Summary Post

After much debate this week on the topics of copyrights and remixing, it is clear that this is an issue deep with controversy and a complicated one to rectify.

In Jennifer’s initial post, she asks the question “how are sites, governments, media companies supposed to enforce copyright laws to protect themselves, when mostly everything today that has been created has been a collaboration of ideas presented before them?”

In David’s post and subsequent comments, he refers to Kirby Ferguson’s discussion of creativity being based on 3 basic elements – copy, transform and combine, as well as the concepts of influence and constructivism.  He also poses the question, if these concepts alter the situation to make copyright laws difficult to enforce, thereby negating the laws themselves?

Despite the perceived difficulty in enforcement, I think that copyright laws absolutely can be enforced, even in the face of modern information technology.  Essentially, there are three scenarios that allow for the copyrighted content to be reused:

1) Copyright owner allows reuse explicitly by employing a Creative Commons license or something similar

2) The copyright expires and the work enters the public domain (although this can take a while)

3) The re-use is covered under the “fair use” exception to copyright

Although it can be difficult to establish whether a particular instance of reuse is covered by the “fair use” exception, this challenge is hardly new – questions about the bounds of fair use have existed long before modern information technology.

Nevertheless, the Internet has created an environment where a new set of questions arise around copyright enforcement. Say you search for something on Bing, and are directed to a link on YouTube, and the content viewed there is questionable.  Is YouTube responsible for making sure all of their hosted content is legal? And what role does Bing play in all this? Are they to be held responsible under secondary liability laws? Are they responsible for making sure they only promote and link to legal content?




Borrowing New Ideas



As discussed in Kirby Ferguson’s documentary, much of modern pop culture is formed from a “remix” of previous works: new works are created by creating a rich collection of references to prior musicians, artists and movie directors. People have become increasingly aware of these remixes, and the vital role they play in fostering creativity.

Building a freely accessible cultural commons is a topic of recent widespread interest among several online communities. This groundswell of interest is reflected in the emergence of organizations like the Creative Commons. However, this movement is threatened by traditional intellectual property law, which often places restrictions on how earlier works can be referenced and reused in newer pieces.  To deal with this threat to the so-called “remix culture”, groups such as the Creative Commons have employed several strategies.  First, they have challenged the existing intellectual property laws in the courts. For example, the litigants in the American Supreme Court case Eldred v. Ashcroft challenged the 1998 extension of the length of copyright protection. Although this particular legal challenge was unsuccessful, this remains a possible avenue for advancing “remix culture”.

However, perhaps a more promising approach is simply to advocate the benefits of free culture to the public. For example, Creative Commons has released a set of licenses that encourage liberal re-distribution and re-use terms. Because the copyright holder can choose the conditions under which their work can be reused, this approach results in more works being released under liberal licenses, without the expense and time required to pursue legal challenges.

Finally, new technology such as automated scanners and optical character recognition (OCR) has enabled many old works that are in the public domain to be digitized and distributed more widely. Notable efforts in this area include Project Gutenberg and the Google Books Library Project.


Kirby Ferguson – Everything is a Remix (video) —

Creative Commons —

Eldred v. Ashcroft —

Project Gutenberg —

Google Books Library Project —

Op-Ed: Trust Wiki

For whatever reason, the last week or two has brought with it a dramatic increase in the frequency of Wikipedia mentions in various blog posts across the country.  The works of esteemed bloggers Amanda Hassanally, David Vusich and Dilvin Ismail have stimulated the mind and challenged us to consider the validity of the words we absorb and trust on Wikipedia’s website.

Most often, the concerns have been related to who is making the contributions to Wikipedia and their authority and qualifications to make those contributions, as well as the competence of the editors entrusted to patrol the site and weed out the troublemakers and false information.

Somewhat startling information shared by Richard Jensen of a 2011 survey of Wikipedia editors showed that 90% were male and 27% were under the age of 21.  Even more concerning is that 13% are still in high school (Jensen, 2012).  Do these high school students have the knowledge, competency and maturity to handle the responsibility of operating a site that so many people trust blindly?  Would Wikipedia be such a frequently used resource if everyone knew unqualified teenagers were managing portions of it?  Does a 90% male editorial base suggest gender bias in the information presented on Wikipedia?  Surely, this information would lead us to believe that the information contained in Wikipedia articles is filled with errors and omissions, and could never be trusted as much as a respected source such as the Encyclopedia Britannica, right?

Fortunately for Wikipedia, and its devoted users alike, Jim Giles’ special report published in an edition of Nature dispelled many of these concerns.  By studying various science articles, the works of Wikipedia were found to be on the same level as the almighty Encyclopedia Brittanica, and contained a similarly small number of errors (Giles, 2005).  This report represented a great win and a boon in support of Wikipedia’s validity as a trusted, accurate resource.

But enough surveys and special reports.  I wanted to take a look into this myself.

I am currently in the process of writing the LSAT examination, so I figured this would be a good place to start.  How would Wikipedia’s account of the LSAT compare with my own experiences?  And how did the members of the Wiki-community interact with each other, particularly when issues and controversy arose.  Were disputes handled with respect and reason? Or with the chaotic anarchy one would expect from high school students?

