Course blog for CSP 11 (Fall 2012) @ Occidental College

CSP 11: Copyright + Culture

Term Paper Prompt

Your final project for this course will be a 6-8 page term paper on a topic of your choosing, structured around an original argument and supported by scholarly sources.  You’re encouraged to select a term paper topic you’re invested in, but the topic you choose must engage with some facet of the course content in a meaningful way.  In short, this is a great opportunity to extend our conversations and continue your responses to the assigned readings, in addition to addressing scholarship and media texts we haven’t encountered in class.

This assignment will unfold in stages over the next month, please be attentive to the deadlines listed below, and build them into your workflow for the rest of the semester.  Ideally, these stages (proposal, conference, peer review of outlines, in-class presentation, final paper) will allow you to shape and hone your argument, as well as get feedback at multiple stages of your project.  See page 331 of A Writer’s Reference for a sense of how you might organize your research and writing process.  To quickly walk through these steps:

  1. You will submit a 200-300 word proposal via email, detailing your project and how it relates to the themes and content of the class.  Please include initial thoughts on your argument, and which specific readings and other texts you plan engage with as your supporting evidence.
  2. We will have a one-on-one conference to discuss your topic further, including your argument and potential sources.  You are required email me a paragraph at least 24 hours before this meeting that summarizes your strengths and weaknesses as a writer (based on comments on prior written work) and how you plan to use these comments to create a writing strategy for this assignment.
  3. We will peer review your paper outline (including thesis statement and works cited page) in class.
  4. You will present your argument and initial findings in an 8-10 minute in class Prezi presentation.
  5. Finally, you will submit your completed paper, and go off for a well-deserved holiday break.

If you are having trouble settling on a topic, consider starting with one of the following broad topics and then focus your analysis on a specific issue or media text:

–        What are the most recent developments/skirmishes in the “copyright wars” (e.g. SOPA/PIPA) and how might they impact the creation and circulation of culture?

–        How might copyright reform bridge the law/norm gap, and what cultural (or industrial) changes would need to occur for this to happen?

–        What would be the benefits and/or drawbacks of adopting moral rights provisions in U.S. copyright law?  Alternately, how are moral rights informally enforced or socially policed within copyright culture?

–        As the length of copyright continues to be extended, many would argue that the author is anything but “dead,” legally speaking.  What are the implications of considering companies and corporations as “authors” when applying Barthes to contemporary copyright culture?

–        Why is fair use doctrine important for…educators?  Remix artists? Authors? Etc.  Is relying on the flexibility of fair use doctrine and the codes of best practices model sufficient?  Why or why not?

–        How has digital sampling fundamentally altered our conception of music, and its aura?

–        What is remix’s capacity as an argumentative form?

–        How has the notion of textual poaching and/or the moral economy evolved within remix culture?  Is either of these terms still relevant?  Do they need to be reconsidered?

–        How do we draw the line between which forms of fan production are transformative or infringing?  Consider the Harry Potter Lexicon trial, or the Organization for Transformative Works test suite of fan vids that helped secure DMCA exemptions as potential test cases

–        How has piracy impacted media industries (e.g. music, film, television, etc.).  Is there a particular case study that reflects these shifts?

–        What is the discursive significance of labeling those who share files “pirates?”  How have both sides of the copyright wars appropriated this terminology to fit their own ideals and goals?

–        Why have academics, artists, and advocates latched on to the “commons?”  What does this idea offer these various groups as a tool of intervention in current copyright law and debates?

If you are torn between multiple topics, please come and see me during my office hours so we can discuss your options.


Research Guidelines:

This is a research paper, so that necessitates that you choose a topic that allows you to engage with SCHOLARLY sources from copyright studies and other related fields.  Feel free to email me if you’re having difficulties finding viable sources, I am happy to recommend articles relevant to your topic whenever I can.  Take advantage of the bibliographies from our course readings, they are a valuable resource!

You must incorporate into your essay at least THREE scholarly articles (or books).  AT LEAST ONE of these sources must be an article we have read in class.  You can/should supplement your paper with other readings from the class, but they won’t count towards the requirement.  Online sources can also supplement this research, but don’t factor into this requirement (unless you’re pulling articles from a scholarly journal online).  If you have any questions on what qualifies as a “scholarly” source, see me.  Be wary of journalistic sources or press releases disguised as articles, and be aware of where your research comes from.  Wikipedia is a wonderful thing, but it’s not always a reliable source of information.  Failure to meet any of these requirements will result in a lowered grade.


Conducting Research (relevant pages from A Writer’s Reference):

– Guiding questions (332-334)

– Research strategies (334-346)

– Evaluating sources (346-349)

– Distinguishing between scholarly and popular sources (350-352)

Before you write (relevant pages from A Writer’s Reference):

– Read “Planning” (3-14) and “Drafting” (14-20)

– Read “Constructing Reasonable Arguments” (78-86)

– Revisit “Writing about texts” (67-68)

– Revisit “Analyze to demonstrate your critical thinking” (74-77)

Constructing your outline (relevant pages from A Writer’s Reference):

– Formal outline structure/example (13-14)

– Writing effective thesis statements (16-18)

Formatting Guidelines (relevant pages from A Writer’s Reference):

– Document formatting (55-56)

– Citations in MLA style (410-411)

Avoiding Plagiarism (relevant pages from A Writer’s Reference):

– Plagiarism (357-365)



  • Friday, 10/26: Proposals due via email
  • Friday, 10/26: Sign up for conference via googledoc
  • Monday, 11/5: Send paragraph via email discussing writing strengths/weaknesses
  • Wednesday, 11/7: Term paper conferences  (CDLR, ground floor of library), 2-4pm
  • Friday, 11/9: Term paper conferences (CDLR, ground floor of library), 2-4pm
  • Friday, 11/16: Email your outline/thesis/works cited by 11am + hard copy for class
  • Monday, 11/19: Sign up for presentation date in class
  • Monday, 11/26: Presentation Group I
  • Wednesday, 11/28: Presentation Group II
  • Friday, 11/30: Presentation Group III
  • Monday, 12/3 Presentation Group IV
  • Friday, 12/7: PDF of final draft due via email by 12pm (CSP11nameTermPaper.pdf)

Good luck, happy writing, and please don’t hesitate to come see me if you hit any roadblocks!



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