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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 1, 2007

Oct. 6 Saturday Scholars event explores copyright laws' impact on creativity

An upcoming lecture will address how copyright laws can have a chilling effect on artists' and scholars' ability to engage in critique and other forms of analysis.

Kembrew McLeod, an independent documentary filmmaker and a media studies scholar at the University of Iowa, will discuss his experiences with copyright issues, as well as the ways people have successfully fought back against overreaching copyright claims that stifle free speech, at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 6 in Room 40 of Schaeffer Hall, the southeast building in the UI Pentacrest.

The free, public lecture, "Freedom of Expression: For a Price," is sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) as part of its Saturday Scholars series. It will last about an hour, and refreshments will be served. Clips from McLeod's new educational video, "Freedom of Expression(R)," will be used to drive home the lecture's key points.

"When I first started paying attention to matters of intellectual property over 15 years ago, I discovered that copyright laws were being deployed to stifle certain forms of creative expression," said McLeod, an associate professor of communication studies in the CLAS. "This is especially the case when those scholars are dealing with popular culture, or even modernists like James Joyce, whose estate is notoriously aggressive in defending its copyrights."

McLeod cites an example in 2004, when Indiana University Press withdrew from circulation advance copies of a book on composer Rebecca Clarke because the copyright holders of her compositions intimidated them. The book editor believed quoting the unpublished work in a scholarly context constituted fair use, noting that the alleged infringements added up to 94 lines in a 241-page book, less than 1 percent of its length. Still, the press conceded to the copyright holder's demands to avoid a potentially long and expensive court battle.

"It's unfortunate," McLeod said. "Had the book seen the light of day, it would have been one of a disproportionately small number of scholarly works dedicated to female composers, a group whose work historically has been eclipsed by that of their male counterparts."

McLeod's work focuses on popular music and the cultural impact of intellectual property law. He has written journal articles on copyright and music and published two books on the subject: "Owning Culture: Authorship, Ownership and Intellectual Property Law" (Lang, 2001) and "Freedom of Expression(R): Overzealous Copyright Bozos and Other Enemies of Creativity" (Doubleday, 2005), which received the Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award from the American Library Association. He is an occasional music journalist whose pieces have appeared in Rolling Stone, Mojo, Spin, The Village Voice and "The New Rolling Stone Album Guide" (Fireside, 2005).

McLeod's documentary, "Money For Nothing: Behind the Business of Pop Music" (2000), was screened at a variety of film festivals, including the 2002 South By Southwest Film Festival and the 2002 New England Film and Video Festival, where it received the Rosa Luxemburg Award for Social Consciousness. He is working on a feature-length documentary about digital sampling titled "Copyright Criminals: This is a Sampling Sport," and a second documentary, "Freedom of Expression(R): Resistance and Repression in the Age of Intellectual Property," which focuses on free speech and fair use.

The remaining events in the Saturday Scholars series are:

-- "Ethical Activism in the Poetry of Adrienne Rich and Mary Oliver," Linda Bolton, Department of English, 10 a.m. Oct. 20, Room 40, Schaeffer Hall

-- "Animated Culture: Contemporary Experimental Art Practices," Jon Winet, School of Art and Art History, 10 a.m. Nov. 3, Room 40, Schaeffer Hall

Saturday Scholars was developed to give the public a chance to hear about the latest teaching and research innovations by faculty members in the college. For additional information, visit

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact the CLAS in advance at 319-335-2610.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Nicole Riehl, University News Services, 319-384-0070,; Kembrew McLeod, Department of Communication Studies, 319-335-0582,