06 May, 2006

Copyrights, Plagiarism, Young Students

Recent contraversy about book "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life" by Kaavya Viswanathan, made me think that many young people (especially young students in India) may not have clear knowledge about Copyrights. No, I am not implying that Kaavya Viswanathan did not know about Copyrights. The book contraversy is not the topic of this post.

From my experiences, students do create and submit project lot of reports, articles, poems, cartoons during their college days. Manytimes, they obtain work created by others from internet, books etc. and use in their work, which is perfectly fine as long as one mentions the reference and not claim the work as his/her own.

My effort is to help them avoid plagiarism (claiming someone else's work as your own, intentionly or otherwise).

Q. What is Copyrights and Why should I care?

You must have seen copyright notices on books. Something like (C) All rights reserved.

Copyrights give you certain rights to decide how your work should be used by others. Its relevant if your work is original and has commercial value. This includes books, articles, poems, software source code etc. work which exists in some forms. This will prevent somebody using your work for commercial gains without consulting/paying you.

Q. What can be protected by Copyrights?

Your expressions is some form can be copyrights, not underlying ideas. For example you can Copyright your particular poem (written on paper/on computer)about a train telling her emotions, but not idea that machines can express their emotions.

See http://fairuse.stanford.edu/Copyright_and_Fair_Use_Overview/index.html
for more information. I quote paragraph relevant to above question.

"Facts are not protected even if the author spends considerable time and effort discovering things that were previously unknown. For example, the author of the book on Neanderthals takes ten years to gather all the necessary materials and information for her work. At great expense, she travels to hundreds of museums and excavations around the world. But after the book is published, any reader is free to use the results of this ten year research project to write his or her own book on Neanderthals -- without paying the original author."

Important point is it also means that you cannot publish somebody else's work, claiming it to be your's. It not legal in India and may other countries. However fair use of the other's work is allowed.

I hope this makes you aware of basics of Copyrights. Do your own research for more information on fair use, patents, and related topics.

Some more useful links.
Myths about copyright explained http://www.templetons.com/brad/copymyths.html

01 May, 2006

Coping with Chennai weather

May has started, yet another hot, humid day in Chennai, temperature are high, traffic is congested, autos/buses are not air conditioned. By the way there are not many cabs available in Chennai.
It really affects your productivity and limits things you can do on weekends. I am looking for some tips to cope with the extreme weather, here is my list (mostly of obvious things), your ideas are welcome.

# Short Term
  • Buy good sun glasses and cap to protect you from UV rays, glares etc.
  • Wear cotton clothes, shorts, deodarant.
  • Drink plenty of water, fruit juices, milk shakes.
  • Avoid going outdoors between 11 AM to 4 PM, especially to high traffic places like mount road. Basically hot vehicle fumes are no good for your eyes and lungs.
  • Do not underestimate the weather, it can get extreme, read weather reports and contact meteorological department if required, to plan your activities.
# Long Term
  • Get good air conditioner for your office and home.
  • Air conditioners are no good without electricity, power outages are not rare, so consider installing portable power generators, or solar power.
  • Keep in touch with relevant government departments and advocate them use of solar power. If we don't do this then we deserve power cuts.
  • Talk to your representatives in local government, demand for more trees, parks, air conditioned public places, in buses, suggest solutions, ideas.
I am curious about engineering solutions which can harness solar power to keep temperatures of whole city low, a kind of artificial winter Is is possible?

Ain't no cool breeze when she's gone
It's not fresh when she's away
Ain't no cool breeze when she's gone
And she always gone too long anytime she goes away Ain't cool breeze when she's gone
It's not fresh when she's away
Ain't no cool breeze when she's gone
And she always gone too long anytime she goes away

See original lyrics by Bill Withers.