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Week 14: Open Source Culture, Creative Commons, and Remixing

Going into our day of team conferences on Wednesday, I was a little nervous about what types of projects you might propose. This assignment is totally new for me, and I wasn’t sure you would share my vision for what it means to “change the world” using the Internet. But after seven conferences, I was completely blown away by your ambition, your enthusiasm, and your focus on the hyperlocal. Simply put, you nailed it. Nicely done, everyone!

Now comes the fun part: implementing your plans. By this point, you should have finalized a name/title for your project and created the appropriate accounts/pages. During Week 14, your project should be in full swing, with regular updates to your social media accounts and frequent team check-ins. If you have any questions for me about what is (and isn’t) appropriate, or if you’d just like to get an outside opinion before you try something, stop by during my office hours (M 8-11, T 1-4) or send me an email.

During our class sessions, we will explore a few topics we have briefly discussed throughout the semester, and we will apply these ideas to your Unit #4 projects. Here’s how we’ll spend our time and what you need to do to prepare:

  • On Monday, we will discuss the open source movement, copyright, and Creative Commons licensing. To prepare for our discussion, please read two short articles in The Social Media Reader: “The People Formerly Known as the Audience,” by Jay Rosen (pp. 13–16), and “Open Source as Culture/Culture as Open Source,” by Siva Vaidhyanathan (pp. 24–31). In addition, please get familiar with the Creative Commons website, especially the “About” and “History” pages.
  • On Wednesday, we will talk aout remix culture. Before you come to class, please watch Kirby Ferguson’s TED talk, “Embrace the Remix” (9 minutes), then add a comment to this post that answers the following questions: In a world where media can be copied, modified, and redistributed without destroying the original, does it still make sense to grant copyright protection to artists, authors, musicians, etc.? If you think it does, how long should individual works be protected before they are released into the public domain? (Defend your answer! Engage your classmates in discussion!)

I’m looking forward to another great week of lively discussions, and I can’t wait to see how your Online Advocacy Projects are coming along!

Posted in Weekly Updates
21 comments on “Week 14: Open Source Culture, Creative Commons, and Remixing
  1. Eli says:

    Copyright protection should be granted to artists, authors, musicians and other creators of famous media. If someone tries to change an artwork, story or song created by someone else into something new and makes a fortune in doing so, the public may forget all about the people who created the original pieces that this person is using in his or her new creation. In turn, the original creators may not be making as much money as they should be with their work. Unless such a creation has been released by its creator to the public domain and thus waived of all copyright, the safest bet would be for someone wanting to borrow another’s creation to make a contract or some other arrangement with the original creator to avoid facing a lawsuit or some other disciplinary. Additionally, all individual works should be released to the public domain after the deaths of their creators, who can do nothing more about it at that point. This way, the original creators do not have to worry about not making as much money as people who have borrowed their works, since the original creators do not need to be making any more money at this point.

    • Johva says:

      Providing copyright to artists for original work, whether it’s popular or not, is essential to the creative process. Artists are, believe it or not, human–to an extent, and providing a safeguard for their unique imaginings will encourage their artistic development and continued production, since their work will, indeed, be theirs.
      Modern society depends heavily on its artists, yet takes them for granted, so we need to throw a buoy to our young directors and musicians and columnists swimming in the flood of creative media; otherwise, they’ll stick to what’s safe, afraid to ride the rushing waters to what’s new–which means we’ll be watching spin-offs of CSI for the rest of our lives…
      And unless you’re a proponent of “armed fans (supporters),” copyright needs to extend beyond the life of the creator. It’s good for artists to live for their work; not to die for it.

  2. Liana says:

    Re- the Ted talk, I think Ferguson’s point is good and understandable, but what he said about cognitive dissonance after your product or idea is “stolen” is the main base of where copyright laws come into place. I think some artists would be happy to have others borrow or remix their words, ideas, images, music, etc. But others are very unhappy to have their stuff “stolen.” So I like creative commons and other similar options to help promote the arts yet avoid issues like lawsuits. I think creative commons and other similar systems will grow in coming years and incorporate more and more media.

    Just as a side question/note, if everything is a remix of everything else, why do university students get expelled or suspended for plagiarizing someone else’s academic work? This also shows the importance of keeping some work not accessible through creative commons or similar systems; or, at the least, promoting the idea of giving credit to whoever was the original artist/writer/scholar/etc.

