When is a Remix no longer a Remix?

As many of you may know, I’m a big supporter of Creative Commons and the ideals of open sharing. I publish most of my stuff under a CC licence, usually BY-SA, because I think sharing is important and I believe that the world is a better place if we allow others to build on what we do (in the same way that I often build on the influences of others).

So, a while back I published a couple of things to the OER Commons; a site where teachers can upload and freely share their educational resources with others. The general idea is that if you publish to OER Commons, anyone can take your work and remix it and build upon it to create a version for their own individualised use. For busy teachers who all too often find themselves “reinventing the wheel” in the creation of their own teaching resources, it’s a brilliant concept. You can also attach metadata to the resources you share to make them more searchable, and even map them to the US Common Core standards if you wish. If someone finds your work useful, but wants to make slight changes, the site provides the option to remix the work, connecting the new work with the old work via metadata. Like I said, it’s a brilliant concept.

One of the resources I published to the OER Commons was a worksheet called “What Rights, where?” which aims to be a guide on how to select the appropriate Creative Commons license for a piece of creative work. It links to a Google Doc which suggests a range of scenarios and asks the user to think about which of the CC attributes might be most appropriate for the circumstances.

I got an email the other day informing me that another OER Commons user, Binod Deka, had made a remix of my What Rights, where? worksheet. I was pleased to think that someone liked it and might have found it useful enough to remix it for their own needs. After all, that’s the whole point of OER Commons.

Of course, I was also curious as to what changes he might have made to it, so I took a look at his version to see what was different. You can see his version here. The weird thing is that, from what I can see, it bears absolutely no resemblance to my original. His seems to have just removed 100% of the content that I provided, and he has replaced it with a plagiarised cut and paste of information from the Wikipedia definition of what Rights are. It’s a related idea I suppose, but completely disconnected from my original work.

I suppose it’s one of the risks you take when you share openly, that you have to trust that people building upon your work won’t destroy more than they create. While I’m glad to see my work getting used, I’m not too thrilled about the idea that his work of plagiarism from Wikipedia purports to be a remix of something of mine. I don’t think it was done with malice or any ill-intent, but it’s a bit annoying. It’s also a bit ironic that the work that gets credited as the source (mine) gets cited with a remix link, and the work that is actually used in the remix (from Wikipedia) is not cited at all.

I like the term “remix” because it implicitly suggests that the original work should still be somewhat evident in the new work. A remix is not designed to completely mask the original work in the same way that students are taught to hide their original sources lest they risk an accusation of plagiarism. I have no issue with someone remixing my work, but I’m perplexed by the idea of my work not being even remotely evident in the remix.

All of this got me thinking… At what point is a remix no longer a remix? For that matter, when does plagiarism cease to be plagiarism? And how much originality needs to added to an idea of influence before you can legitimately consider it to be a new work?

As always, your thoughts are valued in the comments…

Featured Image: Acrylic Paint from Wikipedia

Should I Trust The Cloud?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/dherholz/450303689/

I received an email recently from a colleague asking about data sovereignty, and in particular asking about how schools deal with the  need to store all personal data on Australian servers to be compliant with the law. This was my reply…

When deciding whether to do a thing – any thing – you need to assess the relative risk. There is NOTHING that can have it’s risk mitigated to zero. So while we can have debates about the security of the cloud, the fact is that ANY service is generally only as safe as the password that protects it. It’s far simpler to socially engineer your way into a system than to hack it, and it’s easier to follow someone through an open doorway before the door shuts than to crack the lock. There are security risks involved with every system.

What makes you think that data saved on a server that happens to be geographically located on Australian soil is any safer than data on a server located on the other side of some imaginary geographical dividing line? What policies make Australian servers impervious to security issues?  What is it about Australian passwords that are safer than non-Australian passwords?

It’s interesting that whenever I hear the security argument from someone, I ask them whether they use 2-factor authentication on their online accounts. The answer is almost invariably never. I find it hard to take someone seriously when they bleat about security and yet do nothing to secure their own stuff using the safest and simplest technology we have available; 2 factor authentication.

