Legality and the Creative Commons Debate

Grasshopper (BIG)
While there are many website creators and bloggers all over the internet who host content that is not their own, or who merely blog solely out of amusement... something to while away the time before they retire, some of us who do create content, do so
a) to develop professionally
b) to create a large body of work i.e. a work of art
c) to share this art with our colleagues, friends and global collaborators

Either way, whatever we produce on our pages, (even if we're already retired and no longer in the classroom/ creative world)... our writing and designs are usually subject to copyright and in most of our cases, subject to creative commons licensing which means that it is free to use but attribution  for the final or even draft product must be given.   

Some of us really don't mind if this work provides others with an income, others of us really do.   I am one of the ones who does.   Some out there think that if we get upset by having work stolen, we shouldn't because, basically,  in their opinion, blogging isn't real work!

I guess, once upon a time, journalism wasn't real work either.  And didn't Van Gogh die penniless - or was he the guy who cut off his ear?  Nevermind.

While albeit, understandably, admittedly for those who blog solely to promote their company's wares or to advertise their upcoming conference presentations it is indeed very difficult for them to see a problem with material being lifted off our, as artists,  pages...  after all, in their cases if their advertisements are shared with others, they're very happy.

Still, not all blogs or bloggers are the same, nor do we all create under the same motivations.  For some of us, when our hours of energy, time and work is copied, it is an infringement, a violation of our rights.

These past few weeks have seen several very interesting cases crop up in our own field  of ELT, in general education and on the outskirts of it.  I know that I personally believe that not only do we need to respect each others' art, we really must fight together against those who would violate it.

What do you think? 

Have you ever had work lifted?  Were you able to deal with the thieves?

Has anyone ever tried to claim ownership over something you created?  How did it make you feel?

Have you ever contributed to a large body of work for a colleague or a boss and then had them casually forget to give you credit or reference your work?  How did this make you feel?

In this techno-age should our students be taught now not to violate copyright?   Or do you believe that the age of owning the right to have your name on your art  is now over?
Is plagiarism ever flattering?

Useful links related to this posting:

  • Understanding Creative Commons (previous post on this theme: Uncommonly Creative)
  • Get your Creative Commons official license here.
  • How to find millions of photographs, music and other forms of media which have been licensed under creative commons:  Search Creative Commons
    • Idioms in English - excellent initiative by the webheads to create a resource for ELT 

    Problems with copyright:
      If you have also written on this issue or are currently struggling with someone on a copyright issue, please don't hesitate to add your url below.

       Best, Karenne  

      I love hearing from you! Please add your thoughts on this issue if you have suffered or been violated or if you are unsure about the legalities of creative commons / would like to share how you work - don't worry about perfection or agreeing with me: it's always a pleasure to hear from you and know what you think.

      Do you know of another excellent source for free creative-commons licenced materials and media to share with students?

      And p.s. what a week... eh?

      There seriously must have been something out there in the universe - moon, stars and planets, and all that... I honestly feel like I've been dealing with crazies all week...

      4 Responses to “Legality and the Creative Commons Debate”

      • Anonymous says:
        November 14, 2010

        "Have you ever had work lifted?"


        "Were you able to deal with the thieves?"

        Not always; though I am getting better at it, with practice ;-)

        "Has anyone ever tried to claim ownership over something you created?"

        Yes... and occasionally, they have succeeded. Very difficult to prove, though

        "How did it make you feel?"

        Pissed off, to be honest... although perhaps not quite as miffed as an aquaintance of mine who tells the tale of how he once found himself sitting in the audience watching the comic who went on before him recite his entire act verbatim and go down a storm with the audience in the process... not a lot you can do after that really, aside from calling a taxi for the comedian ;-)

        "Is plagiarism ever flattering?"

        True story: A couple of years ago I started getting phone calls from people congratulating me about the fact that something I'd written a while back had finally made it onto TV...

        Apparently the programme in question bore a such a striking similarity to my work that people who had read the script were convinced that it was one and the same... however, it was news to me!

        After mulling it over, I decided not to investigate further and I chose not to watch the series & let it go... after all, it may have been just a coincidence that their idea was similar to mine.

        However, if it was a case of plagiarism, should I have been flattered by the idea that somebody liked my work enough to appropriate it and put their name to it?

        Would you be flattered in such circumstances? Or would you feel cheated?

      • Toby says:
        November 14, 2010

        Do I think artists have a right to attribution? Of course. Do I think they'll always get it? No. Do I lose sleep over it? Not really.

        I think the way we think about these things is outmoded. I don't know what the new, better way will be, but the few times my contributions to projects have been 'unrecognized' have been me offering informal help to someone else. . . and normally being paid with food. (I'll do a lot for homemade pumpkin pie.) Sure, I'd have loved for someone to say "and this really amazing part here was completely Toby's idea. . ." but I never expect it.

        I don't post blog content worth stealing, but I've sent some short stories around the Internet and, at this point in my writing 'career,' I'd be happy to see that someone enjoyed it.

        Ask this question again in twenty years, is my advice. And again, I can't ask blogger to send me emails of the other comments--which I know will be interesting--until I've logged in. And I can't log in without sending this comment. Bah.

      • KALINAGO ENGLISH says:
        November 14, 2010

        Oh, Toby... I shouldn't tell you that is a secret sneaky way to subscribe to comments without commenting yourself :-) because I love when you visit me.

        I understand what you're saying but like Anon above I have had work stolen, in our field and outside of it.

        I don't like it. I don't mind sharing for free but my rule is: put my name on it.

        Understand some folks don't care about their name but I do... it's all I have really, pathetic me, but it's important to me.

      • David says:
        November 14, 2010


        Again, good of you to raise this issue and keep it front and center.

        As you suggest - it all depends on many variables and the issue of copyright shouldn't be approached as "black and white". In particular, like I've tried preaching and promoting - educators should get a lot more leeway when using things in their classroom.

        When it comes to "promotion", to me the issue is two sided. I hate people putting their "label" on everything and branding everything.Nor do I like some blogs that you can't copy from and limit the sharing of material. We all benefit by having content/ideas shared. We shouldn't create walls and a closed community. The question is how to have attribution clear and legitimate while still sharing content? There are powerful tools that aggregate content without attribution and even take yours and build their own google rankings (like those "mastersonline" Top 100/50 lists that everyone tweets like candy but which have deep links you don't see and which help raise their search rankings...ugh!!!!).

        These issues are going to keep coming up and we have to create a climate of appropriate use - that's my method of dealing with it. I know through social media it is much easier to find those who "steal" without attribution.

        I don't think we can copyright ideas/thoughts and even writing. But we can protect those who have stuff "wholesale" copyrighted and as an educator, really endorse stronger efforts in this regard. But it will be tough given the nature of the "net".



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