The idea to search on the relationship between copyright and freedom of information came to mind, while I was reading ideas and opinions from different individuals on topics related to open education, OERs, licenses to protect intellectual property, and sharing in education.
Copyright protects the ownership of an author to use and distribute his own material as he wishes. “Copyright does not protect ideas or information but rather their expression, provided such expression reaches a certain threshold of originality.” Basically, if I am expressing an original idea, it is my right to do what I want with it for a certain amount of time. This right encourages individuals to seek and search for innovative ideas which can provide advancement in our society and globally.
Freedom of Information which is governed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) stipulates that the public has the right to access information gathered by government agencies. This right falls under the umbrella of the fundamental right of Freedom of Expression of theUniversal Declaration of Human Rights since it not only protects information, opinions and ideas to be communicated but also gives individuals the right to seek, receive and impart information. This fundamental right is important for“diversity within cultural expression, creativity and innovation.” Society also has the right to know, share and express information and ideas which can promote access to the knowledge and enhance growth and creativity in the world.
Although Copyright and Freedom of Expression seem to promote similar innovation, what is done to the information and the ideas being expressed appears to be in conflict with one another, in regards to access to knowledge and cultural growth.
“The Internet has been at the center of an alarming expansion of copyright claims at the expense of freedom of expression and, more generally, the protection of human rights.” With the increase of information, ideas and created material being made available on the internet, there is a belief that it is all there to be used by anyone who wishes; however, this is not true for most material available online. All material found on the web is protected under copyright unless it has been licensed under Creative Commons or Copyleft. Therefore, although material is available online, it cannot be taken for someone to use freely for self-expression. Copyright is in some way an infringement of the Freedom of Expression law. Yes, I have the right to express myself, but I cannot do so simply by infringing upon somebody else’s work that is protected by Copyright.
I believe that further discussions and reviews of the copyright law are required to make sure that the Freedom of Expression is being respected. According to Patfield, “in order to strike a balance between copyright and freedom of expression, an approach should be adopted which looks both at the nature of the protected work as well as the purpose behind the allegedly infringing speech (or allegedly infringing derivative work), following categorizations familiar to freedom of expression analysis such as political speech, artistic speech and commercial speech.” (p.189) Until such an equilibrium is reached, it is important for people to respect the intellectual property of others and copyright material when expressing themselves freely.