5.7.1 Self-assessment Questions

These questions should help you test your understanding of what you have learnt so far. If you have difficulty with the questions it would be a good idea to go back over Section 5.

1. Who are the main protagonists in the copyright wars?


This is a question that was not explicitly covered in the material in this section. You will have spotted some of the main players, however, such as the movie, music and publishing industries on the copyright expansion side, and a loose coalition of the consumer electronics industries, civil rights groups, academics and librarian associations on the other side.

2. What do we mean by ‘facts’ and ‘values’?


A fact is something that one believes to be objectively true. A piece of gold is heavier than a similar-sized piece of aluminium. A fact can be measured by an objective measurement process.

Values are beliefs about what is good or bad. That one type of music is better than another; that thieves should be locked up; that everyone should attend religious services; that gifted children should be put on accelerated education programmes. Values deal with our perception of the way the world ought to be and have a very strong influence on what we are prepared to believe.

The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, in Chapter 7 of its 21st report, ‘Setting Environmental Standards’ (1998), defined values as follows:

We understand values to be beliefs, either individual or social, about what is important in life, and thus about the ends or objectives which should govern and shape public policies. Once formed such beliefs may be durable.

3. What is ‘fair use’?


It is a complex legal concept much quoted by the protagonists in the copyright wars. Jessica Litman, in her book Digital Copyright, defines fair use as: ‘a long standing legal privilege to make unauthorized use of a copyrighted work for good reason.’

"We must remember that in order for copyright to be the engine of free expression that its proponents so loudly claim, fair use to comment upon, criticize and annotate the works must be available. The authors of the copyright clause did not anticipate an understanding of copyright that only permits citizens to be passive consumers of copyrighted works."

(Ernest Miller)

Further reading: If you are interested in learning a bit more about the details of the copyright wars, two of the more readable books in the area, one from each side of the divide, are:

  • Digital Copyright by Jessica Litman, published by Prometheus Books, 2001.

  • The Illustrated History of Copyright by Edward Samuels, published by Thomas Dunne Books, 2000.

5.7 Summary and SAQs

5.8 Study guide