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The CCCC-IP Annual: Top Intellectual Property Developments of 2011

Once again the CCCC Intellectual Property Committee announces the publication of the Conference on College Composition Communication Intellectual Property Annual—the seventh issue since 2005. That this Annual has maintained this degree of longevity bespeaks our discipline’s commitment to copyright, intellectual property, and authorship as key concerns. Throughout 2011, the battle between the content industries and the copyright activists continued, but other powerful internet industries have started lobbying for a free and open communication network. This year’s Annual engages this rhetorical situation as well as developments in the circulation of scholarly publications.

In the annual’s first article, “The Defeat of the Research Works Act and Its Implications,” Mike Edwards traces the introduction and short career of the Research Works Act (RWA), a proposal that would have rolled back free and open access to government-funded research and placed that access under the control of publishers. After the publishers who backed the bill met considerable public criticism, the representatives who had introduced the Research Works Act announced that they would no longer attempt to bring the bill to a vote, and the proposed act died in committee. The abandonment of support for the Research Works Act is a significant victory for those in academia who support free and open access to research, especially research paid for by the American taxpayer.

The second article, “Open Access Initiatives,” was contributed by Annette Vee. Recently, the Princeton University Faculty Senate approved an “open access” policy for faculty research, adding the university’s name to a growing list of research institutions opting for such policies. Harvard University adopted a similar policy in 2005 (the first of such kind in the United States) and MIT did in 2008. Following the lead of these elite institutions, many others have adopted or are considering adopting open access policies, both in the United States and elsewhere. This move in “open access” from buzzword to policy affects the publication, circulation, and readership of our scholarship, and this article outlines trends in open access initiatives, some of their recent precedents, and a few of the most salient implications for our scholarship.

The next article, “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: What Golan v. Holder means for the Future of the Public Domain,” was written by Traci Zimmerman. For a time, one surety in the complex world of copyright law and IP regulations was this: that once information passes into the public domain, it is free for all to use. But a recent decision by the Supreme Court casts even this knowledge into the realm of uncertainty. At issue in the case of Golan v. Holder was whether Congress has the right to retroactively restore copyright to foreign works in the public domain, works that may have “slipped into” the public domain while still copyrighted abroad. A bill adopted in 1994 had placed foreign works back under the shield of copyright protection in order to align U.S. policy with the Berne Convention, an international copyright treaty. For conductor Lawrence Golan, who initiated the case, the removal of works from the public domain meant that he suddenly had limited access to pieces that he had been playing freely for years. The implications of the ruling will extend far beyond the realms of sheet music and scores. Throughout academia and in libraries and archives, students, scholars, and the public at large will find themselves affected by Golan v. Holder.

The Golan v. Holder article reports on litigation over a bill that is on the books; the next article in the Annual reports on the battle over proposed legislation that did not move beyond the committee stage. “Sentence First—Verdict Afterwards”: The Protect IP and the Stop Online Piracy Acts,” submitted by Kim Gainer, describes two bills that were introduced into Congress that had the potential to restrict the growth and development of web services. The intent of each was to prevent the use of the web to link to or transmit copyrighted material without permission or compensation of copyright holders. Both bills in particular targeted foreign “rogue websites,” but the web’s nature is such that numerous companies and organizations based in the United States would have been affected by the bills—including many that were not themselves copyright infringers. Less than a year after the introduction of the first bill, both had been withdrawn, having been vigorously opposed by powerful corporations whose business models depend upon an open web, by organizations and individuals that raised questions about the impact of the bills on First Amendment rights, and by organizations and individuals concerned about the cultural and educational impact of the bills.

In addition to opposition from the constituencies described above, both bills met with opposition from consumers/creators of content that copyright holders laid claim to. The mobilization of these consumers/creators is a phenomenon dealt with in Laurie Cubbison’s article in this issue of the Annual: “A Dark Day on the Internet Leads to a Sea Change in Copyright Policy.” The “Dark Day” of the title refers to January 18, 2012, when Wikipedia went black and a black bar replaced the Google logo. In addition, many other Internet sites, including Reddit,, and, also went dark, all in order to protest consideration of the two bills. As the protest included sites commonly used by students for online research, teachers and students were made aware of copyright and intellectual property issues in a new and startling way. Students often serve as producers of content for such sites and so are also affected by copyright legislation that seeks to restrict user-created content that incorporates copyrighted material, such as videos that include copyrighted music or images. In leading a challenge to these bills, the Internet companies changed the discourse around copyright and intellectual property law in the 21st century. At one time the major media conglomerates who run the movie, television and music industries dominated copyright policy, but in 2012 Internet companies and consumers defeated legislation championed by these media conglomerates, indicating that copyright policy may no longer be dominated by content owners.

The last article in this year’s Annual, “Occupy Trademark: Branding a Political Movement This Intellectual Property,” examines the emergence of trademark applications and disputes associated with the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. The article provides a detailed overview of the ongoing trademark disputes associated with the political movement by tracing the initial applications to register OWS as a trademark and documenting the competing claims by different parties that are attempting to assert ownership of terms, slogans, and branding associated with OWS. The article describes a case in which member of the broader OWS movement was subjected to threats of legal action for appropriating the trademark of another entity, and it outlines the implications of such examples for the discipline of rhetoric and composition.

This year’s Intellectual Property Annual will be available at this link: /cccc/committees/ip. Previous Annuals are available at this link as well.

IP Annual Editor:
Clancy Ratliff, assistant professor, Department of English, and Director of First-Year Writing, University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Contributors to this year’s Annual:
Timothy R. Amidon, Ph.D. student and teaching assistant, English and Writing Departments, University of Rhode Island
Laurie Cubbison, Director of Writing, Radford University
Mike Edwards, assistant professor, Department of English and Philosophy, United States Military Academy at West Point
Kim D. Gainer, professor of English, Radford University
Annette Vee, assistant professor of English, University of Pittsburgh
Traci Zimmerman, associate professor, School of Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication, James Madison University

This column is sponsored by the Intellectual Property Committee of the CCCC (/cccc/committees/ip) and the by CCCC-Intellectual Property Caucus ( The IP Caucus maintains a mailing list. If you would like to receive notices of programs sponsored by the Caucus or of opportunities to submit articles either to this column or to the annual report on intellectual property issues, please contact


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