Owning the Intangible: Possession, Theft, and (Mis)Appropriation of Ideas

Writing Assignment 1: Copyright and Links

Summary: In this assignment, you will write a short essay arguing a side of the question Should intellectual property law limit the links an author can make on the Web?

Due: 8:00 a.m., Thursday, 26 August 2010

To Turn In: Fourteen printed copies of your essay (double-spaced, please). Please email me a copy of your essay, too.

Purposes: I intend this assignment and your work for the assignment to provide a variety of benefits. In particular, I expect that they will

Background: The World Wide Web is an online collection of information written by many different individuals, with different documents (pages) hosted on different computers. The Web permits authors to include live links to other pages in their own pages. As readers browse Web pages, they may select a link in one document and immediately obtain the linked document.

The Issue: Some authors of Web pages object to having others link to their pages. To ground their objections, these authors often claim that such links violate their intellectual property rights. Other authors claim a right to link freely to any document.

Essay Topic: Write a short essay either supporting or opposing the claim that links violate page author's intellectual property rights. You may rely on your own opinions, on appropriate writings you identify, on court cases, and on the U.S. Code. Your your claim will necessarily be more specific than simply Web links do (do not) violate IP law. It is up to you what more specific claim you make.

Assigned Perspectives: On this assignment, I ask you to take a particular general perspective. You do not have a choice on your perspective. The assignments are as follows:

Length: 300-600 words.

Audience: You are writing for the typical Web reader. Your reader has probably used links and heard of intellectual property, but has not thought deeply about implications of links or about intellectual property law. Your goal is to convince the reader of your assigned perspective.

I expect to post your essays on the Web, so your readers really will be typical Web readers.

Suggested Structure: Because this is a relatively short essay, I suggest that you follow the five paragraph essay format. Here's my version of that format.

You should refer to the Williams and McInerny essay as you work on your introductory and concluding paragraphs.

Some Potential Sources:

Citing Sources: I expect you to use at least one source within this document. List the source at the end in APA format.



Friday, 15 August 2003 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]

Some unknown date in mid-August 2003 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]

Thursday, 18 August 2005 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]


Disclaimer: I usually create these pages on the fly, which means that I rarely proofread them and they may contain bad grammar and incorrect details. It also means that I tend to update them regularly (see the history for more details). Feel free to contact me with any suggestions for changes.

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Samuel A. Rebelsky, rebelsky@grinnell.edu