Copyfight: Rebalancing Copyright Law in the Digital Age (Fall 2004)


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 Thursdays, and 9:00-9:50 Tuesdays and Fridays, 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 notes, 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.

Every day 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.) Ideally the scouting report should be delivered the same day as we discuss the reading; this may require a little advance planning, particularly if the scouting involves obtaining material through the library. If you make a genuine effort to report on time, but are held up by difficult-to-obtain material, I will not count that against your grade. Just give a brief report of what you are working on and we will come back to you when you are ready. Occasionally we may also put off a scouting report for other reasons, such as when we have a guest in class, who may want the full period.

Occasionally the syllabus shows two scouting reports on the same day. A footnote at the end of the syllabus indicates which portion of the reading each student should scout a side trail from, so as to avoid conflict.

Each student is assigned responsibility for scouting side trails on three 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 at least one of your second and third 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). If you choose to formally present both the second and third report, I will use the higher of the two grades, and treat the other as an informal report. The formal report will contribute seven percent of your course grade, whereas the two informal reports contribute three percent each.

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 three 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 three 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 than historians, for example. 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% (41% from writing assignments, 40% from exams, and 13% 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 effective oral presentation, 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, at least one (and possibly two) of your scouting reports will be delivered as formal presentations. These should be brief, probably on the order of 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 writing assignments 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, but as indicated in that section of the course information, some allowance will be made for difficult to obtain sources. It would be best to discuss this with me, as I may reduce the scouting report grade at my discretion if the report seems unreasonably delayed.


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 CH for Copyright's Highway, 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 "CH 1-21.1" means to read in Copyright's Highway from the top of page 1 up to the first paragraph break on page 21. CH 90.2-116 would be in the same book, from the second paragraph break on page 90 through to the end of page 116. 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
9/10CH 1-21.1NO

9/13CH 21.1-40.2TM
9/14CH 40.2-61AN
9/16CH 63-90.2JW
9/17CH 90.2-116TH

9/20Barbara Fister: librarian's perspective
9/21CH 117-133KY
9/23CH 135-161CH
9/24CH 163-185ML

9/27CH 187-216EH
9/28CC 1-16BFLaura Behling: authorship
9/30CC 17-34AWessay 1
10/1CC 35-62.2AJ

10/4CC 62.2-87.1BB
10/5No class (Nobel Conference)
10/7Public speaking
10/8CC 87.1-116ED

10/11CC 117-131AH
10/12CC 132-148NOLarry Wohl and Phil Bryant: blues
10/14CC 149-167.3TM
10/15CC 167.3-184AN

10/18CC 185-189JWMichele Rusinko: danceessay 2
10/19CC 243-254TH
10/21Midterm exam
10/22College Democrats and Republicans: Election information

10/28CF xv-11KY
10/29CF 17-41CH

11/1CF 43-79MLGeorge Georgacarakos: morals
11/2CF 95-121EH & BF*
11/4Queers and Allies Panel
11/5CF 125-141AW

11/8Priscilla Briggs: video art
11/9CF 147-169AJessay 3
11/11CF 171-194BB
11/12CF 197-220ED

11/15FC xiii-30AH & NO*
11/16FC 31-52TM
11/18FC 53-79AN & JW*
11/19FC 83-107TH

11/22FC 108-130.3KY
11/23FC 130.3-153.5CH

11/29FC 153.5-173EH
11/30Chris Gilbert: congress
12/2FC 177-199.3ML & AW*essay 4
12/3FC 199.3-228.1BF

12/6FC 228.1-247AJ
12/7Terry Morrow: Eldred
12/9FC 248-271BB
12/10FC 275-286ED

12/13FC 287-306AH
12/14Wrap uprewritten essay

* On 11/4, EH should scout a side trail from chapter 5, and BF from chapter 6. On 11/15, AH should scout a side trail from pages viii-13 and NO from pages 17-30. On 11/18, AN should scout a side trail from chapter 4, and JW from chapter 5. On 12/2, ML should scout a side trail from chapter 11 and AW from chapter 12

Course web site:
Instructor: Max Hailperin <>