Monday, October 17, 2011

The things I do for copyright-friendly images!

One of the related news stories linked with Steve Jobs' death was the celebration and later partial villification of a Hong Kong design student that created what he thought was a unique tribute to the founder of Apple.

The young man posted the image on his design website and it received an astronomical number of hits after Steve Jobs died. However, unbeknownst to this young man, an older graphic designer in Britain had previously created a similar icon. This should by no means diminish the work of either man. It can be difficult to create something that has never been done before, or in a similar way.

Last year, I spent a lot of time talking with my students, especially my intermediate students, about respecting the rights of image creators. I had my brother, a former MMA photographer talk with the special education students about "stealing" photos after a Google image search and show them strategies and ways to find images for their projects that can be used ethically. It's not easy - and it's definitely not as easy as performing a Google image search!

99.9% of the time, I only use photographs that I have taken myself for use on my blogs. I felt that I should practice what I preach to the students. As I got ready for my various ECOO presentations, I realized that I wanted to use some images for my session on Creating Positive Digital Footprints. These are all the steps I took to arrange to make an original (I hope) image for my presentation.
  • find big blank paper, blue paint, paintbrushes, towels, and newspapers
  • ask my son if he'd let me paint the bottom of his feet and then walk around on my paper (he said no)
  • grab our two laptops and place them artistically on the paper
  • put on shorts and paint my own feet blue
  • walk on the paper (and realize I needed to take one step at a time and then repaint my feet)
  • drag myself from one side of the paper to the other without letting my feet touch anywhere
  • reposition my feet on the paper for clear prints
  • wash my feet, the brushes and the paint holder
  • reposition the laptops
  • start taking photographs
  • realize that the background was distracting from the shot, so found a large bulletin board and garbage cans to prop them up so no one could see the rest of my basement in the shot
  • experiment with flash vs no flash, different angles, different levels, horizontal vs vertical shots, etc.
I was sweating by the time I was finished, but here's the result of that work!

I should make these images available using Creative Commons, and I will (eventually). I've still got to finish those presentations.

The funny thing is, the more I do, the more I realize how complicated the copyrighted use of images, music, and video is nowadays. For instance, just last week, I was helping my students finish their entry into the Ontario Library Association School Library Month video contest. (Remind me to post their entry in a future blog post!) I thought that by using classical music as part of our soundtrack, and since the composition is hundreds of years old, we wouldn't have to worry about copyright, right? Wrong! The recording we used belongs to the symphony that played it and the record company that produced it. Thankfully, as YouTube informed me in a bulletin sent to my account minutes after I uploaded it, they will still allow the music to stay with the video. Other videos aren't as fortunate - I've seen videos of elementary school dance performances that were uploaded to YouTube muted because the song that the students were dancing to had strict rules about performance rights. Lifelong learning certainly applies to mashups, defining ownership, and copyright!

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