Yesterday, I started my series about “owning” creative works. Today will be a much shorter complimentary entry that will help explain your rights when it comes to copyright as well as some basic best practices.
Rights & Responsibilities
In the US we’re given certain affordances. For example, when we create works of art expressly for ourselves, on our own time… we own the copyright. This is essential in the digital age, when many artists are posting their material online without going to register their copyright at the U.S. Copyright office. If we want to use others’ copyrighted materials, we are responsible for asking the artist for permission. The only way to navigate against asking for permission is when a work is used under the guidelines of Fair Use.
Ok, so what is fair use?
Ah yes, the age old question. Fair use is the use of copyrighted material without express permission from the copyright owner for a limited/”transformative” purpose. Standford University breaks down fair use of copyrighted materials into two categories: 1) Commentary/Criticism or 2) parody. Why are these two items allowed?
It is generally assumed that for commentary or criticism, you will only be using part of the work as examples. Overall the public will be better aware because of your critic, which may require direct information from the source to be credible. Parody pokes fun at the original by calling the viewers memory to a work. Have you ever heard of Weird Al’s parodies?
This song, “White & Nerdy,” is a parody of Chamillionaire and Krayzie Bone’s “Ridin’“. Parodies like this are considered fair use, although they use far more extensive parts of the original then other forms of fair use.
Copyright Best Practices
Here are some basic rules to live by when it comes to copyright. However, be forewarned following these rules does NOT mean there won’t be an extraneous factor causing an issue with copyright. I can’t promise that the law won’t find you. The rule is vague for a reason.
- Know the laws. -If you don’t know the laws, you can’t follow them.
- Don’t assume you won’t be caught if you break the law. You will be caught. -Just ask college student, Sarah Barg.
- Don’t use someone else’s materials without asking for permission. -Some may have “permission giving” licenses, such as creative commons. If you can’t contact the person, it’s always better to use something with a CC license.
- ALWAYS cite the original owner. -But seriously. Use whatever style is appropriate. Want to know how? You can use Purdue OWL as a resource.
- DO quote small snippits. DON’T copy large portions of the work. –Music stores have certain limits (due to complaints, iTunes lengthened some previews to 90 seconds). You don’t listen to the whole song because that would diminish the value of purchase. There is no specific limit; use common sense.
- Use materials in the public domain. -Keep in mind, you should STILL cite the author, even if copyright has lapsed. Also included in the public domain: ideas, facts, lapsed copyright content (i.e. Shakespeare’s plays, though not the specific version released by a bookseller).
- Indicate permissions on all of your digitally published work. -It’s ok to say “do not use without expressed written permission.” Although people should be following this rule anyways, making it explicitly clear can help clear any muddy waters. Or, give yourself a Creative Commons license.
- When in doubt, make your own materials. -As long as you’re not creating it expressly for another entity (such as your job or while doing research for your school), you own the copyright on your own materials. You grant your own permissions.
This blog entry is part 2 of 2 in a series about Intellectual Property, written for Digital Rhetoric. Part 2 was published on October 25, 2011.
Who Owns Creativity Part 2 by Alexandra White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.