A Copyright Tale

My friend @robwall sent me this tweet a couple of days ago:

The image that (currently) previews in that tweet isn’t the original photo that was posted to this Ars Technica article. Originally, the article featured an image of my three children engaging in a Facetime conversation with my dad. I released this image under a Creative Commons license (BY-NC-SA), one that requires attribution, non-commercial use, and that the license remains the same even if someone adapts the photograph. Below is a screenshot of the original photo placement in the article, and you should notice that attribution is not provided. This seemed particularly ironic as the content of the article deals with intellectual property, and the author writes prolifically on these topics.

Report__After_patent_loss__Apple_tweaks_FaceTime—and_logs_500_000_complaints___Ars_Technica_and_WiTopia

Shortly after I received the tweet from Rob, I sent the author a tweet and posted a comment on the article. Essentially, I was fine with Ars Technica using the photograph, was happy to provide permission for non-commercial use, but urged Ars to provide proper attribution for the image. While it took several hours for a response (which I think is quite reasonable), I eventually received this tweet from the author, @joemullin.

I was pleased with the response. I don’t see this as theft. I recognize that this could easily have been an oversight. And apologizing publicly is not easy for many. So, I respect Joe for that and appreciate the transparency in his response.

Shortly after this tweet for Joe, I also received an email from the editor. I have pasted the text of this email below, and respond to it here.

Hi, I’m the creative director for Ars. First off, let me apologize for the oversight on your image credit. Our policy is always to credit and link all CC licensed photos, a quick glance at some other stories on our site should show the credit below the image. This was simply a mistake, didn’t mean for you to feel ripped off or cheated in any way.

Thanks Aurich. I’m happy with your swift response. Personally, I do not feel ripped off or cheated as I don’t feel a strong sense of ownership for the content that I create. However, the lack of attribution cheats your readership (the general public). While it may not seem like a big deal in the case of this single photograph, I feel that proper attribution is essential in providing others with the origin, adaptions, and travels of an artefact or idea. I love seeing that my work is useful for others. But, without attribution, we silence potential conversations around the matter and the context of ideas/artefacts being shared.

Let me also apologize for using an image that must resonate with you emotionally right now, definitely not our intention. I prefer that our writers not use photos of people from Flickr, even when licensed clearly for use, they’re not professional models and it can sometimes come out badly. Better to stick with licensed stock art for that kind of thing when possible.

If you missed it here’s the public apology from the author:


I appreciate that Joe has made this statement publicly.

 

Our policy is to just immediately pull any image if someone claims the rights to it and objects. We don’t even verify they own it, better safe than sorry. So in this case your photo was immediately pulled once your comment was seen.

 

The response was as timely as could be expected on a Saturday.

 

I also want to address the non-commercial license issue, it’s a bit of a mess as far as sorting out what it means. My understanding from lawyers (I’m certainly not one) is that CC licenses under “non commercial” are fair use for editorial purposes, even if the site in question also operates as a for-profit entity (so banner ads etc). Understandably some people might be 100% fine with that, and others might object because it doesn’t meet the spirit of what they thought they were putting up under that license.
So Joe wasn’t ignoring your license, he was just doing what he was told is fair game.

 

The NC licensing is clearly tricky. I’ve written about it here. The comments on the post also demonstrate how confusing NC licenses may be.

 

I really mention this though to say that it’s a pretty common industry practice, and if that bothers you then you might want to reconsider what CC license you use for some of your photos. I would hope that everyone would pull a photo down immediately if requested, but you still have to find out they’re using it first.

 

I continue to license all of my content, personal and professional, under Creative Commons licenses. My professional work typically falls under BY/SA licenses. However, I add the NC clause to my personal photos. In doing this, I find that people are more likely then to a) use my works under clearly non-commercial circumstances, b) avoid these works because of the uncertainty, or c) ask permission (as in the case of Nokia in the post I shared). This seems to provide me with a bit more control of the work in my personal domain.

 

If I can help with anything else please let me know, I wanted to reach out to you directly once I was made aware of the issue. We’re grateful for people who share their photos for use, we don’t have a photography staff or art department, and we’d be poorer off without that generosity. Any time there’s any kind of issue with the system I want to make sure all parties feel like we take their concerns seriously.
Thanks for your time, and sorry for the mixup.