I also find it amusing that these same people who bang on about not trusting the cloud, also almost always have a bank account. When I ask them where their money is stored, they say “in the bank”. When I ask where is it actually stored, they have no idea. They don’t know where their money – or the digital records that define the concept of money – is actually stored. They never stop to consider than when they go to an ATM and withdraw $50, it’s not the same $50 note that they actually put into the bank. There is no magical shoebox under the bank’s bed that stores their actual money… it’s all just computer records, kept on a server, somewhere, and I guarantee that they have no idea where that somewhere is.

That’s why the debate about whether we should be allowing our data to be stored offshore is such a laughable concept. It shows a real lack of understanding about the way the Internet actually works.

The truth is, it doesn’t matter WHERE your data is stored. What matters is WHO is storing it, and whether you trust them with it. I’d rather trust my data to major cloud provider offshore who offer privacy policies that I trust, along with strongly encrypted and sharded data storage techniques, virtual and physical security over their datacentres, and a proven track record of doing the cloud right, than to some minor player in the cloud storage space just because they happen to have servers in Australia.

I’m also not a lawyer.  However, I’ve done enough research into the Australian data sovereignty laws to feel satisfied that I’m interpreting them the right way. And contrary to all the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt being spread around regarding these laws, they do NOT say that cloud services cannot be used unless the servers are in Australia. What they say is that the cloud service USER – that’s you – needs to feel satisfied that the cloud service PROVIDER is offering a service that meets your expectations of safety, security, privacy and redundancy.  If you do your due diligence, and come to the conclusion that you’re satisfied with your cloud service provider is giving you a level of service you can trust, then you are free to use it and in turn offer it to your users. If you don’t believe they are offering this level of service, then don’t use them. It’s as simple as that.

Your choice will never be able to come with a 100% guarantee. Nothing does. But if you do your research carefully and make your choices well, the chances are as good as they will ever be that you have made the right decision. The cloud offers amazing possibilities, and I’m completely convinced it IS the future of computing. I’m all in on the cloud as the platform.

To me, there is really only one obvious choice in picking a cloud provider. You want someone whose entire infrastructure is built for the cloud, whose entire business model is built on doing it right, managing data with security and integrity and maintaining the trust of their users. I’m not mentioning names because I’m sure you can make your own decisions about who you trust and how well they do this cloud thing.

What I don’t want to do is to place my data with a cloud provider who is still playing catchup, whose cloud infrastructure run on legacy platforms that were never built for the cloud, and whose business practices in slagging their competition I find completely distasteful.

I don’t care where their servers are located.

Header image by Dave Herholz – CC BY-SA

Lessons in Creative Commons, Part 2

Here’s the follow-up from my last post about the copyright claim that YouTube made on a video I made using a Creative Commons soundtrack. You can read the previous post for the start of the story if you’re interested.

Since then, I’ve had conversations with several people about the issue. One was Jeff Price, the CEO of Audiam. Audiam was listed by YouTube as the entity responsible for policing the claim. Audiam is a service that musicians can use to track the use of their music in YouTube, although I think they also monitor Spotify and a few other streaming services as well. Basically, when a musician signs up to use Audiam’s services they upload a sample of their music which gets passed on to YouTube and fingerprinted. Fingerprinting is a process whereby the track can be compared against existing tracks to see if it matches, thereby identifying the copyright status of the music. If a match is made, YouTube flags it as a copyright violation and that was the problem I was having. It’s all done algorithmically of course, there are no actual people involved in the process, and in principle it’s a great idea.

My contention was that the track in question was a Creative Commons licensed track and therefore had been incorrectly identified by the system, so I appealed the infringement claim by YouTube/Audiam.

I had a few back and forth exchanges with Jeff Price about the problem. While we probably didn’t quite see eye to eye on everything, overall I thought it was a productive conversation. I was impressed and thankful that Jeff took the time to engage in the debate with me, although in the end, I didn’t feel that anything was really resolved. Basically, Jeff insisted that if I wanted to track to be released from the copyright claim I had to contact the musician and get them to ask Audiam to exempt my use of it. My argument was that a Creative Commons license was designed to avoid the need to do this and that it already grants that permission in advance. Jeff didn’t contradict me on this point, he just insisted that I either buy a license or get an exemption.

The most informative exchange I had was with the actual musician who created the piece, a guy called Enrique Molano. It took a bit of online detective work to find out who was responsible for the track but I eventually connected with Enrique through LinkedIn, where I discussed the issue with him. And that’s where it got interesting…

So here’s the lesson part of the story.