  3. Jonathan Roberts says:

    There is a big difference between “remixing” and “stealing” intellectual property. When we do research and attribute content to the creator, then we are basically building off of and remixing that media. When we take that content that was created by someone else and don’t attribute it to them or call it our own, we are stealing. In the same way that the university has the honor code system, that is what copyrighting should do.

    Copyrighting seems overly simple now, though. Creative Commons seems like the right direction– away from copyrighting as a closed system that does not allow content to be remixed. Through all of this, though, it’s really important to still have an avenue for creators who don’t want their content used. A photographer that took a picture should be able to post it for friends and family to see without worrying about seeing it remixed and go viral, even if people attribute it to them. I’m worried that we may be becoming immoral internet pirates that are concerned when people really do wish to keep their intellectual property more personal.

  4. Alex says:

    I agree with Jonathan in that “remixing” and “stealing” are two different actions. Just as Ferguson illustrated in his TED talk, remixing can bring great things – it brought us Bob Dylan’s music.

    I can name numerous times when I have wanted to use a song as background music for a slideshow or movie because it was perfect for the theme/subject, but couldn’t because of copyright laws. This would be a form of “remixing” that would be helpful and beneficial to others. Obviously this use wouldn’t be with the intention to harm or lessen the original artist’s profit.

    Lastly, I think the difference between “remixing” and “stealing” could be used to address Liana’s question about plagiarism. Plagiarism is taking another person’s idea and claiming that it’s your own. Remixing the idea, or adding to the idea, is what we are typically asked to do in a class paper or research project, therefore drawing a line (though a fine line) between plagiarism and “remixing.”

  5. I have to agree with everyone above that there is a difference between “remixing” and “stealing.” It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the entire room became silent and somewhat awkward when Dr. Warnick asked the rhetorical question of whether or not we as students have ever copied or downloaded a song or some form of media that was not ours. In today’s society, we’re surrounded by all of this new technology which makes stealing others’ work not only tempting, but easy.

    I agree that creative commons seems to be a good approach based on the fact that the goal is to build upon and share, not steal. I think that it makes complete sense to still have copyright laws. That’s how these artists are making a living. Without copyright laws, music would be a free for all, damaging the income of the artists who provide us with the sources of entertainment that we love. I may be bitter about the fact that iTunes song prices went from .99 to $1.29, but at the end of the day I can’t seem to help but clicking that purchase button. If I’m being 100 percent honest, maybe it’s more paranoia than respect for the artists, but they deserve credit where credit is due.

  6. Ethan says:

    I think that copyright should still protect created works. I think that many creations are just remixes, but there are also many things that are created today that are largely original, and it would be a shame not to have the option to protect those creations. I do think, however, that the copyright should be tailored more to the individual work or creation, as decided by the creator. Putting a blanket lifetime + 90 year copyright on everything all the time seems a bit absurd. I think that the creators should have the power to decide what level of copyright protection should be placed on their works, which is why creative commons is such a great idea. It encourages sharing and growth of ideas, but a creator still has the option of more complete protection for the creations, works, and ideas that may need it.

  7. Erin says:

    I don’t think I have ever really considered the implications of copyright laws. It might be an unpopular opinion, but I wonder if copyright laws are preventing creativity and progress. Innovation should reward the company or individual who does something best, not who did it first. Should Apple be the only company to use the multi-touch interface just because they patented it first? Innovation comes from sharing and remixing ideas. Just simply doing away with copyright laws won’t change everything though, I think the attitude of inventors and creators must also change. Creators have to create with the willingness to share their ideas with others.

  8. Marcus says:

    Yeah sure creators should be able to copyright their material. If I made something that was completely unprotected then someone could easily just sell the exact thing I made and collect all the profits. But that doesn’t mean that work can’t be shared. And if we are sharing work, then we aren’t stealing. Sure these are basic socialist principles but, hey Kermit guy cited Woody Guthrie…”This machine kills fascists.”

    If work is STOLEN then the original version is presented as someone else’s. If work is remixed or borrowed, then it would normally be cited appropriately. Take, for example, M.I.A.’s “Paper “Planes.” Even if she didn’t cite it anywhere that she sampled “Straight to Hell,” people would still know where it came from and have access to that knowledge. It is inherently cited within the context of the song. She is clearly not trying to pass as Joe Strummer or anything. But idk, it seems like people are talking about a lot of different things when it comes to copyrighting. Even the videos we’ve watched seemed to be pretty different arguments.

