Sunday, March 20, 2016

Crosswords and copyright; Washington Post, 3/15/16

David Post, Washington Post; Crosswords and copyright:
"What’s interesting, to me, in all this, aside from the light it sheds on puzzle construction, is that it illustrates how “plagiarism,” though it is often conflated with copyright infringement, actually covers very different territory and involves very different interests. A crossword’s “theme” is probably one element of the puzzle-creator’s work that is not protected by copyright; copyright law doesn’t protect “ideas,” only the expression of ideas, and a puzzle’s theme is, in my opinion, just such an unprotectable “idea,” free for the taking (as far as copyright law is concerned). But it’s precisely this kind of taking — theme theft — that gets the angriest response from those in the puzzle-writing business.
This has a direct parallel in academic writing. There, too, the plagiarism norms focus on a kind of borrowing that the law of copyright deems permissible: taking another’s ideas or expression without attribution. Nobody in the academic world will complain if you use their ideas or quote their work — in fact, that’s very much the whole point of the enterprise. But to do so without citation — that will get you into the hottest of hot water. [Just ask Doris Kearns Goodwin, or Stephen Ambrose or Joseph Ellis]. Yet copyright law gives an author no enforceable right to have his/her work properly attributed to him/her — a fact that surprised the hell out of many of my law prof colleagues when they first learned of it (insofar as proper attribution was really the only thing they cared about)."

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