TOOLS FOR THE TEKS: INTEGRATING TECHNOLOGY IN THE CLASSROOM
Creative Commons in K-12 Education
By Wesley A. Fryer
Is it legal for me to use this picture in my slideshow presentation? What if we put it on the Internet, is it still legal? What about including music in my digital story? What can we do legally at school, and what can students legally do at home when they are not working on an assignment for class?
Copyright and intellectual property issues are complex and often ambiguously defined. Unfortunately, it does not appear that copyright law in the United States is going to change substantially in the early 21st century. Before despairing and resolving to give up on student multimedia projects for fear of legal reprisals (or at least the ability to share projects over the Internet via the school website, a blog, or a podcast) teachers as well as students need to learn about Creative Commons. Creative Commons (http://creativecommons.org) “is a nonprofit organization that offers flexible copyright licenses for creative works.” Everyone involved in education should be familiar with Creative Commons both as content consumers and content producers, wanting to legally access and use digital content. Whether someone is creating a digital story with PhotoStory3, an enhanced podcast with Garageband3, a PowerPoint presentation, or a narrated online slideshow with BubbleShare (http://bubbleshare.com), Creative Commons licenses and website search tools can provide clear guidance about acceptable and legal uses of digital content to create and share “derivative works” using these materials. These digital resources can include images, music audio files, movies, or any other type of media.
PROBLEMS WITH TRADITIONAL COPYRIGHT
The “Learn More About Creative Commons” website (http://creativecommons.org/learnmore) offers several superb, animated movies explaining the problems with traditional copyright law and the innovative approach Creative Commons offers to help any content consumer as well as content creator legally reuse digital media. The video “Get Creative” points out “it can be that easy when you skip the intermediaries.” Who are the intermediaries? Lawyers of course!
Pre-1980s U.S. copyright law required that a content creator put the copyright symbol on their work to put the world on notice that ALL RIGHTS ARE RESERVED. This is no longer the case, however. Works of all types become copyrighted the moment they are made. Copyright law makes complete protection of a content creator’s intellectual property easy and automatic, but the law does not provide a mechanism for creators to explicitly share rights to use and reuse their works.
Providing a mechanism for this latter need is the role of Creative Commons. Creative Commons licenses are provided for free on their website and written in three different forms. The first format is human readable: the terms are specified in plain language everyday people can understand. The second format is the lengthy, exhaustive and specific legaleze language lawyers speak. The third format is a version computers (using the Internet) can readily recognize and understand.
OBTAINING AND USING CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSES
To create a Creative Commons license from the CC website, a user should click the “Publish Your Stuff, Safely and Legally” icon to visit the licensing webpage (http://creativecommons.org/license/). Then, a user needs to answer four short questions. If unsure about the meaning of a term or the potential impact of selecting a particular answer, help links are available. The four questions are:
After answering these four questions by clicking radio buttons and making selections from pop-up menus, users can select a license. That license includes HTML code that can be copied and pasted onto a webpage, blog post, or other location to put the world on notice that SOME RIGHTS ARE RESERVED for the legal re-use of this content. The most generous Creative Commons license is the “attribution-only” license, which merely requires that someone give the content creator credit when reusing their material for another purpose (i.e. creating a derivative work.)
FLICKR AND CREATIVE COMMONS
The Flickr Creative Commons search page (www.flickr.com/creativecommons/) is a wonderful resource for students as well as teachers to use when searching for online images to legally reuse in a multimedia presentation. Flickr users can search by license, depending on their planned use of located images. At the time of this writing, over 800,000 images were available in the “attribution-only” licensing section of Flickr Creative Commons alone.
In addition to the copyright-friendly nature of Flickr, permitting others to legally reuse images in the creation of derivative works, the fact that all images are “tagged” by users is a significant comparative advantage over other image search tools like Google Images. When someone posts an image to Flickr, s/he has an opportunity to identify the subject of the photo by entering one or more keywords, called tags. The result is when searching for a word, like “bridge” in the Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-Only search portal, over two thousand images are included in the search results and virtually all of them actually include a physical bridge.
Students as well as teachers need to learn about intellectual property (IP) issues. Rather than merely study copyright and IP in an abstract sense, however, it is much more effective to engage learners in the use of tools like Flickr’s Creative Commons search to learn about different licensing types and the legal uses of content which are permitted under each one.
OTHER CREATIVE COMMONS SEARCH TOOLS
In addition to Flickr’s Creative Commons search portal, a variety of other CC search tools are available online. From the Creative Commons homepage, click FIND MUSIC, PHOTOS AND MORE to view the CC search page (http://creativecommons.org/find/). Select either Google or Yahoo as the desired search engine, enter keyword terms, and optionally click one or both of the following check boxes:
The CC search page also includes links to a growing list of other online resources providing databases of digital media licensed through Creative Commons. When searching for music or other audio files to include in classroom podcasts or digital movies, check out Jamendo (www.jamendo.com), Magnatune (http://magnatune.com), and Dmusic (www.dmusic.com). OpenPhoto (http://openphoto.net) is another website like Flickr offering Creative Commons licensed images. The Prelinger Archives (http://www.archive.org/movies/prelinger.php) offers “over 1,000 public domain films from the worlds of government and advertising.” The list of CC-friendly media websites is large and growing. Unlike subscription-based commercial services like United Streaming (http://www.unitedstreaming.com), Creative Commons licensed content can be freely accessed over the Internet AND reused (depending on the license terms and circumstances of re-use) without obtaining permission directly from the copyright holder. Re-use is permitted under the licensed terms because permission has already been granted. This is what Creative Commons licensing is all about.
Creative Commons now offers a search portal specifically geared for educators (http://creativecommons.org/education/). Search for lesson plans, course packets, textbooks, and other digital educational materials freely shared (under varying CC terms) by other educators around the globe. When publishing your own educational content on the Internet, don’t make ALL RIGHTS RESERVED by not specifying a Creative Commons license. Determine the conditions of re-use you want to grant to others, and then let the world know by including your Creative Commons license on your webpage where you share the content. Encourage your students to use Creative Commons in the same way when they publish their own work online.
TELL STORIES EMPOWERED BY CREATIVE COMMONS
All of our students should be engaged in the process of writing and telling digital stories with technology tools available in their classrooms. If teachers can obtain a microphone for their classroom computer (or purchase one for $9 at Wal-Mart) their students can create podcasts using free software tools like Audacity and Garageband, or digital stories using photos with free software like iPhoto, iMovie, and PhotoStory, or free websites like BubbleShare. Students generally want to include more rather than less media in their projects, however, and if they use commercial CD music brought from home this can post problems if they want to share their creations online. Thanks to Creative Commons, teachers can provide needed instruction to students about copyright and intellectual property issues while simultaneously empowering students to legally remix and reuse digital content in their own derivative creations.
Students often exhibit extremely high levels of intrinsic motivation when they are challenged and enabled to create digital stories as classroom assignments. Learn and let your students know about Creative Commons, as well as the CC-friendly search sites it links to, to empower everyone to legally create high quality digital stories that can be safely shared with a global audience.
To learn more about the ideas behind the Creative Commons movement and intellectual property law as it applies to educational settings, read Lawrence Lessig’s excellent book “The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World.” Also check out Dr. Lessig’s blog (he is a professor at the Stanford School of Law) on http://lessig.org/blog.
-|-|- About the Author -|-|-
Wesley Fryer is an educator, author, and digital storyteller. Catch up with his latest ideas on his blog and podcast, Moving at the Speed of Creativity (www.speedofcreativity.org).