Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Just Ask!

In past blog posts I have argued strongly for steering students to Creative Commons and public domain sites. And as you have may have noticed, the educational materials that I create are similarly licensed.

Nevertheless, their are often times that we really need to, or at least want to, use copyrighted material. Some of this may well be covered by “Fair Use” for educators. But if I really want to lean on a copyright protected source, I’m guided by the principle of “Just ask!”

Back in January, I reflected on the the pleasure I had communicating with Flickr photographers about my memory book project for my dad. The Creative Commons could not satisfy the scope of my efforts, so I requested permissions. I would guess that 90% of the photographers (including professionals) responded, and all responses were affirmative. Often the permissions were accompanied by notes wishing me well with my book.

I have had 100% success getting permissions for jpeg use in classroom. For that matter, no one has ever refused a request for a photo to use with this blog. Usually, they are flattered, and often they read the blog after I’ve included the jpeg upload.

Teaching Materials
Teachers are rather notorious for poaching from each other. I am willing to share, but I would like attribution. After all, my ability to make such materials is part of my professional “brand.” Feeling strongly about this as I do, I avoid from lifting other teachers’ material. Not long ago, however, I came across some study questions that were just too good to pass up. I was researching Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho when I came across some discussion questions authored by Michael Dembert of Portland Community College. When I asked permission to use them, he graciously agreed. Similarly, Professor Troy Ellis Smith of BYU, Hawaii, helped me out with some excellent writing topics on Federalist 51 for my AP Government class. In both cases, I gave well deserved attribution.

Essays & Reviews
This summer I have been making movie resources for my Literature into Film class. Naturally, when I make an eight minute film on a film director, I need to do considerable research. In the case of Akira Kurosawa, I was fortunate to find a couple of terrific essays licensed to Creative Commons. But when I was researching Werner Herzog, I came across the perfect copyrighted essay in an Australian online magazine called Senses of Cinema. After a bit of digging I successfully contacted the author, David Church (currently a PhD student and instructor at Indiana University), and he graciously gave me permission to use his piece as the backbone of my movie narration. Similarly, Professor Patrick Crogan (University of the West of England, Bristol ) and James Berardinelli (Reelviews.net) are allowing me to use their essays for current productions. Patrick expressed the wish to see my finished Seven Samurai movie when I put it on YouTube. James said I was free to use any or all of his review of Citizen Kane on the overview I am preparing on that film.

As I have implied these experiences have left me with a clear conscience and a real sense of collaboration. So, when you run into copyright, don’t steal or don’t run. Just ask!

"Just Ask! Hat and shirt" Flickr Creative Commons Photo by STANDANDLOU

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