Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
I don’t know where that expression originated but it works perfectly for describing the digital dilemma concerning intellectual property, copyright, and fair use.
Larry Lessig is my hero, and I believe that digital technologies signify as profound a change in understanding ownership rights as the planes flying over the startled farmer’s land.
I have no problem, and, in fact, embrace creative efforts like this extraordinary one by Pogo of Perth who transforms the creative work of others — in this case, boldly, the work of Disney-Pixar — to create something new and totally unique. Every syllable, chord, snippet of audio came from a sample and remix of the Disney-Pixar film, “Up.”
But how about a middle grades teacher who edited Gone With the Wind down to 50 minutes to fit her class schedule? Hmmmm No! That doesn’t serve art or literature or model respect for the intellectual property rights of others.
Ko and Rossen (2004/2010) quote Kimberly Bonner, an expert on intellectual property, who described the most common misconception among educators about fair use: “I think many faculty really think that fair use is automatic for educational purposes and it is not” (p 229). When we do so we can seriously confuse students, too, who don’t really have a chance to see intellectual property through other perspectives. I think we need to learn and teach our students to navigate across diverse cultures of creators and consumers. The best way to accomplish this is to give them plenty of opportunities to join the participatory culture and create their own art. Once we understand what it means to create and own a product of our own creation, then we’re better able to understand the perspectives of those who make their living creating media.
Once we join the participatory culture, we also begin to understand why Thomas Jefferson was adamant about including copyright in the US Constitution. We move forward and upward by standing on the shoulders of others — maybe not giants but others like ourselves who work hard to create.
Educators often have this arrogance that because it is for teaching that we may appropriate anyone’s work at any time. I can say this because I have been one of the guiltiest. But I see appropriation from the eyes of a video writer and producer now and a new appreciation for the work that goes into creating.
I’ve become sort of a copyright/fair use nerd and produced a website and event with a lawyer/librarian called “Copyright Remix” as well as a video, “Copyright or Wrong,” for middle graders in our state (btw if you’re still using this video then it’s terribly out-of-date .
One of the earliest mini-lessons I share with my grad students who will learn to create bookcasts — multimedia responses to books — is on intellectual property, copyright, and fair use. I usually find that even those already employed in public schools have little knowledge of what this is all about. I’ve found the “Code of Best Practices for Fair Use for Media Education” to be incredibly helpful for guiding them to understand the difference between appropriating a song or image because it fits well with or complements something they create or appropriating that same song or image into a remix or mashup that truly transforms the original into something new and unique — that repurposes and adds value.
Like Pogo achieves.
Or at least, I think so.
What do you think?