  9. Astleigh says:

    I’d have to agree with everyone and they’ve said it well, that remixing and stealing are on two different playing fields. It’s not hard to confuse the two and believe that they are both one in the same. But like so many of my classmates have stated, stealing is trying to pass an idea, concept, piece or work, etc. off as someone’s own (outside of the original author/conceptualizer). Whereas remixing is working off of an original concept to create something newer; giving credit where it is due in order to avoid plagiarism, but it’s not stealing someone else’s hard work. I think copyright is a notion that should always be in place. Copyright protects the producers and if there is nothing to protect them and their work, then who is to say that people would stop producing all together. I’ve always found the laws of copyright a strange thing, especially for the length of time that copyright is valid. It’s hard for me to conceive that any writings I may one day publish will have a removed copyright decades after I’m no longer around. That my original thoughts and ideas could easily be taken on by someone else to claim as their own. It’s easy for me to understand why artists, musicians, authors, and so on would want a copyright in place to defend and protect what they have worked on and presented to the public. You and I don’t work as volunteers without any compensation and it wouldn’t be fair for producers of music, books, and the likes to not be compensated for their work. Without copyright, this would likely be the case.

  10. Victoria Zigadlo says:

    I feel like this is becoming a theme lately, but I really don’t think that a) increasing copyright helps or b) eliminating copyright helps. As a creator, you have to learn the balance between knowing when to hold on to your work and when to let others remix it for profit.

    Artists who lock their stuff away and make it inexcusable to further remixing, honestly, I think are bad artists. After all, to make great art there has to be some cultural impact to your work, something that stands the test of time. If an artist were to lock down all of their creations, it would eventually fade from people’s minds. When people take your work and expand upon it, it becomes a part of history.

  11. Kyle says:

    I think that applying the same old forms of copyright law to new and emerging forms of media is grossly oversimplifying the issue. I suppose there has to be a line drawn between inspiration and absolute copying, but it’s kind of difficult to decide just where that is. The copyright legal battles of our generation have gotten quite ridiculous, and using “slide to unlock” as an example, it seems only a hindrance to progress.

    I do think, however, that the terms of protection should be pretty short. The notion that copyrights can be held for decades beyond someone’s life is ridiculous to me because they obviously aren’t doing anything with those rights after they die. Even during their life, someone else should be able to take over and improve on an idea if the “original” creator abandons it.

  12. George says:

    As a multimedia journalist, I think it’s surprising that I’ve never thought about my work being copyrighted. I’ve done several news packages and stories that have been circulated on the Internet. As Ashley and Victoria said last class, at this point in our lives, since we aren’t getting compensated for the work we put on the Internet, our main goal is to get it out there to as many people as possible. I obviously wouldn’t mind if people shared my stories across social media, or even remixed them how they wanted.

    Now, there is a difference between remixing and stealing, because if someone were to take my work, not remix it and not attribute me at all, then there would be a problem. If someone were to attribute content to me, then they’re just building off the work I’ve already created. I truly don’t mind if another person remixed my ideas, words, etc., but if they actually stole my work, that wouldn’t be okay, which is why I believe copyright is necessary.

  13. Augusta says:

    I think that copyright laws are important and should be in place. Although I do agree that we should promote the progress of art, I also think it is important to protect artists’ property, since what they create is their property. I think that the current amount of time granted for certain copyrights is a little extreme and should be shortened.

  14. Molly says:

    Copywrite should most definitely be granted to all creative works. Without it, how do you encourage creativity and innovation to flourish? We simply cannot.

    Aside from that, every artist in any form deserves to receive credibility for their work. Many things gain the credibility and recognition solely based on a name. If anyone was allowed to take credit for Beethoven or Piccaso, would they be the great idols we study them as today? Would anyone even know or care who they are? Even then so, how do you establish credibility to a piece of work if anyone can claim it?

    There is also the idea of teaching a moral lesson behind copy write. At the very base of writing, teachers and parents have taught us that plaigerism is wrong. Stealing someone else’s work to call it your own is never okay.

    As for how long a copy write lasts, if the piece is impactful enough, your name will be tacked onto it forever. I think the copy write laws a fair as they are. As for this blog post, I wouldn’t take action twenty years down the road if someone claimed it, I for one may not even remember writing it.

