This blog belongs to Patricia Atkinson and was created as part of the Education Media Design and Technology program at Full Sail University.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Week 1 Reading: Copyright Issues Part 1-3

Wow, where to begin. That was a lot of information to digest about copyright. I really appreciated all the different perspectives of the various videos that we looked at how each one interwove more details about the history of copyright and how it has transformed into its current state. For the sake of organization and clarity, I will respond to each section of videos separately.

Part 1: Intro to copyright

I never knew how copyright started and it made sense that it was books, being the earliest printed form of creative expression. I am curious why the concept of a fixed time on copyright ever came about. Did our ancestors have a notion of the benefits of some sort of eventual creative commons-type remixing? It seems that if instigated by the creators, copyright law would have been inherently forever. I think the fact that it was not says a lot about humans’ realization of the transience of culture and how future generations have a need to feed and build off of previous content, just as, in my opinion, children observe and emulate their parents' characteristics, but in their own special way.

I appreciated the 10 Myths being explained, and learning what exactly is not protected. I think the source of conflict in copyright law is its subjectivity. There are so many aspects that are dependent on interpretation. What is common property of our culture? The Good Copy/Bad Copy absolutely emphasized this idea, and the fact that the architecture of copyright law, although designed to protect, actually ends up curtailing cultural enrichment and new creation. I thought the Grey Album was such a fascinating concept, which uniquely mixed styles, races, and perspectives of music in a way that was aesthetically and musically genius. In my opinion, it seems like their should be some correlation between how much work a new artist puts into remixing work, and how much right they have to using the original. I know that completely contradicts intellectual property, but I am just trying to figure a way to tell the difference between something like the Grey Album, or even NWAs 100 Miles and Running, both totally new and unique creations with a ton of work put into them, which I appreciate and respect so much, versus someone who maliciously copies and tries to secretly promote a replica as their own. There is just so much difference in quality between copyright issue situations, and they are considered the same violations under law. If someone took my art and spent a lot of time and effort remixing it into a totally new and unique thing, I would celebrate them. Of course, it would be nice to get an attribution nod. It would be a completely different thing if someone blatantly copied and said it was their own.

Part 2: Fair Use

I absolutely loved the Fair(y) Use Tale, and recognized it as a sort of pun and direct illustration of the point that some things that are traditionally copyright violations are actually useful and poignant. Everyone knows that the work is Disney; it is how it is remixed that is the feature of the piece (as well as the example of the content explored, cleverly).

I still really don't understand this concept about Fair Use being a legal defense but not a right. Does that just mean that we have the potential to be protected, but only if we interpret it correctly? I don't agree with the vindication that if a unit can be taught without a certain free-usable copyrighted item, then it should not be used. That is so subjective. Yeah, technically, I could teach a unit on the Renaissance by reading an Art History text out loud. But would students be engaged, enriched, inspired, and transported without a video tour of the Sistine Chapel? Who is to say that a group of students does not deserve every angle, every perspective, every visual option that is deemed applicable? Wouldn't NOT showing everything tha

t we ourselves would want to see be limiting their perspective and censoring their creative development? As discussed by the documentary film directors, sometimes it seems that there is more benefit to society, more embracing of Art and Science, when the law is broken, than there is harm to the copyrighter. It is a real quandary that we find ourselves in with today’s media-saturated environment. I agree with the film makers who were making the point that sometimes copyright law unreasonably infringes on the preservation of our cultural history. At least they have a standardized statement now to refer to, which somewhat alleviates the guess work of fair use. It is important to look at the original purpose of copyright protection and compare it to what is actually being preserved when history and culture are private property.

A quick note on Shepard Fairey and the Obama poster:

Being an artist and high art teacher, I am highly aware of the issue of copying other people’s work off of the internet, digital manipulation, and young people’s opinions on the process and style that is produced. I have been following the Fairey case, and am absolutely shocked that the results were not made public to give me some kind of closure on my own mixed feelings! On one hand, I agree that the opinion of just grabbing something off the web is ok cause I’m changing it is wrong; and yet, on the other hand I recognize the incredible potential of using other people’s work as inspiration and a starting point in the creative process. The last thing I wanted to mention about the case is that it seems to me that when you are dealing with a public figure-head, there should be more leniency in the transfer of images. I mean, how else could Fairey get his photo? Take it himself? As a famous street artist though, he should have known that it would blow up and at least ask the photographer’s permission.