At first glance I found the information on Wikipedia’s LSAT entry to be very accurate and informative.  Although not passionately written (as expected), it contained a breakdown of all the information an aspiring law student would want to know regarding the structure, importance and history of the exam.  The “Talk” section contained a few disagreements, but all were handled respectfully and with sources cited responsibly.  No one was just spewing their own personal opinions or being offensive to anyone.  As is often the case, a dispute around the Canada-USA relationship occurred, but it was managed respectfully through the use of relevant citations and statistics.  This section also contained other topics of discussion, all of which were done so respectfully and in an organized and diplomatic fashion.

While the opportunity for error exists on Wikipedia, it’s hard to say that it is any more unreliable than other sources, and research has shown this to be true.  I have found the information on Wikipedia to be both comprehensive and reliable, and the contributors, despite their apparent lack of accreditation, have presented accurate information, as well as conducted themselves respectfully.  Wikipedia has been around long enough that it should be recognized as a reliable, accurate source, and although perhaps not quite ready to be used as a reference in academia, should not be scoffed at and treated as an inferior resource for information.



Amanda Hassanally —

David Vusich —

Dilvin Ismail —

Giles. J. (2005). Special Report: Internet encyclopaedias go head to headNature. 438, pp 900-901.

Jensen, R. (2012). Military History on the Electronic Frontier: Wikipedia Fights the War of 1812. Journal of Military History. 76, 1. pp 1165-1182

Wikipedia – LSAT —

Where we’re going, we don’t need roads…


After this week’s readings and initial blog posts, many interesting ideas have been shared about Wikipedia and its place in the world of academia.  Despite not being appreciated by the majority of professors and educational institutes, it seems the vast majority of students rely on Wikipedia in many phases of their lives, for initial information purposes at the very least.  Although it is often criticized for its validity and accuracy, our readings this week showed that in comparison to the almighty Encyclopedia Britannica, Wikipedia certainly holds its own, and deserves more credit than it has received.

It’s interesting to think of the possibilities for the future of a site like Wikipedia: being so broad and comprehensive, widely available and free for public consumption.

Naturally, one wonders if Wikipedia could ever be regarded as a legitimate academic resource.  And what would have to happen for it to become a reputable source?

Would there need to be increased monitoring of the site, and/or enhanced moderating to ensure only the most accurate information is posted?

Would the list of permitted contributors need to be restricted to a selected group of “experts”?  Maybe these experts would have to collaborate and approve each other’s postings before publication, giving Wikipedia a claim as more of a “peer-reviewed” source?

Or maybe Wikipedia will be unable to shake its unsavory reputation, and will always be regarded as the black sheep of the encyclopedia family?

In response to my earlier blog post, Dave over at Paideia Posits raised a valid point in comparison of Encyclopedia Britannica:

I wonder how accurate Britannica was when it was in its early years of publication? How many times has Britannica had to print updates and full revisions based on errors they found in their own articles?

This is an interesting point that often gets overlooked.  The Encyclopedia Britannica has cemented its reputation as a reliable source, but was this always the case?  There was once a time when the Encyclopedia was unproven and likely had many doubters.  Even today, with all the clout and prestige it holds, it was found to be only slightly more accurate than Wikipedia.  Wikipedia at its current stage is likely more reliable than the Encyclopedia Britannica ever was at its similar stage of infancy.  Surely any emerging information source goes through a transitional period that may include several hiccups while ironing out the most effective strategy to deliver information.

Whatever your opinion of Wikipedia is, there’s no denying that it will continue to hold a place in our society in the future.  There’s no telling what a site with such great potential could evolve into and become.

Wiki-Wiki Whaaaaat?

Educators have long regarded Wikipedia with suspicion; in many schools, citing Wikipedia is not allowed in essays and academic papers. Nevertheless, I have personally found Wikipedia to be a reliable source of information. Although it rarely provides exhaustive coverage of a topic, it provides a good means to become familiar with a new topic or find links for more detailed discussion.

It is clear that many other people find Wikipedia to be useful as well, as Wikipedia has grown to have more than 4 million articles in English and almost 20 million registered user accounts. Wikipedia’s traffic has also grown rapidly, becoming “the Web’s third most popular news and information source, with more unique visitors than Yahoo News, MSNBC, AOL News, and CNN” (ComScore, 2006).  It is now “12 times larger than the print version of the Encyclopedia Brittanica” (Kapila and Royal, 2009).  Although the Encyclopedia is often hailed for it’s reputation for accuracy and thoroughness.

However, research in 2005 studied the accuracy of science articles in both Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Brittanica, and found that Wikipedia was almost as reliable, and not a huge discrepancy in errors as expected (Giles, 2005).  Perhaps this evidence supporting the quality of Wikipedia articles will lead to it holding more credibility in the future.