 

I am very appreciative of your thorough and thoughtful response. I do believe it was just an oversight as it seemed unusual for an Ars article. I know that several educators have voiced their interest in using this story to discuss copyright and public/Internet discourse  in their own classrooms. So, I am actually quite glad this happened. Thanks.

 

Literacy Gangnam Style

I’ve been discussing memes such as Gangnam Style in my recent presentations. I’m particularly interested in memes as an emerging information literacy and their study is important for comprehending the way in which information flows through systems. Dae Ryun Chang wrote that one of reasons why Gangnam Style has taken off is that “the song intentionally lacked a copyright so that people would be encouraged to create their own online parodies, in essence their own ‘XYZ Style’”. It’s not quite factual (as argued elsewhere) that the song ‘lacked’ a copyright, but it is certainly clear that Psy has encouraged the remix and reuse of the song which has led to some incredible statistics (such as being the first video to reach 1 billion views). And, besides the ability to reuse/remix, the song is just downright catchy.

There have been hundreds of great remixes. Bill Nye Science Style, Minecraft Style, Baby Gangnam, and the Gangnam Halloween Lightshow rank among my favorites. But when I see schools participate, THAT’S where I think this gets so very relevant and exciting. Students and teachers at Okanagan Missionary Secondary (Kelowna, BC) recently put together this lip-sync version of the song. The video has achieved around 33,000 hits, and created a great buzz at the school.

The video was shot over a two week period at various locations around the school. Once all the post production work was completed, the school held a ‘spirit assembly’ last Thursday and the reception was astounding. Not only was the crowd entertained, laughing and cheering to the on screen antics, but for the rest of the day students could be heard excitedly talking about it or mimicking dance moves.

Creating such joyful events at school are vitally important for an overall healthy learning environment. Combine this with complex, project-based work that seamlessly integrates new literacies through media development and your institution has just made great strides toward the development and modelling of a positive digital footprint (for the institution and for the individuals involved). And these sorts of activities can go a long way to ease some of unwarranted fears regarding social media felt amongst parents, teachers, administrators and students.

And the Grade 11 French immersion students at Holy Trinity Catholic High School (from the Ottawa Catholic School Board) have taken the Gangnam craze even further by creating a French version of the song. Even if you are not a French speaker, you will quickly notice the creative effort that has gone into this parody. That, and the students look like they are having so much fun!

These last two examples demonstrate the successful intersection of emerging media and school learning. It can also be seen as an example of what Thomas and Brown describe as “The New Culture of Learning“.

The new culture of learning actually comprises two elements. The first is a massive information network that provides almost unlimited access and resources to learn about anything. The second is a bounded and structured environment that allows for unlimited agency to build and experiment with things within those boundaries.

So how is your educational institution embracing this new culture of learning? Or, how are you as a teacher, administrator, or learner creating opportunities to critically discuss and/or participate in these new media environments? I’d love to hear from you.

But for now, enjoy Holy Trinity Style:

Edtech Posse Podcast: Copyright Chat w/ Dr. Michael Geist

Members of the Edtech Posse (Dean, Rick, and I) had the great pleasure of chatting with the brilliant Dr. Michael Geist last night. Dr. Geist is a Professor at the University of Ottawa and is Canada’s leading legal expert on Copyright law. It was a terrific conversation with a lot of information regarding current copyright/copyleft law as it applies to education. While much of the conversation covered the Canadian context, I believe that there is much here that will appeal to international listeners as well.

Michael Geist

Thanks to Rob Wall who edited the audio, but unfortunately could not join us in the conversation. Heather Ross, our other Posse member, was also unable to attend.

Enjoy the podcast.

Why I Copyfight

Cory Doctorow recently wrote the piece “Why I Copyfight” in Locus Magazine. The short essay is insightful and discusses the relationship between copyright and culture, the disparity between copyists and copyright holders, and the reasons why people (should) continue to resist the tight restrictions of current copyright law. Some of my favourite snippets include:

    - “The existence of culture is why copyright is valuable.”
    - “… the reason copyright exists is because culture creates a market for creative works.”
    - “Content isn’t king: culture is.”
    - “Culture’s imperative is to share information: culture is shared information.”

