Conference on College Composition and Communication Logo

An Invitation to a Series of Discussions on Intellectual Property

Martine Courant Rife
Senior Chair, CCCC-IP Caucus
Lansing Community College

Mike Edwards
Junior Chair, CCCC-IP Caucus
United States Military Academy

If you are planning to attend the Conference on College Composition and Communication in Louisville, KY, please consider attending the meeting of the Caucus on Intellectual Property and Composition/Communication Studies (CCCC-IP) that will take place the afternoon of Wednesday, March 21st. Since 1994, the Caucus has sponsored explorations of intellectual property issues pertinent to teachers, scholars, and students. Meeting in simultaneous roundtables, participants discuss topics such as plagiarism and authorship, student and teacher IP rights, open access and open source policies, and best practices in teaching students and instructors about IP. Roundtable speakers will provide overviews of their topics, and participants will then create action plans, develop lobbying strategies, and produce documents for political, professional, and pedagogical use. At the end of the workshop, participants reconvene to share their plans and recommendations for future action.

This year, the Caucus will feature seven roundtables:

DMCA Exemption
The first roundtable will survey recent developments in the realm of Digital Millennium Copyright Act(DMCA) as they affect education, with an eye toward proposing actions that the caucus can take to ameliorate the impact of the act.Since its passage in 1998, the DMCA, which criminalizes the circumvention of Digital Rights Management and seeks to restrict the use of copyrighted material on the internet, has been invoked in ways that go beyond the legitimate protection of intellectual property rights. The default setting, as it were, is to bar all use, regardless of whether it is fair use. As documented by the Electronic Freedom Foundation, the DMCA has been used as a way of stifling critique and as a tool that companies can wield against competitors. Such outcomes may not have been intended by the framers of the DMCA, but their existence has implications for students and educators, whether on the K-12 or college level. The 2012 DMCA Exemption rulemaking proceedings are now underway, and roundtable participants will be updated on these proceedings.

Participants in the second roundtable will consider how best to develop a student-centered plagiarism policy for the twenty-first century. Language currently used to describe plagiarism reflects the notion that students need to be policed by faculty lest students commit plagiarism, be caught and be found guilty of such an infraction. Many, if not all, plagiarism statements reify this antagonistic relationship between faculty and students, treating plagiarism as something students must avoid lest they be punished for the infraction. Rather than having the students inactively participate in this process, students could be empowered through the formulation of plagiarism statements creating bilateral dialogues rather than unilateral diatribes. Participants in this roundtable will be invited to review a draft of a student-centered plagiarism statement formulated by members of the IP caucus during the past year. The hope is that this type of statement can act as a means of engaging students in discussions on the effects of plagiarism rather than simply presenting them with a list of punishments for committing plagiarism.

IP and Metadata
Another roundtable will look at the implications of the participatory nature of the web, which raises questions about the ownership of “metadata” and user-generated content. From Facebook profiles to Google Analytics to Google searches to cellphone geolocation to RFIDs in identification cards for consumer goods, user-generated content and data are an important part of the participatory web. Value is co-created by and for a community of users who contribute content and generate data through their online interactions. However, often these contributions are made without clear understandings among users about their ownership and privacy rights. These texts and meta-texts say a lot about who users are, what they do, where they do it, how, and perhaps even why. But who has access and control of these texts and who can claim ownership to the information that users author about themselves? This roundtable will invite participants to consider who claims and/or should claim ownership and authorship of user-generated content and metadata. Participantsalso will discuss related concerns over users’ rights to safe and ethical composing in contemporary digital spaces. One goal of the roundtable will be to identify the relevant issues for intellectual property scholars in rhetoric and composition that should be further explored and researched.

Fair Use
Participants in the fourth roundtable will have an opportunity to consider the implications of several significant “fair use” cases, including that of Georgia State. For the past three years, Cambridge and Oxford University Presses and Sage Publishing have been pursuing Georgia State University representatives in court over online reserves and courseware systems that make available to students articles and book chapters without paying for permissions. In September of 2010, Judge Orinda Evans narrowed the scope of litigation by limiting trial to contributory infringement. The outcome of this case will likely set the standards for these distribution systems, just as Basic Books, Inc. v. Kinko’s Graphics Corporation and Princeton University Press V. Michigan Document Services, Inc. did for course packs. The speaker at this roundtable will update participants on the outcomes of this case and the implications for universities and university libraries. He will also identify other pending fair use cases that may impact faculty and student work in higher education.

Copyright and Pedagogy
The fifth roundtable will provide educators with the opportunity to both contribute and learn about approaches to teaching about ownership, fair use, and related issues. In particular, teachers will be invited to share their stories, resources, and ideas about successful pedagogies for teaching the complex and overlapping issues of intellectual property, plagiarism, and copyright in composition classes. Participants in the roundtable also will be invited to considerhow these pedagogies may be distributed to others and how their voices may be able to counteract the rhetoric of fear and criminality pervading discourse on IP.

Copyright and Scholarly Publishing
Participants in the sixth roundtable will examine evolving IP policies for journals, with a particular emphasis on the precedents being set in scientific publishing. Recently, two trends have led publishers of scientific journals to establish new IP policies. First, a number of scientific fraud and questionable authorship cases have led to revised definitions of scientific authorship and the use of professional plagiarism detection services. Second, government mandates across the globe have demanded open access to both published articles and relevant data. Because the policies of scientific journals tend to influence academic publishing as a whole, this roundtable will update participants on the latest policies and their potential impact on Writing Studies.

Authors’ Rights and Responsibility
The last roundtable will look at intellectual property issues in the context of creative writing and will ask what “publishing” means to the authors of such literature. One of the promising developments for creative writers has been the increased status given to online literary journals. With print journals becoming increasingly limited, online literature can be where the truly cutting edge fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction happens. However, how do traditional journals and their standard First North American Rights view web spaces? An online literary journal seems clearly to be a prior publication, but what about blogs? What about comment drafting as in the April PAD (Poem a Day) competition on Poetic Asides? The result for some of the major print players, most notably Poetry, is to consider any web presence as prior publication, thus eliminating the work from consideration. The goal for participants at this table is to speculate about reasonable solutions to the discontinuity between print/web standards and generate strategies for writers who use blogs for prewriting, drafting, or metadiscourse.

We hope to see everyone in St. Louis! For questions or further information, please contact this year’s caucus chair, Martine Courant Rife,

This column is sponsored by the Intellectual Property Committee of the CCCC and the 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 to either this column or to an annual report on intellectual property issues, please contact


Intellectual Property Reports Main Page

Renew Your Membership

Join CCCC today!
Learn more about the SWR book series.
Connect with CCCC
CCCC on Facebook
CCCC on LinkedIn
CCCC on Twitter
CCCC on Tumblr
OWI Principles Statement
Join the OWI discussion


Copyright © 1998 - 2024 National Council of Teachers of English. All rights reserved in all media.

1111 W. Kenyon Road, Urbana, Illinois 61801-1096 Phone: 217-328-3870 or 877-369-6283

Looking for information? Browse our FAQs, tour our sitemap and store sitemap, or contact NCTE

Read our Privacy Policy Statement and Links Policy. Use of this site signifies your agreement to the Terms of Use