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More on Graphics and Copyright

posted: 8.12.14 by Traci Gardner

Last week, I shared some of the resources that I use to teach students about Graphics, Copyright, and Creative Commons. Since I wrote that post, two more useful resources crossed my desk: a copyright flowchart and a case for discussing copyright.

I teach technical writing to a lot of students majoring in computer science and engineering. They are all quite familiar with flowcharts and how they work, so Curtis Newbold’s “Can I Use that Picture? The Terms, Laws, and Ethics for Using Copyrighted Images” will be perfect for them. They simply start on the left with the question, “Can I use that picture?” and move through the decision-making process by answering yes-or-no questions.

The flowchart is similar to resources I have already shared. Copyright Genie, from the American Library Association, for example, walks users through a series of questions in order to determine whether a work can be used. Newbold’s flowchart, however, uses a format that will be more familiar to many of the students whom I teach. More importantly, I’m not in favor of the genie metaphor in the ALA tool. There isn’t any magic to figuring out copyright. The flowchart foregrounds that the writer makes the decisions about whether an image is covered by copyright.

The second resource I found is a current events story that is wonderful for asking students to think about the complexity of copyright and permissions. The story involves a crested black macaque (a monkey in Indonesia) who stole a photographer’s camera and took scores of photos of herself.

The copyright controversy comes in because one of the images has been uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. The photographer, David Slater, wants Wikimedia to remove the photo, but the website contends that the photo “is in the public domain, because as the work of a non-human animal, it has no human author in whom copyright is vested.”

The story has gotten wide media coverage as people wonder who owns the image, the monkey or the photographer. The Telegraph has a nice explanation of the story to date. The Guardian published the original story on the “Shutter-happy monkey turn[ed] photographer.” After reading the articles, students could debate who owns the copyright of the image and consider what constitutes ownership in intellectual property cases.

Do you have favorite discussion starters that focus on copyright and intellectual property rights? I’d love to hear your ideas. Just leave me a comment here, or drop by my page on Facebook or Google+.

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