Cory Doctorow

And the most common sense passage I have read in a long time regarding copyright law and enforcement must be:

It’s entirely possible that there’s a detente to be reached between the copyists and the copyright holders: a set of rules that only try to encompass “culture” and not “industry.” But the only way to bring copyists to the table is to stop insisting that all unauthorized copying is theft and a crime and wrong. People who know that copying is simple, good, and beneficial hear that and assume that you’re either talking nonsense or that you’re talking about someone else.

It is unfortunate that current copyright law is more transfixed on control and profit instead of culture and common sense.

Read Doctorow’s full article here.

Sarah Haskins Targets Advertising to Women

Adfreak featured a piece on Sarah Haskins today who has been putting together some really neat literacy pieces related to advertising targeting women. Take a look at some of the “Target: Women” series on Current. I have posted links below.

Birth Control:

Yogurt Edition:

Weddings Shows:

Chick Flicks

I like Haskin’s approach to media literacy. While I don’t find it very deep (nor think that’s her intention), she identifies key issues and does it in a humourous way. The technique is key. And, if you are looking for something to critique with your students, here is my growing list of videos for discussing media representation.

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A Victory for (Video) Sharing

In a California copyright infringement case, Io Group v. Veoh Networks, the Court has granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, on the basis of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), holding that the defendant’s video-sharing web site complied with the DMCA and was entitled to the protection of the statute’s “safe harbor” provision.

In its 33-page decision, the Court noted, among other things, that the DMCA was “designed to facilitate the robust development and world-wide expansion of electronic commerce, communications, research, development, and education in the digital age”, and rejected that plaintiff’s contention that Veoh had failed to reasonably implement its notification policy for repeat offenders. (link)

Read the entire 33-page decision here.

Video Contest: Bill C61 in 61 Seconds

From Michael Geist and FairCopyright4Canada:

Canadian Industry Minister Jim Prentice introduced Bill C-61, which many have dubbed the Canadian DMCA, in June 2008. There was an immediate outcry from thousands of Canadians concerned that the bill would render illegal every day activities and harm both consumers and businesses.

The C-61 in 61 Seconds video competition is one way that you can speak out. Just post your video as a response to this video. We will post the best videos on the FairCopyright4Canada channel. Deadline for submission is September 1st. A great panel of judges that includes the Barenaked Ladies Steven Page and Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian will select the best of the best. The winners will be announced on September 15th.

To make sure that your voice for fair copyright in Canada is heard, be sure to write to your MP, the Minister, and join the Fair Copyright for Canada Facebook group today.

Copyright Criminals – C61 Protest Video

Opensourcecinema.org has released their first Bil C-61 protest video.

If you look closely, you can identify me as one of the copyright criminals.

Of course, that’s not the important piece here.

Here’s some stuff to love about the new bill, C-61::

-$500 per downloaded song
-No Fair Use rights for remix culture
-$20,000 for uploading content (youtube anyone?)

Show your protest by uploading a copyright criminal photo! (source)

Protest Bill C-61, stop this betrayal against Canadian citizens before it is too late. See Michael Geist’s most recent post to find out how.

MyBytes … Bites!

Microsoft has released the new website MyBytes.com to promote copyright education. The site was announced as the company released the results of a survey testing children’s knowledge of copyright law.

I agree that there needs to be a greater emphasis in schools on copyright law and understandings of intellectual property. However, in addressing these topics, educators and educational materials MUST include copyleft approaches to addressing “ownership” of intellectual property and materials addressing open content/open source approaches. At an appropriate grade level, I would encourage deconstruction of terms such as “intellectual property” and “ownership” and discuss both practical and philosophical implications of copyleft vs. copyright (and everything in between). The terms need to be questioned and critiqued, and their history and current emphasis in our laws need to be critically explored.

