Copyfight: Rebalancing Copyright Law in the Digital Age (Fall 2006)


Like all First Term Seminar classes at Gustavus, this one will give you the opportunity to build the abilities of a scholar while becoming acquainted with some of the possibilities open to you here. Additionally, you will become familiar with the background of copyright law and use that as a foundation for studying the changes currently underway that are shaped by emerging technologies. Our focus will be on United States copyright law, although we will occasionally make international comparisons.

Office hours

I will be available in my office (OHS 303) 10:30-11:20 Mondays and Fridays, 1:30-2:20 Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as by appointment. Or try your luck: just stop by and see whether my door is open. You may send me electronic mail at or call me at extension 7466. I'll try to put any updates to my office hours on my web page, so check there if in doubt.

World Wide Web

All course materials will be available through my World Wide Web page. The URL for this course is After this syllabus I will give hardcopy handouts only to those students who want them.


Scouting side trails

If you think of our reading as being a trail we are walking along, there are many interesting side trails branching off from it. Often those side trails are marked by endnotes, though some may become apparent to you from the text itself. Occasionally you may have heard of a recent development related to the reading, which constitutes a side trail the author couldn't possibly have noted. Side trails can be a lot of fun to explore; this course gives you the opportunity to discover that.

Most days when we have a reading assignment, the syllabus shows the initials of a student who has the job of scouting out one of the side trails and reporting back what he or she finds to the group. (The students are listed in a randomized order.) I haven't listed any students the first week, because preparing a scouting report may require a little advance planning, particularly if the scouting involves obtaining material through the library. (You have been warned.)

Each student is assigned responsibility for scouting side trails on two days. The first of these should be reported informally and will be graded only based on providing a timely and correct report, not based on the quality of the presentation. You must do a formal oral presentation of your second scouting reports, however, and will be graded based on the oral presentation standards our class develops (as described in a later section of this handout). The formal report will contribute seven percent of your course grade, whereas the informal report contributes three percent.

The primary purpose of a scouting report is to share with the class the interesting information you found. (Sometimes if you look at an endnote, there is interesting information right in the note, even without tracking down a source.) As a secondary purpose, if you happen to spot anything noteworthy about how our author (mis)used a source, you can can comment on that as well.

In addition to the two days when you are assigned to scout out a side trail, you should always keep your eyes open for ones that look particularly interesting to you. (This is one of the standard components of your daily journal writing.) You can choose to report to the class about extra side trails beyond the two required ones. If you do so, you might want to check with the classmate assigned that day's reading, to try to avoid duplication. These extra scouting reports will contribute to your grade, as described in the section on “taking extra responsibility.”

Finding the sources our authors cite may not be easy; even decoding the citations may not be easy. Lawyers use different conventions for citations than most other scholars. Luckily, we have a great staff of reference librarians, and you also have an instructor who is happy to help you if you just ask him.

Taking extra responsibility

One of the key differences between a college student and a high school student is the degree of responsibility you need to take. To reward you for taking responsibility, you will earn two percentage points towards your course grade every time you volunteer to find the answer for a question a student raises in class, as well as every time you provide an extra scouting report on a side trail. You can exercise this option up to six times, thereby earning up to 12 points. If you add up the percentages listed elsewhere in this course description, you will find they only total to 94% (44% from writing assignments, 40% from exams, and 10% from assigned scouting reports). Thus, you need to volunteer at least three times if you want to have a shot at 100%. If you volunteer more than that, the points can cancel out some of your lack of perfection elsewhere.

You must send me an email message to receive the points for taking extra responsibility. Otherwise I will have no record of it, since in class I'll be paying attention to the conversation.

Oral presentations

To learn what makes an oral presentation effective, each of you will attend at least two of the lectures from the Nobel Conference, on October 5th and 6th, and then on the 7th we'll compare notes and make a list of what attributes distinguished the better speakers from the less good ones. That list of attributes will constitute our class grading criteria for oral presentations,

As explained in the section on scouting side trails, one of your scouting reports will be delivered as a formal presentation. This should be brief, ordinarily around five minutes. Each of your classmates will have a sheet of paper listing the attributes we identified for good presentations and will mark two of those attributes as particular strengths of your presentation and two as particular weaknesses. This peer feedback does not tell you how well you did (since you will always get the same number of pluses and minuses) but can help focus your attention. I will ask you to meet with me privately at your convenience, and we will use the same list of criteria to discuss how the presentation went and assign it a grade.

