I was heartened by the emergence of Critical Commons, a site and service dedicated to combating the fear, uncertainty, and doubt around fair use and copyright. Critical Commons also provides “an online tool for viewing, tagging, sharing, annotating and curating media within the guidelines established by a given community… to build open, informed communities around media-based teaching, learning and creativity, both inside and outside of formal educational environments.”
They even did a funny take on the Hitler ‘Downfall’ meme, thereby asserting that this sort of remixing is protected both as fair use and as parody.
Alas, due to a copyright claim, huge swathes of Downfall remixes are being deleted en masse from YouTube via the company’s automated ContentID system. (More on this system here.) That includes the Critical Commons video — see the screenshot at the top of this post.
Reminders of a similar episode in which a video where Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig demonstrated fair use was also taken down…
There’s yet another Hitler Downfall video that explains the issues better than I can. Watch it while you can.
Obviously if this sort of mistreatment can happen to informed and prominent advocates such as Critical Commons and Lawrence Lessig when they are exercising legal rights, the scope of permitted expression for the rest of us is even more constrained.
And consider this episode in comparison with my last post. Whose interests and values are being promoted and protected by the law as it stands? And who gets screwed?
On a related note, Apple continues to promote its proprietary interests by refusing to allow Flash development and the Scratch app. They ban apps by Pulitzer Prize winning satirists. (I highly recommend Jared Stein’s excellent post on Apple and the open web.)
Now, YouTube and Apple have every right to make decisions in terms of maximizing their profits. But a key distinction is made by Tom Hoffman. We might tolerate this behavior as consumers, but surely as educators (especially those of us who receive public money), we should expect a higher standard?
At the very least, these actions should have us questioning whether Google, Apple, and countless other companies who act the same way can ever be trustworthy partners. It’s clear that academic values will never match up against corporate profits and synergistic alliances for these companies. Their priorities speak clearly for themselves, we will always be secondary markets at best — especially since educators seem uninterested in defending and asserting their values. Not when there are shiny new toys to play with.
Educational technologists talk a big game about the deep transformative effects of digital media. If this is indeed the case, then the control and ownership of digital environments should not be a trivial afterthought.