Making Sense of Copyright

Copyright history is a convoluted mess, but I’ve tried to pick out the events that I think have shaped modern copyright law/practices. In some cases, I’ve grouped events because they build on each other.

My audience is 12th grade Government class. I imagined that I could use this, 1) to look at laws and US international relationships, and 2) to talk about participation in citizenship–i.e. SOPA protests. I wouldn’t necessarily want my students memorizing all the events/dates, but rather having a understanding of how and why copyright law has come to be/changed over time.

[See the timeline widescreen.]


4 Comments on “Making Sense of Copyright

  1. Glad to see Stallman, GNU and copyleft in your presentation. As always, these concepts that originate in the tech community contain important ideas in the wider field, unfortunately obscured by the idea that it’s a “geek/tech thing.”

    I’m fascinated by different movements that are bringing other technologically oriented technologies and ideas to the humanities. For instance, Federated Wiki/FedWiki/Wikity, which brings the idea of “forking” and similar coding models to web writing. Another is the long-debated but never really explored idea of two-way web links, a system of which I understand logically but still can’t picture in execution.

    • I think copyleft/GNU have had a big impact, and will continue to do so. It is sad to see the concepts get shuffled to the side as “geek/tech things,” but hopefully that will change over time.

      I have heard of two-way web links; I think they would be an interesting system but I’m not sure they are entirely feasible with the way the web is today. The concept sort of reminds me of Vannevar Bush’s research trails–a way to create connections for others to follow and augment as they see fit.

      I’m going to have to look into FedWiki, the idea of appyling coding models to writing sounds interesting.

  2. This is fancy! You always make the coolest stuff. It looks so professional. I like that you included GNU, Creative Commons, SOPA and Google. Those are obviously important events/elements in the copyright timeline but I didn’t see them mentioned on very many other nousion-ites’s timelines (myself included). It also gets me thinking about how- when I teach 13th grade government classes (basically)- I’ve always wanted to talk more about Google and China re: authoritarianism and free flow of information. So now you’ve got me thinking about how I could maybe do that. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Thank you! The Knight Lab timeline ( is a great tool, and easy to use. It runs off of a google spreadsheet.

      I’m glad to get you thinking. 🙂 That is one thing I like about these assignments, someone always brings up a point you missed or an idea you can utilize later.

      China is a really interesting case when looking at online censorship, I think it would make a great topic for government classes.

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