Despite its growing size and popularity, Wikipedia has been the subject of considerable controversy. For example, a recent story in Salon detailed the activities of a malicious Wikipedia editor who used his anonymity to slander his academic rivals and carry out real-world grudges. Wikipedia has a comprehensive code of conduct, but the site’s decentralized, democratic, and anonymous nature makes it difficult to detect conduct violations and enforce meaningful consequences. For example, “sock puppet” accounts are commonplace, in which a single person creates multiple collaborating accounts to create the impression of consensus around a topic. While such nefarious tactics rarely impact high-traffic articles that have many editors watching them, I’m concerned that lesser-visited parts of the site might be more vulnerable to malicious editors.

Despite these concerns and its controversial history, Wikipedia is likely to remain a popular and widely used reference.



Giles. J. (2005). Special Report: Internet encyclopaedias go head to headNature. 438, pp 900-901.

Kapila, D. and Royal, C. (2009). What’s on Wikipedia, and What’s Not…?: Assessing Completeness of Information. Social Science Computer Review. 27, 1. pp 138-148.

Leonard, A. (2013).  Revenge, ego and the corruption of Wikipedia.  Retrieved from

Defining Yourself Through Your Online Persona

This week’s readings took us on a journey into Cyberspace. The works of Sherry Turkle discussed a growing dependence on social networking as a form of communication, as well as the online identities of users in the online community.  Personally, I have a number of “online identities”, dependent on the form of social networking I am using.  I use LinkedIn for establishing and maintaining professional contacts, Sports forums for discussing whichever Toronto-based sports team is disappointing me at that present moment and I use Facebook for creeping my grade 9 science lab partner’s sister’s boyfriend’s uncle’s co-worker’s daughter’s BFF’s roommate’s cousin’s pictures of a 2006 family vacation to Machu Picchu.

The choice of social networking site that people choose to express themselves on can indicate a great deal about their personality and interests.  Most people have Facebook, and for the most part they use it to keep in contact with friends and family in different cities around the world.  However, a site like LinkedIn usually caters to a person that is either involved in the business world, or hopes to enter into it.  Therefore, their interactions on this site will be reflected through professionalism.  Other sites like Tumblr and Pinterest often attract a creative person and are forums for the exchange of creative ideas and thoughts.  In this way, you’ve made a decision about how you want to be perceived on the Internet before you ever even compose a post, just by registering to use that particular social networking site.

In addition, not only do different people use different social networks, but in fact the same person may express themselves differently on each site. For example, someone might present a professional persona on LinkedIn, they might share their family photos on Facebook and they might post their inside jokes with friends on Tumblr. None of these personas is their “one true” personality; rather, each site presents an opportunity for a user to express a different part of their personality to a particular audience. This act of consciously self-curating one’s online persona is a uniquely modern activity.  While it is something that people my age have only gradually grown accustomed to, I suspect it will become second nature to future generations that have been raised in an environment of pervasive digital media.


Cyberspace and Identity Sherry Turkle Contemporary Sociology Vol. 28, No. 6 (Nov., 1999), pp. 643-648

Sherry Turkle. The Flight From Conversation. New York Times Sunday Review. April 21, 2012

Places we don’t want to go: Sherry Turkle at TED2012




Welcome to my blog as part of the COMM 2F00 class!

This blog will document a transitional phase in my life, where I hope to make positive changes through two seemingly unrelated catalysts: an increased focus on health through diet and an active lifestyle, as well as my initial endeavors into the world of the LSAT exam.

My focus on health was brought on by a realization that there was a need for change.  After being actively involved in working out for the last several years, the most recent 12 months of my life contained 0 visits to the gym, 0 push-ups, 0 sit-ups, and 0 hours of cardio training.  Coupled with this was an extremely unhealthy diet of fast food multiple times per day, a 15-year pack-a-day smoking habit, and a generally sedentary lifestyle.  I responded to this realization a few weeks ago by quitting smoking, returning to the gym 5-6 times per week, and making a change in my diet towards organic, sustainable whole foods, while pushing away breads, sugars, carbs and any processed foods.

My journey towards the LSAT exam is an unlikely one.  After dropping out of high school and running into my own legal problems in my late teens/early 20s, I would never have believed that 5-10 years later I’d be back in school, moving in the right direction, and on the path to higher education.  Many people prepare for the LSAT exam with 6+ months of intensive study, however I will be preparing over the course of two weekends and then writing the exam on June 10.  This hasty strategy will undoubtedly present me with a few challenges and hiccups along the way.  However, hopefully it will also provide some entertainment to whoever stumbles across this blog.

In addition to blabbering on about my own life, I hope to incorporate some discussion about relevant issues to these topics.  These may include articles ranging anywhere from discussing fitness, diet and overall health, to those that state opinions on the legitimacy of standardized testing or anything else law school related.

Thanks to everyone interested in joining me on this journey, I feel there may be a lot to learn along the way.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”  
– Marcel Proust 

Relevant Links


Fitness News at MSNBC

Men’s Fitness

Whole Living

Organic Products Lifestyle

#LSAT          #lawschool          #health          #fitness          #workingout