  15. Sarah says:

    I’m going to have to agree with Victoria, sure I do understand that there is a level where people don’t want their work copyrighted and stolen; yet sharing and remixing your work is what makes an artists name well known. Without sharing your work, what is the purpose of making it in the first place…. your mind after all didn’t come up with the idea completely itself. Artists themes/ideas branch off of other artists whether they subconsciously know it or not? That’s just how it works. Whether you’re a designer, a web guru, a writer, a singer…you admired someone and your work reflects whom you admire. Look at Nicki Minaj (she’s literally Lady GaGa but a rapper) you can’t say they don’t have comparable styles. While there may be certain limitations artists should be able to contain within the copyright industry, I don’t think that should mean that it needs to be their entire work completely. After all isn’t the purpose of being an artist to be an INSPIRATION in the first place?

  16. Dylan Amick says:

    Re- Liana, I think copyright should be treating like student plagiarism is. That the combination of other’s ideas with an intention to further some creative or academic concept should be allowed with proper credit and reparations. But the exact replication of another’s thought or idea, without paying any sort of credit-that is the kind of action that should be punished.

    I’m kind of playing the fence here, I think we should support remixes…so long as they are moving forward/expressing a story or idea/altered purposefully(put simply-good).

    Copyright should be a tool that is used responsibly to enforce the necessary reparations for direction usage of an exact product. That when people who engineer something independently have their direct and exact product used a base for another’s production then a reparation is owed. I think when you product is directly “sampled” as a base for another’s production for profit than they should benefit financially for their input.

    I think letting copyright last a whole life time is too much and limits the spread of competitive thought. We should want ideas to be built off each other and made better; improved or even just expressed differently. Copyright length really should just boil down to the relevance of that particular idea; once it becomes irrelevant it should become public…but since only some “1984″style organization could decide that for us, I choose to believe that ideas should be copyrighted for the life and become public domain upon death.

  17. Dylan Amick says:

    Also please watch even just part of this;

    interesting thing to consider at least in musical copyright…


  18. Brooks says:

    I think that work should be copyrighted to an original creator, however, I agree with some above that the copyright should be tailored individually in creative oommons fashion as to avoid the the progress-smothering effect of the blanket copyright law. But I also think copyrights should focus more on money distribution rather than blocking the use of an idea – remixing should be encouraged with a focus who gets what money/credit after the fall out.

    Also, the TED speaker was on to something when he traced Bob Dylan’s music back to originals (is it possible to find all the true originals?). If you are going to copyright something and make money off of it, then it should be a truly original idea; if it’s a remix that you would like to copyright (perhaps you shouldn’t be able to?) and make money off of, then credit should be given to the original author and a reasonable percentage of the money made should kick back as well. Perhaps those remixing without the intent of making any money should be allowed to do so so long as they give credit where credit is due.

  19. Ashley Seager says:

    I believe copy right should protect peoples work because it preserves the originals in a way. I think the copy right should be to the authors descression. However, I believe after a certain amount of years after his or her death the copy right should be lifted. How long after.. well I don’t think I am cable of saying an exact number.

  20. Johva says:

    Granting copyright is a necessity if we want to continue to promote artful expression, no matter how “impractical” exerting those protections are, because artists aren’t always inclined to “share” their work. Some may want to show it without having to worry about people taking their baby’s a little step further and staking claims.

    As an artist, I find the prospect of “sharing” my work a little unnerving. I know how people are on the internet, and just like the “real world,” most people have selfish goals and are willing to harm or exploit others to achieve them. “Sharing” art gives people an excuse to take others’ work, add a few notes or lines, and call it theirs. It’s ridiculous.

    I have been composing music for years and I have yet to post anything online, simply because it’s liable to be “shared”… which seems the same as “stealing” to me.

Where am I?
This is the class website for English 3984: Writing and Digital Media, taught by Quinn Warnick at Virginia Tech in fall 2012.
Worthwhile Reading
The links below are the most recent additions to my collection of bookmarks that are relevant to this course. You can find a complete list of ENGL 3984 bookmarks on Pinboard.

