Robert S. Boynton, director of New York University’s magazine journalism program, tackles copyrights in Righting Copyrights:
Who owns the words you’re reading right now? if you’re holding a copy of Bookforum in your hands, the law permits you to lend or sell it to whomever you like. If you’re reading this article on the Internet, you are allowed to link to it, but are prohibited from duplicating it on your web site or chat room without permission. You are free to make copies of it for teaching purposes, but aren’t allowed to sell those copies to your students without permission. A critic who misrepresents my ideas or uses some of my words to attack me in an article of his own is well within his rights to do so. But were I to fashion these pages into a work of collage art and sell it, my customer would be breaking the law if he altered it. Furthermore, were I to set these words to music, I’d receive royalties when it was played on the radio; the band performing it, however, would get nothing. In the end, the copyright to these words belongs to me, and I’ve given Bookforum the right to publish them. But even my ownership is limited. Unlike a house, which I may pass on to my heirs (and they to theirs), my copyright will expire seventy years after my death, and these words will enter the public domain, where anyone is free to use them. But those doodles you’re drawing in the margins of this page? Have no fear: They belong entirely to you.
The line between science fiction and reality is often difficult to discern, as exhibited by the case of the college student who received trademark #2,127,381 for the phrase “freedom of expression.” Fortunately, the student was Kembrew McLeod, who applied for it in order to make a point. McLeod, now professor of communication studies at the University of Iowa, is no stranger to using media pranks to exploit the absurdities of the system. In fact, he even once sold his soul in a glass jar on eBay.