Property is Theft: Come on In

In the academic job market, dominated on the one hand by adjuncts and casual labor, and on the other by a shrinking pool of tenure and tenure track professors, publicity matters. We all need to hear much more public discussion of the over-use of adjuncts and casual labor; when it hits the evening network news, we’ll know we are on our way. And that tiny group of full time professors need publicity to earn their way into the star system that passes for job security.

So I am never surprised when I read a story (“Play It Again, Professor”) about a professor pulling a publicity stunt. (It’d be interesting to know more about the logistics: did Marcus Boon notify the Chronicle beforehand to ensure he got his story?) On the other hand, I have to give Boon some credit becuase his stunt– reading from books other than his own at a book reading– does have a point. I am not sure how Boon would make the point, but the Chronicle makes it seem pretty wishy-washy post-modern academic.

It’s not. The idea of copyright, and the subsequent maturation of individual authorship, arose–among other things– out of a need to make sure that authors got paid for their work. It’s become completely naturalized, of course, and as a result many if not most people cannot imagine a world with any other kind of intellectual property right. That’s why the idea of a creative commons license is both so important and so difficult for so many to fathom. I don’t think, though, that it changes what we teach students.

Whatever it’s connections to bourgeois property– it’s certainly analogous to it– intellectual property is a lesson that we teach students in order to teach them a kind of social responsibility. We use citations becuase it’s a way of demonstrating mutual respect, even if at times it’s honored more in the breach, as when Dylan risks our ire by claiming personal authorship when he draws from the collective pool. These are all issues that are bound to generate some ‘future shock’ and I not sure this sort of stunt does much to address that issue.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Post Navigation