Copyright is a jungle; it is filled with clear streams, tangles of branches, sneaky animals, and a host of other rich metaphors for this difficult to grasp and wholly overwhelming topic. While some portions of copyright run clear like a blue stream of easy to understand transparency, other sections are like those tangled branches and filled with hard to judge, subjective lines that continue to change with the times.
While I feel as though I have only gleaned the most surface level understanding of copyright, fair use, and open sources, I, at very least, understand that the intricacies that go along with copyright are, in fact, their own industry. Because this is such a complicated and dense topic, entire careers are based on it. There are copyright librarians, copyright lawyers, and a host of other jobs associated with understanding and guiding others in the murky waters that can be the distinction between fair use and copyright infringement.
I learned that even copyrighted works can still often be used with appropriate credit (attribution), and art and music have taken on a whole new light, for me, as I understand that copyrighted works can be transformed into something new. (I am now humming Jay-Z's "Holy Grail" in my head and hearing his rap version of Kurt Cobain's famous lines from "Smells like Teen Spirit." Although, in that particular case, Jay-Z had after the fact permission from Courtney Love for the lines (Hogan, 2013). The line for what qualifies as transformational is so gray, and I, as an English teacher, love to hunt for the allusions and homages to other artists in music and art. That's probably why one of my biggest takeaways from the week involves 2 Live Crew. (Maybe honesty isn't always the absolute best policy.) In 1994, 2 Live Crew went to court over their use of the line “Oh, pretty woman, walking down the street.” (The line is from the famous Roy Orbinson song.) Ultimately, the Supreme Court determined that this was a fair transformative use because of the new meaning and direction (Stim). This is the part of copyright law that I do find utterly fascinating.
The "Copyright Jungle" has so many other densely tangled elements like the industry tigers that fight the smaller prey in fierce copyright litigation. The music industry in the past has come down hard on copyright infringement. Remember Napster? "Napster and its founder held the promise of everything the new medium of the Internet encompassed: youth, radical change and the free exchange of information. But youthful exuberance would soon give way to reality as the music industry placed a bull's-eye squarely on Napster" (King, 2002). The emergence and continual updating of the internet and our digital access has called for changes in the way that copyright laws and rules function. The last two decades have called for new understandings and new changes to how things are licensed, permitted for use, and copyrighted. I don't foresee this overgrown "Copyright Jungle" becoming more clear to navigate in the near future. If anything, I can see that this jungle will continue to add more hazards, more questions, and more tricky to navigate situations. I guess we will all just have to stay tuned as new digital mediums emerge and evolve.
Hogan, M. (2013, June 21). Courtney Love blessed Jay-Z's 'magna carta' use of nirvana lyrics. Spin. Retrieved from https://www.spin.com/2013/06/courtney-love-jay-z-magna-carta-smells-like-teen-spirit-lyrics.
King, B. (2002). The Day the Napster Died. WIRED. Retrieved 15 March 2018, from https://www.wired.com/2002/05/the-day-the-napster-died/.
Stim, R. (n.d). Fair use: what is transformative? NOLO. Retrieved from https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/fair-use-what-transformative.html.
Mrs. Autumn Riley
Native born Texan, Autumn Riley, is an educator-leader married to a dynamic high school teacher and mom to two wild little boys. When she isn't training for her next half-marathon, she spends time working on her sketch-noting and poetry.-writing. She is a Christ-follower and small group leader. All content is copyrighted to Autumn Riley. You may freely pin to Pinterest or link back to my blog. All other uses require permission. Thanks!