Wikipedia:United States Education Program/Courses/Copyright Commerce and Culture (Spring 2012) -- Evan Hill-Ries

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Course description[edit]

In this course we will focus on a seemingly esoteric legal subject that is now located at the heart of many social, cultural, economic, and political conflicts: copyright law. While initially codified as a state granted monopoly designed to to encourage publishers and established authors to invest in culture, copyright law has now extended into every part of our day to day life and interaction with media. Moreover, the law is obviously and increasingly dangerously out of touch with digital culture. But what is really at stake in the copyright battles? Does our law reward profit, control, or culture? Should culture be owned? Does it even make sense to call it “intellectual property”? In our efforts to better understand these issues, we will read both primary and secondary materials, covering subjects ranging from the birth of copyright to contemporary justifications for copyright reform, analyze relevant and interesting documentary films, and enjoy guest lectures from a range of established speakers.


We’ll be focusing on editing Wikipedia as both authors and educated copyright consumers. While you will be required to write your own original content, I am also expecting you to make an effort to add other work authored by someone else to the articles you choose to work on. I want you to engage directly with the copyright implications of such reuse, while also respecting Wikipedia’s policies on the subject. The steps involved will be as follows:

1. You will create a Wikipedia account, create a user page, and add a link to that user page to this course page. You may wish to add some biographical information to your user page. For examples of user pages, you can check out the user pages of our Wikipedia Ambassador(s): MalikaZ (talk · contribs)

2. During the first month of class, you will attend tutorial sessions with our Wikipedia Campus Ambassador to familiarize yourselves with the editing process and community guidelines of Wikipedia. These sessions will meet in an NYU computer lab, and they are mandatory. There will be multiple times offered to accommodate your schedules.

3. You will need to find an article or group of articles in an area of U.S. public policy to focus your work on. This area can either be a copyright issue that we’ve covered in the course or another policy issue you’ve done some research on in the past. It can even be a person, place, or thing you have a personal connection to, e.g. your home town, if there’s a reason to have a section in the article related to public policy.

If possible, it’s best to choose an article that is specific and underdeveloped; many more general articles are already well-maintained. That said, you also have to be mindful of the need to support your content with references to quality sources, i.e. those that can be expected to have a fact-checking process. Working on an article that can only be supported with forum posts and tweets will be a frustrating exercise.

4. For your first assignment, you will write a short assessment of the article. You should address each of the following criteria with examples drawn from the article when appropriate:

  • Coverage: Determine what content is missing from the article. Does the article cover the important aspects of the topic?
  • References: Assess the quality of the cited sources. Are the sources of high quality relative to what is available?
  • Neutrality: Is the article written from a neutral point of view?
  • Readability: Is the article readable and well written?
  • Formatting: Does the article adhere to the Wikipedia Manual of Style?

5. For your second assignment, you’ll compile a bibliography of the sources and content you will use to add to the article. This will require research on your part to identify the best references for the information you wish to add or edit. For instance, while you may have read it in a blog post, if that post refers to a separate primary source, it is that source that you need to use as a reference for the Wikipedia article. For content that you propose reusing in the article, you should assess its copyright status. Does it have an explicit license attached to it, or is it likely to be “all rights reserved”? Is it original (and recent) enough to be protected by copyright?

6. For your third assignment, you’ll create an outline or summary of what you propose to add to the article. Remember to maintain a neutral point of view, and for your reused content, ensure that your use meets Wikipedia’s Non-Free Content requirements. This will be a good point to seek feedback from our Wikipedia ambassador and/or a Wikipedia mentor on whether your summary meets Wikipedia’s requirements.

7. For your final assignment, you will make your edits to the live Wikipedia article and email me a link to your revision. You should contribute at least 1000 words of original content, with additional credit available for reused content and diligent sourcing. You will be graded on the quality of your edits, which will include both an evaluation of your writing and an evaluation of your sources and reused content. While you are encouraged to engage in the discussion on the Talk page and advocate for your edits if they are reverted, your grade will not depend on whether your edits persist in the article.

Instructor and Ambassadors[edit]

Evan Hill-Ries Evanhr (talk · contribs)
Campus Ambassador(s)
Malika Toure MalikaZ (talk · contribs)
Online Ambassadors
The Interior (Talk)



The Wikipedia project will account for 25% of your overall grade this semester.

Wikipedia contributions will be graded as follows:

  • 10 pts each (x3): Participation grade for early Wikipedia exercises
  • 70 pts: Quality of main Wikipedia contributions, based on following criteria:
    • 25 pts: Comprehensiveness- how fully the article covers significant aspects of the topic.
    • 15 pts: Sourcing- adequacy of inline citations and quality of sources relative to what is available.
    • 10 pts: Readability- how readable and well-written the article is.
    • 10 pts: Neutrality- adherence to the Neutral Point of View policy.
    • 10 pts: Formatting- quality of the article's layout and basic adherence to the Wikipedia Manual of Style.
    • 5 pts: Illustrations- how adequately the article is illustrated, within the constraints of acceptable copyright status.

Note: the points above add up to 105 because not every article necessarily requires illustration, thus those points are available as extra credit to make up for losses in other areas.


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