Can I Use Your Copyrighted Material in The Hoya?
Published: Thursday, May 17, 2012
Updated: Thursday, May 17, 2012 20:05
Dear Georgetown director of media relations:
My name is Jeremy Tramer, and I'll be graduating this weekend. To commemorate this occasion, I’ve been asked to write a viewpoint to be published in The Hoya reflecting on the four years I’ve spent here. I’ve ultimately decided that I’d like my piece to consist of paragraphs of promotional material copied and pasted from Georgetown’s undergraduate admissions website, alternating with paragraphs copied and pasted from the Wikipedia synopsis of the 2007 Eddie Murphy film Norbit. I’m writing this email to ask you for permission to reproduce copyrighted material from the Georgetown website in the piece.
Now, I realize that the odd nature of the viewpoint I intend to write requires further explanation. I’ll start by saying that if my four years at Georgetown have taught me anything, it’s that taking things seriously isn’t fun. I understand that acting like you’re 40 when you’re only 20 can be rewarding for some people (I’m looking at you, GUSA), but I’ve come to the realization that I enjoy laughing — and making others laugh — more than anything else. That’s why I’ll be pursuing a career in comedy writing after I graduate, instead of the State Department career I had my heart set on when I arrived here as a freshman.
Hence, my only criterion for my piece for The Hoya was to write something funny. My first idea was to satirize the various sentimental articles and speeches we’ll all be subjected to over the next weeks, articles and speeches which will describe in loving detail the various attributes which ostensibly make Georgetown so uniquely special. I was going to start with something along the lines of: “What university other than Georgetown has passionate, energetic students from all over the globe, living and learning together to create a thriving culture of vigor and inspiration? What other university has various student organizations dedicated to making the world a better place? What other university has top-notch professors? What other university has a motto? What other university is accredited? The answer, of course, is, many other universities. Stop trying to act like Georgetown is more special than it is.”
Then I had an idea that would be both funny and time-saving: Why not satirize these overly-earnest odes to Georgetown by taking them to their ultimate extreme and literally just publishing verbatim promotional material from Georgetown’s own website? It seemed like some pretty inspired conceptual humor.
But it needed something more. So I consulted John Sapunor (MSB ’14), Georgetown’s troll emeritus. He told me I should rid the article of any mentions of Georgetown whatsoever, and just republish a verbatim review of Norbit from the Internet. While this advice was inspired in concept, copyright laws and a lack of sufficient derangement prevented me from following it. But I didn’t want to ditch the Norbit angle altogether, so I went to the film’s Wikipedia page to look for more inspiration.
It soon became clear what I had to do: Combine the Wikipedia synopsis of Norbit with the generic promotional material from Georgetown’s website. So we’d see something like, “With more than 6,300 undergraduates from all 50 states and more than 130 countries, Georgetown is a vibrant place to live and learn. It includes a wide spectrum of student organizations, sports teams and clubs, student publications and student activism in political and social causes. Norbit is performing a puppet show for the kids at the orphanage, but then he sees Kate for the first time in years. Stunned by her, his affection for her returns. But the next day (Tuesday), Norbit is disappointed to find out that Kate's now engaged to Deion, a sneaky, slick-talking businessman.”
Why does it matter that it was Tuesday? I understand that most people will think the concept for this article is stupid. But I don’t care. I find it funny, and for every 69 people who despise it, there will be one person who thinks I’m a comedic genius. It may sound crazy, but I like those odds.
Now, according to my research, material from Wikipedia can be freely copied and distributed in any form, as long as I attribute it to the Wikimedia Foundation, Wikipedia’s parent organization. So that won’t be a problem. Meanwhile, however, Georgetown.edu’s copyright information page says that I'd need to obtain permission from the Georgetown Office of Communications in order to republish any material from the Georgetown website. So I called the contact number listed for the Office of Communications, and the nice lady on the phone (while justifiably flustered by the specifics of my request) told me to email you and ask you for permission to republish this copyrighted material.
So, what do you say? Do you give me permission to publish your copyrighted material? I’m fine citing the website as the source, if necessary.
Thank you so much! Hoya Saxa!
Skating is not a crime,
Jeremy Tramer is a senior in the School of Foreign Service and a former layout editor of The Hoya.