Authorship and Ownership

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Authorship and Ownership Overview

Taken from Our Space: Being a Responsible Citizen of the Digital World, Authorship and Ownership Overview

The Authorship and Ownership Unit focuses on how the act of creation has been altered by digital media and the related effects on claims to ownership and authorship. Overall, the goals of the unit are to help students reflect on the ethics of appropriation; to understand the difference between plagiarism and responsible “appropriation”; and to give them the tools to identify—and to defend—meaningful critical and creative expression that is inspired by the work of others.

New media provide new ways to create content and share it with others, and to access and use others’ creations. Traditional notions of authorship (the process of creating original work) and ownership (holding the legal rights to creative work) are being rethought in response to collective authorship on sites like Wikipedia, by the capacity to distribute amateur and professional videos to mass audiences through sites like YouTube, and by the technologies that allow remixing of content. There are both promises and risks related to the ways in which authorship and ownership are being reconceptualized in new media environments. New media afford unprecedented access to information, which may inspire new forms of learning; they also afford budding authors and other creators new avenues to participate in creative life. At the same time, the ease of access to information, music, video, and other content can result in intentional or naïve misuses—e.g., practices such as illegal downloading, plagiarism, and failures to cite sources properly or to consider the intentions of original creators and owners of online content.

Key Questions
• How has the act of creation been altered by new media? What does it mean to you to be an
author or a creator today?
• What is the difference between being “inspired by” someone else’s work and plagiarism?
• How can you remix, or otherwise “appropriate” the work of others in a responsible, ethical
way?
• How do legal aspects of ownership, such as copyright, public domain, and fair use, limit or
enable some forms of appropriation?

Unit Lesson Overview

The Axis of Media/Copyright Song

Is It Fair Use?

Ad Men

Copyright, Fair Use and the Public Domain

The Inspired Highlighter