  • Buffy vs Edward Remix Unfairly Removed by Lionsgate
    A long, carefully documented saga about fair use. Great case study.
  • The Always Up-to-Date Guide to Managing Your Facebook Privacy
    Nice guide from Lifehacker: "First, we'll walk through the basic privacy settings that determine what you share, then look at a few lesser-known settings you'll want to tweak, and finish with a few third-party tools that will help keep your Facebook information private."
  • The enduring mystery of Roberto Clemente's bat
    Great writing by Kevin Guilfoile, but also a beautiful example of multimedia storytelling.
  • tapestry: a new way to write
    John Borthwick explains what tapestry is and collects some examples of great tap essays: "When we started developing tapestry it struck us that there weren’t many native reading experiences on the iPhone or iPad. Our goal is to build such a tool. A space to slow things down and let you create or experience, short, tappable stories in a simple, clean, distraction free reading environment."
  • All You Need Is (Facebook) Love: ‘Compliments’ Accounts Go Viral at Colleges and Universities
    Time magazine reports on an encouraging trend: college students setting up Facebook pages to collect compliments for/from their fellow students.
  • Demand a Plan
    Online effort to improve gun control, started in response to the Newtown school shooting.
  • Causes.com
    "Causes is a free online platform that provides easy-to-use tools for driving change. We help passionate people share ideas, find supporters, raise money, and make an impact."
  • What Ancient Greek Rhetoric Might Teach Us About New Civics
    Ethan Zuckerman: "If we want to prepare people to be effective citizens, we need to think about teaching this new civics as well as older forms of civic participation. Citizens need to do more than watch or read about the issues and then vote. They need to know how to report, to advocate, to coordinate, to propose and test solutions."
  • SPOT Survey - Fall 2012
    Students: If you haven't completed the SPOT evaluation for this course, please do so during class on Wednesday. I take this feedback very seriously, and I use it to revise my classes each semester, so please be specific about the aspects of the course (and my teaching) that you found successful and unsuccessful.
  • Popcorn Maker
    New web-based app from Mozilla: "Popcorn Maker makes it easy to enhance, remix and share web video. Use your web browser to combine video and audio with content from the rest of the web — from text, links and maps to pictures and live feeds."
  • The People's Bailout
    David Rees explains how the Rolling Jubilee works: "OWS is going to start buying distressed debt (medical bills, student loans, etc.) in order to forgive it. As a test run, we spent $500, which bought $14,000 of distressed debt. We then ERASED THAT DEBT. (If you’re a debt broker, once you own someone’s debt you can do whatever you want with it — traditionally, you hound debtors to their grave trying to collect. We’re playing a different game. A MORE AWESOME GAME.)"
  • Understanding Digital Civics
    Ethan Zuckerman: "I’m beginning to think that certain types of civic participation are simply organic to the internet. Once we have the ability to create and share our own information, we create and spread media to promote the causes we care about and raise money to support the causes we value."
  • Google Docs Stories Builder
    Fun little tool to create text-based stories in which various characters interact within a Google Doc. (Sound confusing? Yeah, you kind of have to see it in action.)
  • Twitter Is A Truth Machine
    John Herrman: "Twitter is a fact-processing machine on a grand scale, propagating then destroying rumors at a neck-snapping pace. To dwell on the obnoxiousness of the noise is to miss the result: That we end up with more facts, sooner, with less ambiguity."
  • The Fallacy of Digital Natives
    Amen to this: "Sure, there may be a larger percentage of Millennials that tap into technology first compared to their elders, but oversimplifying the division of generations to suggest one prefers an all-technology learning style whilst the others use it when necessary is preposterous. Learning and technology has nothing to do with generational divides."
  • Click and Drag
    An amazing, endless xkcd comic.
  • Nice piece in Transom explaining Cowbird
    Annie Correal: "Our goal is to build a public library of human experience, so the knowledge and wisdom we accumulate as individuals may live on as part of the commons."
  • Being Online Has Become So Common That Some People No Longer Identify It As Being Online
    Techdirt, quoting a study by Forrester Research: "Our analysis revealed that 'being online' is becoming a fluid concept. Consumers no longer consider some of the online activities they perform to be activities related to 'using the Internet.' In fact, given the various types of connected devices that US consumers own, many people are connected and logged on (automatically) at all times. The Internet has become such a normal part of their lives that consumers don’t register that they are using the Internet when they’re on Facebook, for example. It’s only when they are actively doing a specific task, like search, that they consider this to be time that they’re spending online."
  • Reddit's balance of power: community values are tested as a troll is unmasked
    Links to all of The Verge's coverage of the Violentacrez debacle.