Documentary filmmakers and DVD encryption

A Copyright Will Protect You from PIRATES by loan Sammell.
"A Copyright Will Protect You from PIRATES" by loan Sameli

I was interested to learn (via NPR’s On the Media, funnily enough) that there’s a dispute between the International Documentary Association (IDA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

The dispute is about DVD encryption. Basically, it’s legal for documentary filmmakers to use snippets of copyrighted films in their own movies, under a provision of copyright law known as fair use. The weird part, though, is that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998 makes it illegal for them to break the encryption on DVDs in order to get at the video.

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Can Blackboard patent online learning?

Image from noblackboard.org.
Image from noblackboard.org.

A lot of schools use a “learning management system” called Blackboard to make course materials and registration functions available online. If you’ve ever used Blackboard, though, you know that it’s like a magic portal back to 1999.

Blackboard’s design is truly hideous (frames everywhere!), the options for customizing course sites are dismal, and the interface makes even the simplest functions baffling. (Google “I hate Blackboard” for some entertaining commentary.) The City University of New York recently got an object lesson in Blackboard’s shortcomings when the system crashed and burned, paralyzing CUNY’s online functions.

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