Part 3: Creative Commons Solution

Creative commons truly is the saving grace of copyright law oppression. Its not perfect, but at least there is some forum where people who recognize the importance of cultural sharing can post without fear of misuse (at least if you find out about it). As an Art teacher, I recognize that all art and creation is a form of remixing in some way. That is how humans work. We are influenced, we reflect, we learn, we respond. I really enjoyed both the Mayer & Beetle animation (that character sounds like a girl- Cartman, it was hilarious) and the Larry Lessig TED talk. I never understood the symbol delineations completely before and now feel more confident about interpreting them. I thought Lessig made a great analogy between the Supreme Court’s “common-sense” decision about allowing planes to fly over land without permission, and using common-sense in support of a read/write culture. His re-mix examples were awesome. He is so right about the youthful generation and their general apathy and being accustomed to always breaking the law: having no respect. It is the old adage: if you make the rules too extreme, there will be rebellion. I thought it was interesting when he said that today’s copyright laws are criminalizing the average person, and that we need to emphasize artists’ choices to share and be flexible about their content. There is definitely some catch up work to do in the nature of the law in response to the rapidly changing digital culture.

Image Attributions:

In order of appearance

Copyright question.svg. By: Editor at Large. Unknown Date.

Parents Obey. By: Daquella Manera. 2008.

Shepard Fairey Poster Photograph. By: David Shankbone. 2009.

Copy.Right.Now! By: Heinrich Boll Stiftung. 2010.


  1. Wow, you certainly had a lot to say regarding the videos. I liked how you were very detailed and referred to specific aspects of the videos. In regards to your conundrum about remixes like NWA’s “100 miles and running”, I agree that these artists created something new an unique, though they borrowed other sources. I think there is a point when a piece can be altered enough to justify it being a new creation. In a way, that piece of art simply evolved into a new context. However, giving some credit in the liner notes would be a nice gesture and would help us discover more artists.
    Regarding Shepherd Fairy’s case, I think you’re right about leniency when using images of public figures. However, Shepherd certainly made money from his creation, so the photographer should certainly be compensated. After all, it was the photographer who had to probably put on a suit-and-tie, load his camera, probably fly into DC, leave his family behind, and wake up at 5am to get that photo taken (not to mention the extensive post-production involved). I used to take pictures and videos when I worked for Public Affairs in the Army. All those images, as I saw it, were property of the Army so they had free access to all my material. However, anything outside the Army would be carefully filtered. However, should someone have to compensate me if they used one of my images? After all, the Army is a paid through taxes. Are my images, then, a public work and is free of copyright? What do you think?
    I appreciate your sentiments that we, as humans, are influenced by other work. This is certainly true. For that reason, I don’t necessarily enforce copyright law when High School students are creating work for my class. This is because we are busy learning expression and design concepts. What is working? What doesn’t work? Students are in the process of making design decisions. In that regard, I say let it go. Should the students move past that and actually get serious about producing art, then they will most likely attend an Art School where copyright will be enforced. At that point, those few students will be ready anyway. I don’t think there should be any restrictions when it comes to education.

  2. Excellent commentary! It's interesting to get perspective from an artist. It never occurred to me about the time limitations of copyright and as you so eloquently stated, "transience of culture and how future generations have a need to feed and build off of previous content". Maybe there was a subconscious reason for that time limitation.

    I too am a big Lessig fan. I think he is leading the way for a new form of copyright that is much needed. As you said, it's not perfect, but at least he is pushing the conversation and making changes, small as they may be. As Mr. Wood said in his comments, I too think that you are right on when you mentioned our culture being influenced by previous generations and technology is only increasing the "re-mix" attitude that younger generations have. We have to let students explore and create. How can they do that if they are fearful that they will be threatened with jail or fines if they use something from their environment. It is just too easy to download, share, and collaborate. The laws must adapt or we will have rebellion.