Thoughts and Tools

Growing Ethics and Compliance

I’ve learned a whole new set of information about copyright law and its assorted implications.  It is complex, but here is a flow chart to help guide a newbie along the right tracks:

Flowchart for copyright ideas. Click for high res.


Perhaps a three-take example might serve to illustrate the principles above: let’s consider a student working on a music project…


Take 1: Our student, who is needing to create a new jingle for a product, forgets about the assignment.  In a last-minute panic, they find a commercial ad and copy it.  They take the time to write down a simple score for it and turn it in.  Someone else’s work. No permission for use. No attribution.  No transformation.  Vedict: the worst!  This is plagiarism and copyright infringement.


Take 2: Our student, creating a jingle, just can’t improve on the commercial ad they found.  They copy it, write down a simple score, and credit the company and composer of the ad.  Someone else’s work.  No permission for use. But attributed correctly. Verdict: lazy!  This isn’t plagiarism, but is still copyright infringement. 


Take 3: Our student, creating a jingle, finds the perfect commercial ad for their tune.  They decide to turn the jingle into a rock song illustrating the emptiness of materialism.  They attribute the original creators.  Verdict: Nice!  A repurposed, transformed work has now been created by a brand-new copyright owner (the student).


Things become a bit hazier if you are a teacher, but there are some great resources to help guide you through the Fair Use doctrines involved in breaking copyright laws for educational purposes.


Creative Commons Licenses


The other aspect of copyright law that I’ve grown to understand more is related to a fairly new invention: the Creative Commons License.  If you’ve read this far, you understand that most things you create (in fixed form) come with automatic copyright ownership.  But what if you don’t want it? 


What if you want your creation to be free, unfettered from the legal constraints of the law?  Fly, little creation, fly!!!  Well, you could make sure to attach the CC0 license to it (and maybe its graphic too).  There are a variety of licenses that help you control what you’d like people to do (or not do) with your creations. 


Maybe you noticed the CC BY-SA on the graphic above.  That means I’ve given you the expressed permission to use my graphic, as long as you are careful to tell others who it’s by (me, Curtis White, 2017).  It also says that you can make derivative works of my image.  But those new uses must also be shared with a copyright license that is at least as free as BY-SA.  In other words, you shouldn’t use my [freely available] image to create a new picture that keeps people from using your picture freely too.  There’s a bit more to it than that, but you can read the details elsewhere.


And that’s a small primer on copyright for you.  I hope you will consider to control how others use your created content by growing a bit of understanding yourself!  I know that I’m going to be much more conscious of how I post materials and how I use others’ materials too.


Mccord, G. (2014). Fair use: The secrets no one tells you.

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Curtis White, M.S., M.C.E.
High School Faculty
Math, Science, Bible & Computers
Abundant Life Christian School
A Madison Christian School