For the times they are a-changin’

Mr. Bob Dylan copyrighted that song in 1964, and it still rings true today in 2007. In the NY Times Magazine, Clive Johnson recently published an article. It brings us a day in the life of Jonathan Coulton, a musician who publishes his work on his blog. He uses online tools to sell and promote his music, instead of a record-label. One of the main points of the NY Times Magazine article is that the Internet has changed the relationship between an artist and his/her fans. Jonathan’s many fans post comments on his blog and he works diligently to reply to each one. The Internet has empowered artists and fans to connect, bypassing the music industry’s filter. The fans are finding new music without following the hype of mass marketing.

But what caught my eye is that on his blog a lot of his music is free and he allows other people to use it in their own creations. On the Music page of his blog you will find:

“All the songs on this page are … licensed Creative Commons – they are not copy protected in any way, so you can play them on whatever device you like. You can preview everything before you buy … Click the Info button next to a song to see lyrics, guitar chords, and (sometimes) a bit of explanation from me. You’ll also see stuff that other people have made based on that song, and you can submit your own video, short story, half-pony-half-monkey-monster sculpture, etc.”

For example on YouTube, fans have published music videos for Jonathan’s tunes, not something to be done with an original Matchbox Twenty song. Times they are a’changin. Anyone can publish anything in a matter of minutes on the Internet. Some of the podcasts I listen to include include “podsafe music,” which is music with a license that allows people to share, but requires credit be given to the artist. This is just another way the below-the-radar artist can start to build a fan base.

What does this mean to you as an educator? When implementing project-based learning, we often ask students to create publications in which they want to include music, (Sheryl Crow song) during their slideshow, or paste in an image from a copyrighted web page (Disney). When we post their work on-line to take advantage of that world wide audience, copyright rears its ugly head. Thus we find the joy in Creative Commons, a source for photos, videos, and music that you can share and remix.

In my summer workshop, Creative Commons and Copyright, we will discuss common classroom situations involving copyright. I will provide on-line resources to use as references when dealing with copyright issues. We will spend some time using Creative Commons to find media you can use with your students and even post on the Internet. We will also go through the easy steps of applying a Creative Commons license to your own published on-line work.

“Copyright, Ugh! Yuck. I can’t make sense of all that mumbo jumbo.”

True, copyright is not pretty. But as educators we must model appropriate copyright practices, as well as teach our students.

Image from DavidDennis’ photostream taken July 16, 2006.

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