Saturday, May 26, 2012

Love of the Creative Commons People

Some weeks ago, I was part of a panel dedicated to "Scholarly Communications and Digital Technologies" at my university's annual Campus Technology Day. My colleague Dave Johnson gave an introduction to the ideas behind Open Access while my other colleague (and Associate Dean of the Library) Joan Dalton described some of the local efforts that our library is engaged in that support Open Access work. My contribution to the panel was to introduce the audience to The Creative Commons.

When I first started crafting my slides for the event, I had this idea that I was going to create a presentation made exclusively from the unaltered slides from other people's presentations dedicated to the Creative Commons (and in the Creative Commons, of course) but I was fast approaching my deadline and wasn't able to craft a tight and cohesive enough presentation from the slides that I had found. So I made re-use of some of Karin Dalziel's slides (thank you Karin) and added my own screenshots and text to illustrate the rest of the presentation.

I started my talk by introducing The Creative Commons as something that could be useful to anyone in the audience, regardless of whether they were an educator, a student, a technologist, or writer, musician or artist. I gave the briefest of histories of the Creative Commons and that history lesson led to a short field guide to the various types of Creative Commons licences that exist.  That was followed by a two-stop tour of where one can find Creative Commons work. I then added a caveat that while Creative Commons is great for most works, it might not be so good for things like data which some folk think need a altogether different kind of license. I also demonstrated that I wasn't a completely uncritical person as I presented a gentle rebuke of the Creative Commons license framework for being a little too complicated. I then ended my talk with the claim that Creative Commons is still pretty great when obscurity is a bigger threat than piracy - which is the case for most of us.

After my talk was done, I thought I had given a good presentation. That is, until moments later when two comments from the audience made me realize that perhaps I had emphasized the wrong ideas in my talk.

The first comment was from a professor who said that that she found the Creative Commons very interesting but very different from what she normally tells her students, which is "don't copy".  At that moment, I realized that I should have spent more time talking about attribution because clearly this idea had gotten lost. Luckily Joan rescued me by giving a very good answer that made it very clear that copying in this context did not mean plagiarism because Creative Commons work requires attribution and of course, we at the library encourage the attribution of sources.

[As an aside, I think this exchange suggests that there is an important relationship between attribution and open licensing. Imagine if every Open Access paper had a clear designation of it's open license status that could be machine readable, just like Creative Commons licenses tend to be. Now imagine if these designations also contained citation information. Hmmm...]

The second comment from the audience may have been intentionally flippant; the comment came from a man who said that my presentation reminded him of a book that he, himself, had stolen from a library years ago... a book called Steal This Book.  My response to this comment was not exactly measured. I told him, "No. They are not the same at all. Copying is not stealing."  In fact, I added that Nina Paley has made a very nice video that puts this very point into song: if have a book and I copy that book, then we both have books, and how is that theft?

Yikes. What a way to end my talk.

Of course I meant to say, "if I have a book that was placed in the Creative Commons or was in Public Domain and I copy that book..." but I didn't. And I didn't get a chance to correct myself because everyone's time was up the audience had to leave to move on to their next session.

Which is one reason why I am writing this post.

I am also writing this all down for all for those of you who might be making your own upcoming presentation on the Creative Commons (and thus have stumbled upon this post). I want to remind you to spend time some time talking about attribution and watch out 'cause there are many people who have associated the word copying with something bad.

All the more reason why I think Nina Paley is on to something when she says that we need to emphasize not licenses and permissions when we talk about copying...

We need to talk about love:

Copying is an act of love. Please copy and share.



Lisa said...

I recommend Marcus Boon's In Praise of Copying:

Karin Dalziel said...

You are welcome! :D Great post.