Reflections on copyright in the digital age

Yes, attribution is important. Yes, teachers have to model the appropriate use of digital media.

Sweet Brown / Ain't Nobody Got Time for That | Know Your Meme
The source of the “Ain’t nobody got time for that” meme. © KFOR-TV 2012

Silvia Rosenthal’s work at Graded, together with Meryl Zeidenberg helps address this perceived lack of time in two ways. Firstly, by providing a sweet flowchart that lets designers know what type of attribution is necessary when borrowing work. Secondly, by inviting designers to create their own digital media, thus removing the concerns around correct attribution or any at all.

On my own blog posts up until this point, there is a mix of digital works. The photos I took were assigned a Creative Commons, attribution license. Tweets and other embedded material were linked to the source. The blurred line, for me, is when citing images from academic texts: I resorted to APA for those.

Memes are tough! They’re too recent to be in public domain, and too ‘remixed’ to identify the original source. I also question who deserves the attribution: the creator of the image itself (Drake?) or the first person to give it a pop culture meaning?

Despite framing his talk largely around the difference between Democrats and Republicans, Lawrence borrows Julian Sanchez‘s ideas that (1) remixing content plays a role both in the creation of new products, but more importantly (2) the creation of remixes serves as platforms for social relationships. By participating in a remix, you are more than content producers, you are friends hanging out in a Brooklyn rooftop.

Lessig’s point, supported by Julian Sanchez, is that creativity should be encouraged in an environment where proprietary rights and a remix culture can co-exist: attributing authors, but allowing pop culture to do its thing.

In this post I shared Allocca’s TEDTalk on the participatory nature of digital media. The Nyan Cat example in the video reinforces Lessig/Sanchez’s point on the effect of the remix culture on our social interactions (including offline ones!).

So What?

A typical high school student thinks there aren’t enough hours in a day. I try to minimize the added stress of attribution by suggesting that students use a few sources.

I would always go to Unsplash first, then Google Images. They’re great for stock photos, which I use sparingly anyways, but many students love it. It is particularly helpful for things like TOK presentations, not so much for Biology lab reports. Instructions on attribution are provided with every search result.
Flaticon is one of my favorites. Most of the time, I am looking for icons that represent the key ideas of a slide, rather than a full image. Instructions on attribution are provided in each search result. I like also how users can add icons to a collection, select colour and size, and then download them all together.
Google’s Image search with the usage rights filter yields better results for more Biology-specific content.

Particularly in Biology, students often have a misconception of the types of illustrations that must accompany their work – if any at all. So the papers come out dull and too ‘academic’ for my taste. I encourage student creativity by point out the opportunities to include digital media that is student-created. Because of the audience of these papers (teacher/moderator only), I typically never worry about the attribution of the student’s work. Should I?

2 thoughts on “Reflections on copyright in the digital age

  1. Welcome to Course 2, Luiz! Great to have you reading, reflecting and sharing! Yes, pop culture is alive and well and rightly so. Great question about memes…It has got me thinking…

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