Saturday, August 05, 2006

Flipping Sides

In the last few months Lisa Kriger at the San Jose Mercury News has written articles that concern copyright issues and Stanford professors. When Professor Joel Beinin sued David Horowitz over the unauthorized use of his photo, her article sought to portray the issue diffierently from the actual copyright suit. Readers might mistakenly think that Beinin had just cause for charging Horowitz with libel. Krieger's article failed to account for the 'fair use' doctrine or academic freedom when it favored Horowitz.

With this background it is suprising to read today's article about Stanford Professor Carol Loeb Shloss's claim of 'fair use' and academic freedom. The earlier article on Beinin seemed to regard Horowitz's efforts towards academic freedom with little regard when he is highly engaged with the meaning of that term. Academic freedom stems from the 1940 document that attempted to codify these freedoms on behalf of professors but also limited their behavior in ways favored by the original understanding. According to that understanding
"...teachers should be careful to avoid controversial matter that is unrelated to the subject.When they speak or write in public, they are free to express their opinions without fear from institutional censorship or discipline, but they should show restraint and clearly indicate that they are not speaking for their institution."
Horowitz has attempted to see that policy enforced. Professor Beinin freely acknowledges that he doesn't conduct his classes to the standard.

'Fair use' is a legal term that can be useful to the court, but academic freedom is a standard subscribed to by academics and has no bearing on the suit engaged in by Loeb Shloss. Readers might have been helped if they knew how much of the Joyce correspondence Loeb Shloss wanted to use. Her publisher's lawyers seem to feel they would lose a challenge on the basis of 'fair use'. Did she consult these lawyers for their take?

Readers will have no trouble decerning where Krieger's heart lay on either of the articles but it's particularly apparent with regard to descriptions of Loeb Shloss and Steven Joyce; "The soft-spoken Shloss is an unlikely litigant. Fifteen years ago, she simply sought to...", ``He wrote back a scathing letter...", "He also threatened suit...", Joyce...is deeply hostile to scholars...". Can we assume that she took Loeb Shloss's word for her interactions with Joyce or did she attempt to contact Joyce? Well, since Joyce no longer speaks to the press, we only have an earlier comment to put this in context:
In 1989, however, in a letter to The New York Times Book Review, Mr. Joyce explained his thinking. A year before, he forced the biographer Brenda Maddox to excise material about Lucia from her book "Nora: The Real Life of Molly Bloom" (Houghton Mifflin.) "The Joyce family's privacy has been invaded more than that of any other writer in this century," he wrote to The Times. He denied "trying to drum up royalties" and said that by delving into biographical sources for Joyce's writing, scholars were taking "all the fun" out of reading."
Fair enough, when it comes to legal matters Krieger sides with academics. But it is striking how she seems to take different sides on the same issues and all that has changed is the name of the professor. Her article on behalf of Professor Loeb Shloss seems to feel that death of the author should have an affect on copyright. Stanford has an office that deals entirely with licensing the Stanford name and prosecuting copyright and trademark issues. Leland Stanford died many years ago--I wonder which side Kreiger would chose to support?

3 Comments:

Anonymous Blogposter said...

The copyright of a photo rests with the creator (photographer.) Unless Benin holds the copyright to the photo of himself, he has no standing to sue for copyright infringement. All of the "intent" issues also have no bearing on copyright infringement, although they do relate to libel.

Benin, might, might have cause to sue for unauthorized commercial use of likeness, since the photo was used for a cover, but recent cases make even that tack doubtful.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

See the previous comment on the issue. Beinin had the photographer reassign the copyright to him after it was published. His lawsuit is for copyright infringement and not libel.

2:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm all for teaching a diversity of opinion in public institutions. The trouble is, how do you determine when somebody is not adequately teaching a diversity? If there are 5 viewpoints on a subject and the professor mentions 2, are the poor students being manipulated? Anyway, if our college system is supposed brainwashing our students, isn't it amazing that 25 years later half vote one way and half vote the other way? Jeez, maybe we're not giving the kids enough credit that maybe they are not believing everything they hear.

6:05 PM  

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