Cut, Snip and Paste – Reality can’t be copyrighted!

This weekend, I set eyes upon some glorious writing – Texts without Contexts by Michiko Kakutani. Thank god for fearless and perfecting critics such as her! Few really like her but I think she is brilliant with a capital B and in this latest piece, she reviews so much about the paradigm shift that is happening in the online world — the earthquake that is shaking up the copyrighted wronged world.

Nobody owns Reality! — we should all have to say this a dozen times first thing every morning! Yet we pretend we do, that we own a chunk of it and that ideas can be commodities….what tin gods we follow!

“Who owns the words?” Mr. Shields asks in a passage that is itself an
unacknowledged reworking of remarks by the cyberpunk author William

Gibson. “Who owns the music and the rest of our culture? We do — all of

us — though not all of us know it yet. Reality cannot be copyrighted.”

Kakutani, hits a point that I’ve been pounding out and screaming like some lady in the cattle car headed for doom. The point being that it isn’t about ownership but about sharing with the world and recreating. As Eric Fromm so well put in his wonderful book of long ago, “To have or to be?”

Now we can copy in an instant. The land is shifting under out feet. We can alter on a dime. The days now have but minutes. We can send our creations anywhere instantly. Distance is now subjective.

And you can’t fight this. This is the force of human creativity and innovation. You can only change. Rub out the old notions of ownership and authorship. I want a library of ideas, not a library of names and authors. Let me read and view and see and feel something for WHAT IT IS not for Who it came from. Didn’t we call the emperor on his clothes long ago?

And back to education. Educators have a RIGHT to use reality, all of its components – a RIGHT to use it in their classrooms and in educating the world. Let’s doff the chains of copyright and litigation and run out into the light of knowledge and through the field of ideas. Is not the future of our children of importance? How can you own ideas and bind ideas and lock them away? You can’t!

I’ve been at the forefront of this fight and have written often here on this topic of copyright and access, on open source and creative commons, on sharing and educational freedom. Technology offers the possibility of access for billions to the wealth of ideas and creation — if only we stand up and voice our disgust. If only we keep throwing off the chains and running further ahead.

These words have been a little abstract. Next time, I’ll write more poignantly. Sorry.

I guess this is all on my mind because I have also been following this blog post – of Sue Waters. Of course, copying and pasting others work without giving credit is abuse. I’m the first one to stand up and scream and have gone to long lengths for others who were so abused. I don’t disagree with her. But I do think we go too far – shouldn’t we want our ideas, our lessons, our materials to travel as far afield as possible. Why would we want to suffocate our children (and ideas are the child of all teachers)? As I commented to her and comment now to you….

I won’t get into who is right or who is wrong. We all have our “feelings” (and that’s all they are – a version of “truth”.

I’ll only add, ANYONE can take my words and do whatever they want with them. Also, anything I create. I’m in it for the “ideas” and not
any pandering of ego, name or who mentioned it. At the end of the day,
we are all like Heraclitus, forgotten, misquoted and walking in rivers
we will never ever step into again.

Technology is chipping and chewing away at the idea of “entitled thought”. I’ll be glad when that tree falls and we can read all the
books and web pages of the world for their content and not WHO wrote it
or having to pay some quack. It’s all been said before – we authors are
only reminding others.

Still, I do respect others wishes. We are all different.



The world is changing. We either change with it or join the Neanderthals in their cave. Here’s a presentation I will have to update soon – but it outlines many of my ideas on this subject of the new “information age”. But please read Kakutani – she is brilliant, the article is brilliant. It is one more scream in the cattle car. If interested, one can also see my more poetic scream – my own Manifesto on Gagaism.

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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2 Responses

  1. ddeubel says:

    I follow Richard Stallman’s 4 freedoms. A good model for the future. See more comments here

    There are four essential freedoms that define a knowledge free world:

    1. The freedom to run experience the original as you wish.

    2. The freedom to study the original and change it to do what you wish.

    3. The freedom to make copies and distribute them to others.

    4. The freedom to publish modified versions.

  2. Sue Waters says:

    Thanks for continuing the conversation and it is probably worth also reading this post (

    And then read my comment on the post

    For me the most important point of my comment on her post (which you have also done here on your post) is ‘The true nature of freely sharing content is about building on each other work and taking the time to acknowledge those that inspired you to expand on the content — like you have done in this post.”

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