Microsoft “education”


Photo by Stephen Downes

I’m making a poster (to be presented on Tuesday at the Pennsylvania Library Association conference), and was researching examples of timelines when I stumbled across a Microsoft tutorial on creating timelines in Word. The tutorial is intended for teachers. Here’s hoping teachers are only taking Microsoft’s advice about using Word features and not about how to do research.

The tutorial’s narration begins:

Start by researching your subject on the Internet..

OK, not the worst advice in the world, but why does Microsoft feel qualified to tell teachers where to do their research? It gets worse, though, when the tutorial shows teachers how to place images in their timelines:

Find the image you want on the Internet, then right-click and select copy…

I’m sure Microsoft won’t mind if I just right-click and take a bunch of images from their website to illustrate my poster. Right?

Do Creative Commons licenses work for creators?

I am a librarian and a writer. As a writer, I value the protection copyright gives me to control how my works are used. As a librarian, I am frustrated by how restrictive current copyright law is. I therefore support Creative Commons, which allows creators to share their work more freely without giving away all their rights. I license many of my photos with a Creative Commons license and am happy to see them used by noncommercial individuals and organizations.

A recent experience has me rethinking how I apply Creative Commons licenses to my work. In that post, I linked to a blogger who has abandoned the Noncommercial license. Today I found a photographer who has abandoned the Creative Commons licenses altogether, because people don’t read and abide by them.

It’s a shame, because I know most of the kind of people I would like to use my images probably won’t take the time to seek permission for each one, and would simply not use them. But because commercial entities don’t abide by the terms I’ve set for use, my options seem to be to completely restrict use or to make my photos public domain.

In other words, back to traditional copyright.

I wonder if there is anything Creative Commons could do to help? It seems that if nothing is done, this disregard for licensing terms will drive more and more creators to abandon Creative Commons.

What is a commercial use?

New Yorker's use of my photoLast week, both the New Yorker and Wired used one of my photos to illustrate an article about the Aaron Swartz JSTOR downloading case.

I had posted the photo to Flickr with a Creative Commons-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. I believe that the use by the New Yorker and Wired is commercial in nature and therefore a violation of my license, and I have contacted both publications. I am not asking either to remove my photo (after all, most people who were going to read those articles have already read them and seen the photo). I am simply letting them know that they have been lazy and violated the rights of a creator. All they had to do was write me a note asking for permission to use my photo. Many others have done this.

I’ll be interested to see how the publications respond. I’ve approached this as an opportunity to educate them about Creative Commons licenses, rather than as a confrontation. (Here’s another take, if you read German.)

While I was discussing this situation with a colleague, he pointed me to a blog post by Bethany Nowviskie about why she is no longer using the non-commercial license. I’m still undecided about whether I will continue to use it, but I’m very certain that commercial entities need to abide by it when I do.

Iggy Pop on copyright. No, really.

photo by Belkus

photo by Belkus

Iggy Pop is known for a lot of things, including wearing leather pants with no shirt and being pelted with bottles on stage. He’s not generally known for his thoughts on copyright and fair use.

In a piece for Interview, though, he discusses copyright, fair use, and art with Shepard Fairey, the artist who made the iconic Obama HOPE portrait. (The AP is suing Fairey, claiming he violated copyright by using an AP photo as reference.)

When the copyright tables are turned

When big corporations produce content (or more likely, package and market content), that content is clearly under copyright and must be protected by heavy-handed measures from “pirates”.

But when the public, perhaps embracing marketing for digital cameras and web photo services that tells them to unleash their creativity, decides to produce and disseminate their own content, corporations turn around and snap up that content. To use in ad campaigns selling the “real” and “genuine”, no less.

That’s what is happening, according to an article in the Washington Post:

Under the banner of “intellectual property,” record labels warn you not to bootleg their songs. Hollywood studios warn you not to download their movies. Intellectual property has lately seemed the concern of corporations trying to protect the artist from the grabby public.

But in an increasingly user-generated world where the public is the artist, sometimes it’s the big boys who get grabby. And the questions that arise are about ownership, but they are also about fairness, and changing culture, and ultimately, the search for authenticity.

I just hope that these stories don’t scare people away from Creative Commons licenses. While some of the content used without permission was posted with a CC license, other content was not and thus “all rights reserved” by default. The corporations ignored both CC licenses and traditional copyright.

A CC license doesn’t mean you don’t have any rights to your content. It means you have decided to allow certain uses, as defined in the license. For example, DIY Librarian uses a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. You are welcome to republish my content as long as I get credit, you don’t alter it, and you’re not making money off of it. It’s win-win: you get to use my content, I get recognition and a wider audience. You want to use something I made in an ad campaign, you need to talk to me. I want to make sure anything I create is used appropriately and that I am fairly compensated, and I have the right to refuse other uses.

Free symbol graphics

Via the Creative Commons blog, free symbols for use in “airports and other transportation hubs and at large international events”, from a collaboration between AIGA and the US Department of Transportation. Some of these could probably be used in library signage, but wouldn’t it be cool to have a collection like this for libraries? (If such a thing exists, please let me know!)

Making books is hard work

From Mary Minow’s interview with David Dodd, librarian and author of The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics:

This is my third book, and each has carried with it a greater or lesser degree of do-it-yourselfness. … You don’t just sign a contract, turn over a manuscript, and sit back and wait for the book to appear.

That actually makes the process sound more appealing to me, except for the copyright permissions, which do not sound like fun.