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?
“Children are growing up doing what they know is “illegal”” (Remix, n.d.) and there is nothing we can do to stop them, so deeply is it engrained in their lives. No matter what we tell them, they will still go home and remix. What we can do as educators is make them aware of the copyright laws and the issues surrounding it, and let them make their own life choices.
So what are the copyright laws in Australia? Basically, if you want to use something of someone else’s, you need permission. This pretty much rules out everything apart from looking at a picture or listening to the song once you’ve bought it. That was fine in the days before the internet and new technologies came along, but with Web 2.0 that makes this law outdated.
The law of copyright should be changing with the times and should take the flexibility of technology into account. When society changes, the law is supposed to keep up.
Lessig (2007) argues that remix is not piracy as the whole content is not being taken, copied and redistributed, rather it is being recreated to make something else. He argues that copyright is critical to a “healthy culture” (2008, p. xvi) but that it needs to be “balanced.”
The Creative Commons website, created by Lessig, is fantastic, and it’s both surprising and disappointing that I had never heard of it. It offers a load of material that are free from copyright. This website should be a commonly used resource for teachers and students.
If students are going to use a song that they have legally purchased, for example, I personally don’t have a problem with them using it in their presentation which is for private, educational use and not for sale. The same goes for other forms of media, however I ask students to reference. I take ideas from scholars and turn them into my own work as an academic essay, and when I do that, I reference. Remixing is the same thing. McIntosh (2009) did this with his Twilight and Buffy remix and I think it’s a simple and effective way of combatting copyright issues. It’s recognising that the original content is not your own, but that you have used it to help create something new. Like Lessig (2007) asserts, remixing is a tool of creativity and of speech, it is how “our kids” think and speak, and it should not be stifled.