Copyright is a hotly contested debate in an ever-changing digital landscape, where we celebrate the political power of practices such as the remix and appropriated images and texts. What do we tell our students to best foster creativity without breaking the law?
Young people want to play, create and understand. They are also at a point in their lives where they are developing their identity which is reflected through the things that they do online and off line, their morals, ethics and beliefs. With a growing ability to access content and manipulate it they are now able to express themselves in a way that those before them have only dreamt about, as mentioned by Lessig (2007).
By remixing does this make it their own work? Is it using others creations inappropriately? What does it say about them? These are important questions for them to consider in their production of content that they are adding meaning to. Remixing is a new take on an old literacy (Remix), it is our responsibility to ensure students have the literacy skills to participate effectively.
Remixing is certainly a wonderful form of expression and a powerful one at that, displaying not only a message but also underpinning literacies, as shown by McIntosh (2009) in his remix. One cannot ignore the importance of the content being remixed and it’s appropriate use according to law and general moral expectations in our local and global society. It is evident that it does take time for formalised laws/expectations to catch up with what one can do online, but this does not mean that this environment is open to abuse. Students need to consider this when creating their work, they need to become aware of the legal ramifications when dealing with copyrighted material and make choices that reflect the identity they want to create along with the consequences they are willing to accept – positive or negative. I wonder if the band Men at Work, when creating the song Down Under, considered the future consequences that would arise through the use of a riff from Kookaburra (a 1934 children’s song) when this song was written (Men at work – Wikipedia). This relates to a point, as they took something from a past era and put it into a new era and genre, hence giving it a different meaning and audience. If the song had not created such revenue and iconic popularity would there have been an issue?
This is a key consideration for young people, if they remix copyrighted material and then publish in spaces such as YouTube they need to be aware of the ramifications associated with it becoming popular and generating an income. And further to this other restrictions that may be associated with the copyrighted material.
This is not a new issue within our society as pointed out by Larry Lessig and hence the existence of Creative Commons has enabled a way of accessing and using, with greater awareness, material openly available.
In direct response to the above question, it is really about ensuring that students are aware that anything they use, that is not their own, must be used in a manner that sits morally, ethically and legally well with the identity that they want to portray. To achieve this it is my role to question and guide, support and learn with them, to be immersed in the technology as well. One of the greatest learning moments for my students creating a YouTube video for advertising their session at the VWBP in Education conference centred around this notion. It is in the act of doing that we learn along with the authentic nature of the task. During the production of this video students used music that they had not created and ensured that they used it in accordance with the creator. Although, not a remix, they have referenced their content where appropriate, as one would in a more traditional written format.
McIntosh, J. (2009). Buffy vs Edward (Twilight Remixed). Rebellious Pixels. [Online]. Available: http://www.rebelliouspixels.com/2009/buffy-vs-edward-twilight-remixed.
Men at work – wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men_at_work#Copyright_lawsuit_and_controversy
Remix – wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remix_(book)