Enrique replied, very nicely, with a link to a support thread from Jamendo that contained the following information…

(No Derivatives is) the most misunderstood paragraph of the CC license. People think that as long as they don’t cut or trim the music, they can use it for their videos, but this is not true. Music with ND attribute is for listening only. You can make unlimited copies of it on various mediums, include it in playlists and compilations, embed it on websites, use it as music on hold or business background music, but you can’t use it as soundtrack for videos, games, audiobooks, presentations, etc. As the legal code says:

“(you can) make such modifications as are technically necessary
to exercise the rights in other media and formats, but otherwise
you have no rights to make Adaptations.”

People often argue that using an unaltered song as a soundtrack to a video does not make the video a derivative work, because the song itself is not recast or transformed in any way. That’s where “Don’t build upon this work” takes place. Coupling the music with additional content such as images, audio, or motion picture, is considered “building upon”. The legal code is very explicit about it:

“For the avoidance of doubt, where the Work is a musical work,
performance or phonogram, the synchronization of the Work in
timed-relation with a moving image (“synching”) will be considered
an Adaptation for the purpose of this License.”

Thus, as far as No Derivatives licenses are concerned, videos that use an ND-licensed song violate the terms of the license.

Say what?! I use Creative Commons a lot, and this is certainly not what I’ve been led to believe. I’m guessing that many of you may have also been under the same misconception. I’ve always understood that the No Derivs component of a Creative Commons license means that you can’t remix, change or edit the music, but I never realised that limitation extended to using the track, unchanged, as a soundtrack. But apparently this IS the case. Using a CC license with an ND property means you are NOT allowed to build upon the work, including using it as a soundtrack to a video.

The fact is, putting a CC BY-ND-NC license on a piece of work is just about as restrictive as leaving a full Copyright license on it. You still can’t really use it for anything without permission or paying.

While I feel a bit foolish not knowing about this detail of the ND license, I’m apparently not the only one. In his email to me, Enrique said “Sorry about the inconvenience. We’ve got about 200 claims from Audiam, apparently all of them under the same confusion.”  I don’t like being wrong but I am glad that this little journey taught me some things that I didn’t know. Engaging in the conversation with Jeff Price was interesting and useful (although we could have avoided a lot of our back and forth had he simply pointed out that an ND track can’t be used as a soundtrack under the terms of the CC license). I’m thankful that Enrique eventually pointed it out, and that caused me to delve into a whole lot more background reading about Creative Commons, including re-reading the actual legal code in these licenses. I also learned there are significant wording changes between CC v3.0 and CC v4.0.

But at the end of it all, I learned the bottom line. If you want to use Creative Commons music with an intention of including it in a video, even if you don’t modify or remix the actual music track itself, DON’T use a license that includes the ND property.

If you produce content and your intention is to share it, and if you want to provide others with the necessary permissions to build upon your work, stick to one of the “Culturally Free” licenses, either CC BY, or CC BY-SA.  Even a well intentioned use of No Derivs (or even Non Commercial) just causes a whole lot of headaches for those who want to legitimately build upon your work.

Featured image “I love to share” from  Creative Commons HQ on Flickr

Lessons in Creative Commons

A few weeks ago Linda and I got home from a short holiday in Bali. We had a great time, and managed to collect a few snippets of video along the way using a GoPro camera. A few days after I got home I managed to stitch a few clips together into a little video summary of the holiday using my own footage and some Creative Commons music that I sourced from Jamendo, one of of my favourite sources for CC-licensed music. I used a happy little track called “8_Happiness AC2” by an artist called “Music for your Media“. The track was licensed under a CC BY-ND-NC licence – meaning that if I attribute the artist (I did), don’t modify the music (I didn’t), and not make money from its use (I’m not), I was welcome to use it. That’s the nice thing about Creative Commons licensing; the terms and conditions of use are clear, explicit and fairly unambiguous.

Or so I thought.

After I edited the video – all 2 minutes and 52 seconds of it – it was published to YouTube. The next day I received a notification from YouTube saying that the sound track used on the video was a copyright violation, and that it contained “Disputed Third Party Matched Content”. In other words, someone was claiming that I’d used the music without the correct permissions from the copyright owner.

