Uni copyright debate… turned into Jane Austen discussion

As an assignment for university (UTS- communications), we were asked to prepare for group debates.  Ours was about copyright, and the creative commons.  Feeling a little out of my depth, I ad-libbed and swung the conversation around to something I knew about.  Pride and Prejudice.   And, um, all things Austen. 

It didn’t go down well with the tutorial, I can tell you! I started gabbling on about the Austen manuscripts, and the value they have to the families- and hence why you can’t just take that away from a family estate (and yes, I used the word estate).  Not that this is my view at all- we had just been assigned different sides to the debate.  Then I started talking about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and putting P&P into the public domain, and how this was a bad thing because then everyone would *whisper* BUTCHER the novel.

Someone suggested: “But don’t you like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?”  Ahh, good point my friend, good point. “Well, I like the premise but I would prefer it if the majority of the text were original rather than a money-grab using 80 per cent of the initial Jane Austen manuscript, just with the added presence of the undead. Whether or not the experience is a pleasure is not part of the question, really.  The point is, these are not the creative efforts we should really be helping to exist.”  I’m not sure where my point was going. “The countering argument from the other team suggests that ‘creative efforts’ are stifled by copyright keeping these things out of the public domain.  I see it that the current copyright system allows all sorts of crazy so-called creativity that is merely a ripping off of a once-original idea.” (I didn’t mention that this is generally how creatives work- take Shakespeare).  Personally, I love that Pride and Prej is now public domain material (we can all read it and reap the benefits if we want to without spending a cent!).

I don’t think my team quite won that debate.  But, as I stared around a tutorial of completely bewildered faces, I began to imagine my life without Austen.  Where I couldn’t fall back on some sort of shred of literary/pop-culture knowledge from a niche-in-an-obscure-niche blog in Regulating Communications tutorials.  Where instead of asking “What would Jane do?” I would probably ask “What would Stephanie Meyer do?” and thus begin the wrecking of my life.

When else have you used Austen to escape a sticky situation?  I’ve previously used Pride and Prejudice when talking about the current social climate in another class discussion.  Something along the lines of: “Our world is getting smaller due to social media and networking, and that is why we are so obsessed with The Cult of The Celebrity in the present day” said one girl (she had obviously been to the lecture).  “Actually” I tutted, “we have always been yammering on about other peoples’ lives.  Take Pride and Prejudice- it opens with gossip.  Village gossip, yes.  But it was still gossip about people above their station in lives they wanted.  It’s human nature, not some sort of apocalyptic observation on our media-obsessed society.”  I’m no longer friends with that girl.

I sometimes wish my degree was a Jane-Austen-related one.  (As much as I love journalism).  Or that I could do a Jane Austen subject.  Perhaps one day I will find a course like that and take it, no matter how unrelated to the rest of my life it is.  I can almost see the conversation.  My mum, or partner, or my inner-conscience will ask me why I am wasting money on doing something that won’t get me money/status/career-advancement.  And my other self will explain that Jane is basically a part of me, so the least I can do is understand her properly.

(I once was asked about this blog in an interview, and was slightly derided for it.)

Who knows, maybe one day I will write about her in my career.  Then they’ll all be surprised!

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