turnitin.com. In my naïveté, I was eager to prove that my work was original, and didn’t consider that I lost rights to my intellectual property when I submitted my work. As I started grad school, I realized that I wanted to get my papers back. Turnitin made it impossible for me to get my work back, and I had to give up on my quest. What if I had written something novel that I wanted to use in my graduate research? Instructors may have you believe that such a submission is mandatory, but it may be worth asking them if you might retain the rights to your work, and they might do their due diligence in checking for originality.

An interesting concept is being paid to write, i.e. freelancing. If you’re paid, does that mean you don’t own your work? Nowadays with the prevalence of blogs and e-zines, everyone and their uncles are freelancing. A reputable organization ought to have clear policies on how they will treat your intellectual property. If they don’t, remember: unless you’ve signed away your copyright, your content is automatically copyrighted to you. Can the executive editor change your work without telling you? Yes and no. This part of the act is a grey area. Has your work been distorted, mutilated or modified to the prejudice of your honour or reputation? Have they introduced errors to your writing? Check out the moral rights section of the act to decide for yourself.

It is definitely not a clear cut law, and it has lots of grey areas! Not to mention, most of the layman versions are American, so they’re all based on US law, not the Canadian one. Just ask a lot of questions, remember that your work is more valuable than you think, and protect it like it is!

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Comments
6 Responses to “Copyright for You and Me – My censored post”
  1. Elana says:

    And this is why Hart House makes me so mad/doubt the intellects of their staff… letting you run that piece would only have strengthened their own position as being advocates of free speech. Instead they made it clear that the piece was actually about them, by taking it personally like that.

    I mean, without any context, it’s just an informational piece about copyright, which is a useful thing for students to think about.

    Sigh.

    • jysung says:

      Thanks for your support! I really wanted to have it published, so I was pretty careful about what I said. I thought it was important, informative, thought-provoking: all the things you would want in a student blog.

      Funny though, they accused me of taking a defensive stance. If anything, I think they were being defensive, and I was being…passive aggressive.

  2. Richard says:

    They got pissy over that? That was so tame… and informative. Guess that’s not the UT “image” they want to convey…

    • jysung says:

      Hey Richard, thanks for your comment. I agree. It’s quite frustrating that they would actively discourage students from thinking freely and critically for themselves. I thought that’s what post-secondary education was all about!

      They told me that I was being overly defensive, that my disclaimer was insufficient, and that if I felt uncomfortable about them “editing” my work, I could “feel free to stop writing for them.” Yup. Squash any evidence of free thought!

  3. Seb says:

    From http://www.teaching.utoronto.ca/teaching/academicintegrity/turnitin/conditions-use.htm:

    “3. Turnitin.com is most effective when it is used by all students in a particular course; however, if and when students object to its use on principle, a reasonable offline alternative must be offered. There is a wide variety of non-electronic methods that can be used to deter and detect plagiarism; for example, to require that all rough work is handed in with the paper or that the student include an annotated bibliography with the paper. We ask that instructors consult with the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation when establishing these alternatives.”

    It’s outrageous that they censored this. This company uses students’ work to ultimately extract money from the students later. Students shouldn’t ask their profs about it, they should simply refuse to use the system.

    -S 🙂

    • jysung says:

      Hi Seb!

      Thank you so much for doing REAL research :D. As much as I would have loved to insist that students refuse to use turnitin, I was trying to get the post published, and tried to make it as non-controversial as possible. I guess they’re more big brother than I initially thought.

      I think the problem with turnitin is that students don’t really understand what they’re giving up when they submit to it. And I guess U of T doesn’t want to inform their students. Sad.

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