ITP Driveby: Creativity, Copyright, and Control

Notes from the ITP Driveby I taught last night (October 8, 2009, 9:30 PM).  Now with audio!



Copyright, copyleft, copy-what? We will discuss the various copyright/intellectual property issues faced by artists, designers, and other creators of content. Learn how to use Creative Commons and other open licenses to share and protect your work.


Start with a video: A Shared Culture

What is “intellectual property?”

Is it like real property? Or is it a “mirage”?

Copyright, Patents, and Trademark

What is copyright?

A restriction on free speech?

A temporary monopoly on the use, reproduction, and transmission of a creative work?

Copyright vs. “Right of Authorship?”

The current copyright system is broken

Copyright can be an incentive to creativity, but copyright can also get in the way.

Copies vs. Use

Atoms vs. Bits

Fair use? Free use?

Solutions? Creative Commons is one possibility.

What is CC?

How to use CC licenses

How to license your work

How to find CC-licensed work

What I did last summer – OpenEd

Learn More

Online Resources

Creative Commons – Learn more about Creative Commons the organization, find out how others are using CC licenses, and license your own work

Digital Copyright Slider – tool for determining whether works first published in the US are protected by copyright based on date of first publication

Fair Use Evaluator – online tool to help you better understand how to determine the “fairness” of a use under the US law

Public Domain Sherpa – online “calculator” helps you determine if a given work is in the public domain

Copyright, Commerce, and Culture – NYU course taught by ITP alum and Creative Commons Product Manager Fred Benenson. Lots of links to articles and discussion about copyright.


Good Copy/Bad Copy – Danish documentary about the current state of copyright and culture

RiP: A Remix Manifesto – Canadian documentary film about copyright and remix culture.

Steal This Film – a series of documentaries about the movement against intellectual property

Books (free digital downloads)

CONTENT: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright and the Future of the Future, Corey Doctorow

Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity, Lawrence Lessig

Remix: Making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy, Lawrence Lessig

Tales from the Public Domain: Bound By Law? – comic book that explains copyright basics; Keith Aoki, James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins

Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own – historical overview of the “digital commons” from GNU/Linux to Creative Commons, David Bollier

Glossaries and Terminology

Brown University Copyright Glossary

Cornell Law School US Copyright Law Definitions

US Copyright Office Definitions


Video: A Shared Culture

I borrowed some slides from Fred Benenson for my presentation

August ccSalon SF MP3s


Here are audio recordings I made of the speakers from last night’s ccSalon SF at PariSoMa.  Right click or control-click on the speakers’ names to download the MP3s.

CC-Licensed Taiwanese Tunes

As my internship at Creative Commons comes to an end this week, I thought it appropriate to give a shout out to some of the CC-licensed music that I have been listening to at work this summer, in particular, two CDs from Taiwan that I found in the office.  (Shameless promotion for the homeland) Both disks feature songs primarily in Mandarin and Taiwanese, but I think they are worth a listen even if you don’t understand everything (I don’t even totally understand song lyrics in English most of the time anyway)


Asian Variations

The Asian Variations album is a collection of remixes produced by MoShang in his Chinese Chill style of downtempo electronica, melding deeply laid-back beats with Chinese traditional instruments. Some of these remixes were solicited by the original artists, two were done for remix competitions, and in some cases MoShang approached artists directly requesting permission to remix their work. The artists represe nted on the album are literally from all over the globe; The U.S.A. (Fort Minor, Toao, Lovespirals, Brad Reason), Taiwan (Kou Chou Ching, Chang Jui-chuan, Viba, Andre van Rensburg, MoShang), South Africa (Gordon’s Suitcase), Japan (Akihiko Matsumoto & Chage), Italy (Tafubar), and Slovenia (PureH) and for the most part the collaboration with MoShang was via the web. With the exception of Fort Minor and J-pop star, Chage, none of the artists are signed to major labels and all are working hard to be heard.

More about MoShang and the remixed artists on


歡迎來唱我的歌 (Welcome To My Song)

An eclectic collection of Taiwanese music commissioned for the launch of Creative Commons Taiwan.  The title track is by Taiwanese pop icon Yue Hsin Chu.

Download MP3s and song lyrics at CC Taiwan (in Mandarin and Taiwanese)

See also: Launching Creative Commons Taiwan: Background, Experience, and Challenge

Comments on “In a Digital Future, Textbooks Are History”

This past weekend the New York Times published an article called “In a Digital Future, Textbooks Are History” by Tamar Lewin.  The article profiles the increasing adoption of digital textbooks by school districts as a way of cutting costs and as a way of updating pedagogical methods in response to technological and social advances.  Lewin reports:

Textbooks have not gone the way of the scroll yet, but many educators say that it will not be long before they are replaced by digital versions — or supplanted altogether by lessons assembled from the wealth of free courseware, educational games, videos and projects on the Web.


In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this summer announced an initiative that would replace some high school science and math texts with free, “open source” digital versions.

With California in dire straits, the governor hopes free textbooks could save hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Among the article’s interviewees is Neeru Khosla, co-founder of the non-profit group CK-12 Foundation, which develops “flexbooks” that can be adapted to state educational standards.  (Khosla has also been featured on OpenEd and on the Creative Commons blog.) Khosla explains the virtues of the flexbooks:

You can use them online, you can download them onto a disk, you can print them, you can customize them, you can embed video. When people get over the mind-set issue, they’ll see that there’s no reason to pay $100 a pop for a textbook, when you can have the content you want free.

The article uses terms like “digital textbooks,” “free courseware,” “open source,” and “open-content,” but what exactly do these terms mean? While there is reference to the adaptability and customization digital texts, the article does not explicitly mention copyright.  While digital delivery of educational materials may solve some of the cost barriers of education, without an explicit understanding of terms like “open” and “free,” legal and social barriers remain.  As far as I am concerned, government-funded “digital textbooks” or “free courseware” should be as free as possible from copyright restrictions (licensed under Creative Commons BY Attribution license, the least restrictive of CC licenses) or in the public domain.  Only then will they be truly available for sharing, collaboration and reuse.  The fact that they are simply “digital” or “available on the Internet” alone is not enough.

The road to a digital future for education is not without its bumps.  Lewin brings up the issue of a the digital divide: “Not every student has access to a computer, a Kindle electronic reader device or a smartphone, and few districts are wealthy enough to provide them. So digital textbooks could widen the gap between rich and poor.”

The increasing adoption of digital textbooks may save on some costs, but will also require additional investment in computer hardware.  But the real issue at stake is not just the economic costs of education, but instead the need to focus on increasing the accessibility of knowledge.  In order for learning resources to be truly accessible, the issue is not just online vs. offline, digital vs. print.  To reach their maximum social and educational potential, learning materials in the digital future  will need to free from excessive copyright constraints (with clear open licensing like CC-BY or public domain declaration) in order to allow teachers and students the maximum freedom to legally share, modify, and improve upon them.

Also check out Jane Park of ccLearn’s post from last September: “Back to School: Open Textbooks Gaining in Popularity.”