This is where we’ll talk about “Tales from the Public Domain,” a comic by Keith Aoki, James Boyle, and Jennifer Jenkins, which is actually a comic about copyright, and also a bit about Creative Commons. I am always torn about how much attention we should spend in a class like this on issues of copyright, fair use, open-access, sharing culture, and the like. On the one hand, I think it is critical to at least acknowledge these issues because you will want to pay attention to them when you put together your own text-to-hypertext projects. And of course, these are important things to think about professionally, too: you can’t “just take stuff” (like images, video clips, audio clips, and so forth) and add it to your web site. You have to own (or lease) the rights to that stuff.
On a related (maybe other?) hand, copyright law and just what constitutes “fair use” (for artistic reasons, educational reasons, etc., etc.) is enormously complicated, too complicated to really talk about fully in a class like this because of time and expertise– that is, I’m not a lawyer and I don’t think any of the rest of us are either.
So that’s why I think this comic is a decent-enough compromise. It’s a little dated, but I don’t think the law has changed in any basic way, and it’s an approachable/easy enough to digest format.
The Creative Commons site is all about one of the solutions to the problems of copyright with online material. Hunt around the site both for what it’s about, the various licenses it has available, about searching for things you can use with different creative common licenses, and so forth. The (very very short) version is Creative Commons is a way that allows creators to share their work for others to use in a much more dynamic way than traditional copyright. It’s far from a perfect solution, but it’s probably the best we’ve got for now.