Writing assignments

You will write the following in this course:


The midterm exam and final exam will each contribute 20 percent of your course grade. The midterm exam will be in class and is shown in the syllabus. The final exam will be during the final exam period, as scheduled by the registrar. Both exams will focus on testing your knowledge of concrete information contained in the reading. For each test, you may use one 8.5x11 sheet of handwritten notes. (Both sides of the sheet are OK.)


You are expected to be familiar with the college academic honesty honor code policy and to comply with that policy. If you have any questions about it, please ask. One specific requirement of that policy is that you write the following in full and sign it on every examination and graded paper:

On my honor, I pledge that I have not given, received, nor tolerated others' use of unauthorized aid in completing this work.

For the purposes of this policy, graded papers include the essays and letter, but not the daily journal entries. Authorized help includes having a peer give you feedback on how well a draft fits the grading criteria.

Late assignments

All essays or letters are due at the beginning of class on the day indicated. Late essays and letters will be penalized by one “grade notch” (such as A to A- or A- to B+) for each weekday late or fraction thereof. Late journal entries will not be accepted.

If you are too sick to complete an assignment on time, you will not be penalized. Simply write “late due to illness” at the top of the assignment, sign your name and hand it in. Other circumstances will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Scouting reports, whether informal or formal oral presentations, are expected to be delivered in a timely fashion. Let me know if you are having difficulty obtaining a particular source. Unless I authorize a delay, I will reduce the grade for any late scouting report.


If you have a learning, psychological, or physical disability for which a reasonable accommodation can be made, I would be happy to refer you to the college's disability services coordinator and to cooperate in the accommodation process. It is generally best if this can be done as soon as possible.


The reading column uses a two letter code to indicate the book title, followed by a range of page numbers. The two letter codes are PK for Promises to Keep, CC for Copyrights and Copywrongs, CF for Copy Fights, and FC for Free Culture. When a page number is followed by a dot and another number, the second number indicates a paragraph break on the page. For example, the reading assignment “PK 134-154.1” means to read in Promises to Keep from the top of page 134 up to the first paragraph break on page 154. PK 236.1-258 would be in the same book, from the first paragraph break on page 236 through to the end of page 258. The scout column indicates which student is responsible for scouting out a side trail from that day's reading.

This is my best guess as to the rate at which we will cover material. However, don't be shocked if I have to pass out one or more revised syllabi.

DateReadingScoutGuest/other topicDue
9/7PK 1-10
9/8PK 11-37

9/12Priscilla Briggs: video art
9/14PK 38-81MTJ
9/15PK 82-133KRB

9/18PK 134-154.1JSH
9/19PK 154.1-172JRD
9/21PK 173-198SJB
9/22PK 199-236.1RTL

9/25PK 236.1-258KRL
9/28CC 1-16Laura Behling: authorship
9/29CC 17-43.1AMRessay 1

10/2CC 43.1-80EAZ
10/3No class (Nobel Conference)
10/5Public speaking
10/6CC 81-116WCK

10/9CC 117-131Phil Bryant: blues
10/10CC 132-148DDR
10/12CC 149-167.3CVP
10/13CC 167.3-184TJR

10/16CC 185-189Michele Rusinko: danceessay 2
10/17CC 243-254EAO
10/20Midterm exam

10/26CF xv-11PCG
10/27CF 17-41DPF

10/30CF 43-79Lisa Heldke: morals
10/31CF 95-121MDG
11/2CF 125-141MTJ
11/3CF 147-169KRB

11/7CF 171-194JSH
11/9CF 197-220JRD
11/10FC xiii-30SJBessay 3

11/13FC 31-52RTL
11/14FC 53-79KRL
11/16FC 83-107AMR
11/17FC 108-130.3EAZ

11/20FC 130.3-153.5WCK
11/21FC 153.5-173DDR

11/27Chris Gilbert: congress
11/28FC 177-199.3CVPessay 4
11/30FC 199.3-228.1TJR
12/1FC 228.1-247EAO

12/4Terry Morrow: Eldred
12/5FC 248-271PCG
12/7No class
12/8FC 275-286DPF

12/11FC 287-306MDG
12/12Wrap uprewritten essay

Course web site:
Instructor: Max Hailperin <>