I don’t believe that it is “Disputed third party matched content”. I sourced the music track as a Creative Commons media asset, which was clearly indicated in the download link on the Jamendo site, as shown here…

download_happiness

“Free and legal for personal use” seems pretty unambiguous to me.

The Jamendo website also has a nice simple explanation of Creative Commons files on its FAQ page…

“Jamendo can be free and legal thanks to Creative Commons licenses. They grant the right to download and share music for free and legally. Artists choose to use these licenses, and to use Jamendo as a means to share and promote their music.”

“Creative Commons are licenses that enable musicians to give away their music for free while protecting their rights. They are easy to use and compatible with internet standards, and allow rights holders to authorize (or not) certain uses of their music, such as commercial uses and derived works.”

There was a link in my YouTube Video Manager dashboard to dispute the claim, so of course I disputed it. I provided the links to the site that I got the file from, pointed out it was a CC track, and assumed that would be the end of it.

Then today I got another notification from YouTube that my dispute had been rejected and that the original claim of using Disputed third party matched content would be upheld.

dispute_rejected

As a longstanding supporter of Creative Commons, I was pretty pissed off that the “copyright holder”, a label called Audiam, was jerking me around like this.  The track I used was clearly a Creative Commons track and my use of it was clearly within the requirements of the BY-NC-ND license. I have my own suspicions about why they are making this claim, but I’ll save the theories for now.  I don’t know what deal Music for your Media may have done with Audiam, but I do know that the file I sourced was issued under a clearly defined, non-revocable CC license.

Feeling very annoyed, I decided to appeal the ruling because in this instance I’m convinced I am right. Although it would be trivially simple to just substitute another piece of copyright free music from the YouTube media library and be done with it, it’s the principle that matters here.

preface

So I clicked the link to appeal the dispute and provided the following information to YouTube…

Thanks for looking into this alleged infringement and making a ruling but NO, I cannot agree with this ruling. I know it would be far simpler to just remove the video from YouTube or to replace the soundtrack with a different piece of music, but there is a principle at stake here. I believe that your ruling is incorrect and I’d like to dispute it further. Despite the risk I take in having you find against my use of the music again, I know that I am in the right and I want to defend my use of Creative Commons licensed material.

The piece of music in question, “Music for your Media – Happiness is Here” was sourced under a Creative Commons license from Jamendo, one of the Internet’s major sources of Creative Commons music.

The link at which I retrieved the MP3 file was this page… https://www.jamendo.com/en/track/1147331/8-happiness-ac2

When clicking the Download button on that page the license terms of the music are displayed as Creative Commons BY-NC-ND

Use of the track is clearly summarised on the download dialog as follows…

Some Rights Reserved – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND
You can copy, distribute, advertise and play this track as long as you:
Give credit to the artist
Don’t alter, transform or build upon this album
Don’t use this album for commercial purposes

I have not violated any of those terms. The music is credited in the closing credits of the video, I have not altered or remixed the track. I have not used it for commercial purposes, it’s simply a personal video about a holiday I took in Bali. (non commercial even includes the fact that YouTube ads are turned off for this video)

I am a longtime user and contributor of Creative Commons material. I am well aware of how CC licensing works and it seems very clear to me that this work was released under a Creative Commons license, and that my use of it was well within the requirements of that license.

I should also point out that CC licenses are not revocable. As stated on the Creative Commons wiki FAQ, “CC licenses are not revocable. Once something has been published under a CC license, licensees may continue using it according to the license terms for the duration of applicable copyright and similar rights. As a licensor, you may stop distributing under the CC license at any time, but anyone who has access to a copy of the material may continue to redistribute it under the CC license terms.”

So even if Audiam, the label claiming ownership of the music, has changed their mind about the licensing of this track, this does not affect my use of it.

To sum up, I have sourced this track legally and through legitimate means. I have completely complied with the terms of this non-revocable CC license. A CC licence is a pre-granting of permission to use a media asset. I do not need to contact the copyright owner to seek permission because that permission has already been granted.

I fail to see how this could possibly be seen as a copyright infringement, and I hope that common sense and a more complete application of the principles of Creative Commons prevails.

I await your response.

