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Process Paper

I chose my topic because I am very interested in both digital technology and copyright law. (Can you imagine that? Someone being interested in copyright law?) I decided that I would come up with the best research project if I did it on something I like. What I like the most is art and computers, but those have little to do with rights and responsibilities, so I put computers and copyright together. Once I had my idea focused on copyright, I came up with what I have right now.

I conducted my research on the Internet and at the Napa High School library. I found the perfect book for my project, the one with just the right title: Digital Copyright. I made sure all the web pages I used had listed authors and were from creditable sources. I found primary sources directly from the U.S. Copyright Office web site.

I decided to make a web site (the official National History Day category is documentary) because I have made them before and find it enjoyable. I'm not that good at writing term papers, I'm too shy to do a performance, and I didn't feel like doing an exhibit. Also, somehow a web site felt fitting to the project I was doing since it was on copyright in the information age. I started out making my web site in Microsoft FrontPage but moved it over to Netscape Composer when I transferred all my files from the family PC to my iMac. I also planned to make a PowerPoint presentation because I find it to be a very interesting program and a fun way to make presentations.

The relationship of my topic to the theme Rights & Responsibilities lies right in the key word itself: copyright. Both the author of a work and the people looking at, listening to, or using it have rights to what they can do with the work and the responsibilities that come with it. The trick to copyright law is finding just the right balance between the rights of the author and the rights of the user. You can't give the author too many rights; nobody would be able or willing to see his work in the first place. You can't give the users too many rights; the author wouldn't have any incentive to create anything. Not just the ends of the chain from author to user, but all the people in between, have certain rights and certain responsibilities. They are almost never in "normal English," so this project is all about finding, interpreting, and clarifying them.