Sunday, November 9, 2008

To embed or not to embed . . .

Last week I posted a video on this blog. I did so after reviewing many other blog sites, created by librarians and tech specialists, and seeing what I perceived to be many similar posts. Yet as I did so, involved in deep discussions and reflection about copyright law in my classes, I felt suddenly uncomfortable. Is posting media from other sources on your blog a violation of copyright (with or without appropriate source citation)?

A description of blogging in the book, Blogs Wikis, & Podcasts by Will Richardson suggests a distinct difference between blogging and journaling (simply creating a record of one's own experiences). Though he admits that blogs can be whatever you want them to be, he describes the best blogs as a conversation, a synthesis of information cultivated from many sources, yet only an ingredient in the larger scope. He strongly urges linking and reference to other blogs and websites in the development of a good blog. He does not discuss the posting of material from other blogs and websites in a blog but the inference seems to be that a blog should be a stepping-stone to other Web locations.

Looking at some of the media websites including YouTube, TeacherTube, SlideShare, and others, however, I discover that they all offer the address and coding information to embed specific media in other locations. Checking these sites and many of the other blogs I review, I note that almost all have links for RSS feed that can be displayed anywhere, on other websites or blogs. Embedding or feeding from these sites includes source information, giving appropriate credit but does not, of course, encourage the media to be viewed from its original source.

Continuing to review other blogs, I see lots of media referenced and displayed from one blog to another, borrowed from many different sources. I must admit, seeing media borrowed and displayed on blogs across the Web, and seeing blogs and various media feeds spread via RSS, I am somewhat desensitized to the issue of copyright on the Internet. It appears that media hosting sites encourage the spread of content into blogs and across the Web. I am concerned though, that "just because everyone else is doing it, doesn't make it right." Though I believe I am safe in sharing content on my blog, I am still not sure I know what the actual law is regarding this issue.

Questioned in class about school Acceptable Use Policies and copyright law this week, I am reminded that websites and blogs maintained by teachers (or even students) must obey copyright law. The statement within the AUP regarding this situation often is as simple as, users must obey all laws in use of school websites and technology or suffer the appropriate consequences.

At heart, a defender of copyright law, I understand the importance of respecting other's creations and property. Still confused about the law regarding media that seems to be available for public use, I do get frustrated by the masses of users who freely plagiarize and borrow media and other content with no effort to cite the original author. I find it mildly amusing that those of us who would be most likely to give others credit for the work they have done, are also the ones who will follow the law and not display the work out of context. Others, who often fail to give creative credit, will continue to cut and paste and use others work without remorse.

As an example, I encourage readers to check out the beautifully created representation of an iceberg on photographic artist Ralph A. Clevenger's site. The site has a copyright statement and may even be legally registered with the copyright office. The photo cannot be easily cut-&-pasted from this site. Confusingly, Brooks Institute, a photography school that Clevenger is affiliated with, displays the photo with a noticeable copyright by Clevenger printed right on the photo but also a claimed copyright by the institute on a mouseover.

Regardless of who owns the actual copyright or if, somehow, it has a dual copyright; this image is not in the public domain. Yet it very much is! Use your favorite image search engine to look for "iceberg" and page after page you will see his work displayed across the Web on blogs and Websites of all shapes and sizes. It is a beautiful and unique representation of the much larger, underwater mass, below the unassuming and picturesque, visible iceberg -- perhaps symbolic of the quantity of copyright violation hidden beneath the smaller body of properly authorized use of digital media.

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