A new vision for copyright

As more and more content is used and shared online, the once clear rules regarding copyright become more and more blurred.   Mash-up videos combine songs (copyrighted) with original video or edited news clips(copyrighted) with songs, or mix clips from movies(copyrighted), or….  The list goes on and on.

cover2.gif  Lawrence Lessig, author of Free Culture, a book which is available online, (for free and in multiple formats) spoke at U.T. this evening about how the  “read/write” web challenges traditional copyright law.  Because the laws have been slow to change, a nonprofit organization, Creative Commons, has attempted to address the issue.

header-tab.png  Creative Commons, if you aren’t familiar, has established a set of “licenses” that creators can use to designate how their work can be used.   There are different levels of use–a work can be designated as useable by a noncommercial site(like a school) or may only be used if it’s credited, etc.    transparent.gif

Sites like Flickr use Creative Commons to identify images for various uses.  So when a photograph is uploaded, the user can specify which level of use is acceptable to them.

The concept behind it is to allow for the creative “remixing” and “re-creating” that we see students doing and to allow for the interactivity of materials that many of the web 2.0 tools allow within a copyright-type of system. 

Creative Commons also has a search site, where students could search for materials that the authors had given permission for them to use noncommercially, or even works they can alter, with permission.

Lessig gave many fascinating examples of “mash-ups” of different content, but one of the well known ones he shared was about Colin Mutchler.  Mutchler recorded some guitar music, called it “My Life” and placed it online, giving it a Creative Commons license.  


About a month later, a violist, Cora Beth, emailed him that she had downloaded his work and added a violin track and changed the name of the joint composition to “My Life Changed.”


Arguably, the song is more beautiful with the added violin composition.  Colin now has an entire album that was recorded this way, by artists he’d never met, over space and time. 

The point of sharing all this?

Our students create content constantly, so as creators and as users, they need to know about Creative Commons licenses.

The open and free way that artists, writers, musicians, and others are sharing their creative works is part of the web 2.0 culture that our students are completely engaged with.   

We need to help them understand the distinctions between copyright and this idea of Creative Commons for “open source” or web-created content.  We also need to explore with them how copyright law as it exists may need to change.

And all of this brings to mind–how are we, as educators, creating our own “new” and innovative mashed-up content?   (And by the way, I wish I could share his presentation here, but it’s not online yet–because the way he puts together his presentations is very stylish and engaging and a great model. )

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