Walking into a Copyright Trap and Discovering a Community of Learners


Did you know that there is something called a ‘copyright trap’? It is similar to a mouse trap. A block of cheese placed to lure you in, but the moment you take it. Snap. The trap closes on you.

Walking into a copyright trap
Walking into a copyright trap

Copyright traps, similarly, means when a publisher intentionally places wrong or fictitious information, so that if someone copies from them they can find out. Common examples are made-up cities and words in maps and dictionaries.

When John Green Discovered Papertowns

John Green, a famous author and the creator of the phenomenal learning series Crash Course, gave a TED talk on how he came across the story of a town called Agloe in New York; a town meant to be a ‘copyright trap’.  These towns were called ‘paper towns’, as they only existed on paper.

When Agloe started surfacing on a competitor’s map as well, the original creator decided to sue them for copying the maps. However, it turned out, that because of Agloe existing on paper, people actually went and set up shops named Agloe. Thus, Agloe became an actual place. As this Guardian article beautifully describes it, Agloe is, “a place that still is, because it never was.

For John, this proved to be an important lesson. He said that a map is a depiction of the world, yet in this case, the world changed to be a depiction of the map.

On Maps and Learning

This idea of exploring and mapping gives a profound lesson. According to John, the way we map our lives also changes how we would end up leading our lives.

Mapping also brings with itself the idea of venturing into the unknown. It means exploring an area and drawing it on your map. To the curious mind, the next question will be, “maybe there is some more land to draw”. This curiosity ensured that John was a lifelong learner, something which is evidenced by the ventures that he has undertaken.

On Finding a Community of Learners

A big aspect of mapping your personal learning is finding a community of learners. A community which would help you grow, make you question things, and be warm and welcoming. This can be found inside or outside a classroom.

For someone like John Green, formal education turned out to be “a series of hurdles to jump over to achieve adulthood”. But once he got out this system, and went into a place where he wasn’t just creating hurdles for himself to jump, he actually started learning.

With the internet, it has become much easier to find this community for yourself. Once you go online, there are people doing fun, absurd, interesting things. Things which would help you learn and expand your minds. A great example of this is Youtube. There are all kinds of channels teaching different things, sparking people’s interest.

At Lawctopus Law School, one of our primary aims is to build such a community. A place where people interact, discuss ideas, have fun while learning, and make everyone around them also curious and well informed.

A big aspect of internet based learning is it helps people engage even after they are outside the scope of “formal education”. These places are somewhat like a “fictitious place”, pieces from history and science, which might have gone by, but are still there preserved in these learning communities. It is up to us to find them out.

Watch the TED Talk here.


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