Let’s see what happens. I’ve heard of people making these spurious copyright claims before but this is the first time it’s happened to me. The reason is generally that if they win they get the right to place their ads on my video and earn money from them. Most people don’t bother fighting it because it’s simply too much work to appeal, it runs the risk of getting a copyright strike against your YouTube account if you lose, and it’s just far easier to roll over and give in.

Not me, not this time. There is an important principle of freedom at stake here and that’s worth fighting for. I’ll let you know what happens.

Featured CC Image by Kev-shine on Flickr

Rules are Rules. Sort of.

QEWWhen I lived in Canada for a while, I was always a little bemused by the Canadian approach to speed limits. The maximum allowed speed limit on the QEW and the 400-series roads around Toronto is 100km/h and yet if you actually do that speed you just about get run over. The locals routinely cruise the highways there at 120-130km/h and there’s no issue.

I like to drive fast too, but it used to frustrate my sense of logic when I’d ask my Canadian friends why they didn’t observe the speed limit.

“Oh, it says 100,” they’d say, “but nobody actually drives at 100, we drive at 120.”

“Why don’t they just raise the speed limit to 120”, I’d ask.

“Because then people would just do 140” came the reply.

Apart from being a really strange view of human nature, I’d then ask, “Why don’t you just post the speed limit that you actually want people to observe and then enforce that, instead of having this vague gray area where people do what they aren’t supposed to do on the understanding that nobody really minds?”

This same logic struck me today when I saw an RT from Sandy Kendell leading to a tweet from Bill Ferriter, an outstanding educator from North Carolina who shares and blogs a lot of his great work with the online community. It said…

tweet1

I followed the link, and sure enough, it’s an outstanding resource rubric for helping students understand how to leave a good blog comment.  I know that many teachers will find it a really valuable and useful resource.

But then I noticed that there was a copyright notice at the bottom of every page that said…

Copyright Notice

The PDF resource seemed to be being given away freely on Twitter, but there was a fairly obvious Copyright notice at the bottom of every page. This struck me as odd, since Copyright essentially means that you cannot use a resource without prior permission from the author.

Following the link to “download this page” took me to the webpage where I could buy the book that this free resource came from. A little confused about how a copyrighted work was being given away so freely, I responded with a question on Twitter, phrased briefly to stick within the 140 character limit, which started a conversation with Bill…

tweet3

To me, this is all just grey area. If there is an intent to share something that can be used without asking permission, then adding a Copyright notice to it really muddies that intent. The conversation bounced back and forward between Bill and I over Twitter, where I was making the point that, if it’s a free resource that is being given away, then perhaps a better way to do it would be to mark it with a Creative Commons license that clearly indicated up-front how users could make use of this PDF. Marking it with a CC BY-SA-NC, for example, would mean that it could be shared freely for non-commercial purposes, with attribution, and the permission to do so was being given in advance. This eliminates the requirement to contact the author to ask permission, since permission has been pre-given.  That’s the whole point of Creative Commons.

By marking work with a Copyright notice it explicitly says that you cannot use this work without first asking permission. If people do actually follow the rules, that probably means Bill will be kept busy answering a whole lot of “Do you mind if I use your worksheet” emails.

In our twitter conversation Bill made the comment that it was his intention to make the worksheet freely available and that people were welcome to use it. The confusion arises because this same worksheet is very clearly marked with a Copyright notice.  This is just like my Canadian friends who speed along the 100km/h QEW at 130km/h – the sign says one thing, but we do the other. In this case, we say that the resource is free to use, but we signpost it with a notice saying otherwise.

I’m not intending to single Bill out here… he does great stuff, is a prolific sharer online and I have great respect for him. The problem, as he pointed out to me, is that publishers still largely don’t “get” this stuff and they don’t know that alternatives to full copyright exist, or if they do they are too afraid to use them. As an author myself, it astounds me how out of touch most publishers are with the ideals of controlled sharing. There are tons of examples of “Don’t do what I say, do what I mean”. I just think it would be far better if we just said what we mean right from the start.

Bill was trying to defend the publishing industry, reminding me that they are just figuring this stuff out like the rest of us, but I think those of us who understand this stuff should make it our moral duty to educate those who don’t, and help them understand how some of the restrictions they instinctively use, like the indiscriminate stamping of Copyright symbols on everything they publish, work directly against our goals of sharing resources freely with colleagues.

