Copyright of course is a buzzword these days. With all of that content out there on the Net, everyone wants to know what they can use, what they should use, how to cite it, etc. And let’s be honest. The reason it’s such a buzzword is Napster. No one really cared all that much about copyright pre-Napster. But with the threat (and in a few cases the reality) of law enforcement showing up on your doorstep because of all of that illegal music on your computer, everyone grew very paranoid, largely for no reason.

A few disclaimers. I understand copyright law (I have no formal training but have been in the writing and design business for a while now). I have published books and articles, have requested image and text permissions from publishing houses, have, in my dealings with CafePress overturned two flags of images, one of which involved me dealing directly with Princeton University (which, unbeknownst to me, has not only trademarked Princeton University but also Princeton, which means anything referencing the town of Princeton is technically an infringement on the university’s trademark rights). I buy my music through iTunes. But do I violate copyright law? Yes. Copyright law is like so many other things: it should be governed by common sense. Instead, because of the Napster-factor, it has become a quagmire of anxiety and rigidity on the part of both creators and consumers.

With that said, Jim and I agreed that, because the distribution of Author products is through the iBooks store, even free content, copyright becomes very much an issue. I’m fine including images and other media for which I don’t have permission on class handouts, slide shows, etc.; common sense tells me that is not an infringement in the spirit of the law (though it might be in the letter of the law). But I understand and advocate the need for copyright protection when publishing material, even though the digital ‘publication’ process is vastly different from the print publication process. Which means that the fancier my Author book becomes, the less chance I will or can publish it through the iBooks store.

But this brings up a bigger question. Apple, of course, wows us with the multimedia possibilities of books created with Author; who wouldn’t want those resources at the core of their course? But to create such resources requires a research and design team that only publishing houses have. In other words, the message that Author is here to democratize book production, especially multi-media eBook production, is inherently misleading. In theory, yes. But in practice, few individuals can create the kinds of resources that Author uses in its marketing. This, perhaps, was my most important, and most frustrating realization of the day.