MyBytes Interviews

And if you are going to use Microsoft’s materials, use them critically. For instance, watch these “interviews” and ask questions such as:

    - Are these interviews scripted?
    - Are these interviews censored?
    - Whose views are being represented here?
    - Where are the dissenting voices (seeing as M$ has identified that dissent/misunderstandings are the majority)?
    - Are alternative views of copyright/copyleft represented in these interviews?
    - Who is the sponsor of this site, and (how) would they benefit from a strict view of copyright?
    - What is at stake with illegal music downloading? Who stands to lose/benefit?
    - Are there alternative models for distributing content? Who is using them? Are they successful?
    - Who benefits from these alternative models? Who loses?
    - What is the Creative Commons? What is its role?
    - What are the issues of power and control inherent in these arguments?

Any others thoughts?

Educators, please, whatever your views on copyright/copyleft. Be critical, and present both established and alternative views on these issues.

A Copyright Carol

Watch this excellent, year-end video from Galacticast which does well to explain some of the basic issues of the proposed DMCA legislation in Canada.

The Galacticast netshow has produced a great little end-of-year short calling on Canadians to fight the Canadian DMCA in the coming year. This is the on-again/off-again US-inspired copyright act that Industry Minister Jim Prentice wrote without any input from Canadian interest groups, making it into a kind of wish-list for US-based entertainment giants.

The episode parodies many, many science fiction classics (and the host sports a nifty DMZ tee from The Secret Headquarters!) and does a good job of laying out the basic issues in funny, easy-to-understand ways.

via BoingBoing.

Canada’s New Copyright Act May Be Most Restrictive Yet

On his recent speech to the Canadian Federation of Students, Michael Geist writes,

After highlighting the remarkable array of new developments for content creation, content sharing, and knowledge sharing, I have emphasized the need for copyright laws that look ahead, rather than behind. In particular, I have pointed to the dangers associated with anti-circumvention legislation, to the need for more flexible fair dealing, to the desirability of eliminating crown copyright, and to the benefits of open access and open licensing. I typically conclude by stating that this can be Canada’s choice and that we must choose wisely.

In case you are unaware, anti-circumvention legislation would mean that a if the manufacturer has implemented a copy protection scheme, any attempt to bypass such a copy prevention scheme may be actionable. This could mean just about anything, simply creating backups for your music (ripping to .mp3) or making your purchased music playable on other devices, could be against the law. If you missed Lessig’s “How Creativity is Strangled By The Law“, this would be a good time to review this important message.

Then Geist warns,

Sometime over the next two or three weeks, Industry Minister Jim Prentice will rise in the House of Commons and introduce copyright reform legislation. We can no longer speak of choices because those choices have already been made. There is every indication (see the Globe’s latest coverage) this legislation will be a complete sell-out to U.S. government and lobbyist demands. The industry may be abandoning DRM, the evidence may show a correlation between file sharing and music purchasing, Statistics Canada may say that music industry profits are doing fine, Canadian musicians, filmmakers, and artists may warn against this copyright approach, and the reality may be that Canadian copyright law is stronger in some areas than U.S. law, yet none of that seems to matter. In the current environment and with the current Ministers, politics trumps policy.

I just noticed Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing is also covering this story. He warns,

If this law passes, it will mean that as soon as a device has any anti-copying stuff in it (say, a Vista PC, a set-top cable box, a console, an iPod, a Kindle, etc), it will be illegal for Canadians to modify it, improve it, or make products that interact with it unless they have permission from the (almost always US-based) manufacturer. This puts the whole Canadian tech industry at the mercy of the US industry, unable to innovate or start new businesses that interact with the existing pool of devices and media without getting a license from the States.

If this law passes, it will render all of the made-in-Canada exceptions to copyright for education, archiving, free speech and personal use will be irrelevant: if a technology has a lock that prohibits a use, your right to make that use falls by the wayside. Nevermind that you’ve got the right to record a show to watch later — or to record a politician’s speech so you can hold him to account later — the policeman in the device can take that right away with no appeal.

If this law passes, it will make Canada into a backwards nation, lagging behind the UK, Israel and other countries that are passing new copyright laws that dismantle the idea of maximum copyright forever and in all things.

What can you do about this? Last year Geist wrote a letter listing 30 things you could do to stop the former bil from passing. The specifics may be a bit different now, but the strategies are the same. Geist stresses that the most important of these is to write a letter (not an email) to your Member of Parliament, the Ministers of Industry and Canadian Heritage, and the Prime Minister. I know I will be.

Fight for these freedoms while we still have them.