As educators, many of us make things to share with our colleagues – videos, photographs, writing, music, etc. As creators and sharers of educational content, I think we have an obligation to make our sharing intentions crystal clear.  If we intend to freely share our work, then we should clearly indicate that with the use of Creative Commons, Public Domain or some other open license that reflects our intent. If we want to protect our work and restrict access to it, then we should make use of Copyright. But I see a real problem when we confuse the message by not making that intent absolutely clear right from the start.

To paraphrase Dr Suess, you should always say what you mean, and mean what you say.  Then there is no second guessing, no intuiting of intent, and everyone knows exactly where they stand.

CC BY-SA photo by dougtone

If you want to share, say so!

I took part in the Open Content Licensing for Educators online course that ran all last week.  It was run by the team at WikiEducator and was a great insight into the many copyright issues that can be addresses by creating Open Educational Resources using clear and open licensing terms.

I know that many educators don’t think in terms of “licensing” their work, but really, whenever you make something that can be used to help either you or others teach, it’s a “resource” and the way that you indicate how you are prepared to let others use that resource can be considered a “license”.

The thing that became screamingly obvious as I worked through the online course content last week was that…

a) All educators need to get much, much better at MARKING our work (where we’re allowed to) with some form of designation that indicates how we wish to share it. We all produce resources, but very few of us consciously consider marking those resources with a “license” to indicate how we want to allow (or restrict) others to use them. Creative Commons is ideal for this purpose, but there are other options too, such as AEShareNet.

The point is, whatever you choose to use, use something. (I know that some of you will rightly point out that the copyright for work you produce for your employer is technically the property of your employer…  I don’t even want to go down that slippery slope right now… I’m just saying that, where you are able, when you are allowed, PLEASE add some indication to the resources you produce to indicate how you will permit further reuse and remixing of those resources. I’m sure we have all experienced the frustration of finding a good resource that we’d like to reuse, but cannot find any mention of how the creator intended to share it… when it’s not marked as shareable then have to assume it’s covered by full All Rights Reserved copyright, and therefore we are technically unable to use it until we get permission… it’s a pain in the neck!)

And secondly..

b) For education, the best type of license is a CC-BY or a CC-BY-SA.  These are the only two CC license types that are classed as “Culturally Free”, meaning that they allow real sharing, reuse and remixing by others. Adding the well-intentioned NC (Non Commercial) or ND (No Derivatives) to a CC license can still make it difficult for people to use your stuff easily and legally, and in some ways are almost as restrictive as full copyright.  There are obviously places and situations for all six of the various CC license types, but for education and to allow real freedom to share, BY or BY-SA are the best ones.

Whatever terms you decide to use (although I’d encourage you to use the most free – libre – license you can) please mark your work – worksheets, powerpoints, IWB presentations, videos, etc – with something to let downstream users clearly know what they can and can’t do with your work.

Why Creative Commons?

Although I’ve not managed to keep up fully with the Open Content Licensing for Educators course being run by the WikiEducator group this week, I have managed to spend enough time with to do a bit of thinking about copyright, Creative Commons, and what all this stuff means to me as an educator. The course has been a good introductory overview of these issues, although I was already fairly aware of much of  the information being shared. The real value was in connecting with other educators from all over the world and hearing so many different perspectives on how traditional copyright can be so debilitating, especially in the developing world.

I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on this copyright law stuff, but I have been taking a keen interest in the work of the Creative Commons folk for quite a while now and I try to take every opportunity to promote the benefits of the Commons. Reading through the forums, it’s clear that this hasn’t been the case for everyone, and it’s been great to see so many interested educators taking their first steps towards knowing more about CC and OER, and sharing ideas on how it can benefit them. As an exercise in spreading the excellent work of Creative Commons, the course appears to have been a great success.

Because I feel like I’m coming at the course content from a slightly different perspective, I decided to make this short video as a summary reflection on what Creative Commons means to me. It was prompted by a comment by Wayne Mackintosh in the previous post on this blog, where he pointed me towards a similar reflection video by Justin Cone, the producer of the Building on the Past video. As someone who has been pushing CC for a while, I thought it would be appropriate for me to take the opportunity to capture a few thoughts about it.

http://www.vimeo.com/21453342

I’d love to read some comments about how Creative Commons has made a difference to what you do as an educator.