The Educational Remix- At Odds With Copyright?

Allow me to be frank-  as busy as my world is right now, the requirement to read “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi was a very frustrating thing.  With a stack of ten or twelve books with immediate professional impact to juggle  -just waiting on my desk-  this read seemed frivolous.

Not only did I have to read the book (one of nine in six weeks) but I have to crank out a formal paper and an “author presentation.”  Before you pull out the tiny fiddle, rest assured that this is a positive post.  Like any of the other requirements of my little grad program that don’t seem to professionally apply right at the moment, I usually choose to steer the task toward a place where my learning can benefit someone else in our school’s learning network.  For this presentation I decided to try a different technique for integrating text into an Animoto video:

(*update 6-5-11: I changed the embedded version here. I swapped out the YouTube version for this one. You’ll have to wait a bit for it to load via Animoto, but watching it in full screen mode this way is much improved.)

The above clip is my version of a biographical “author introduction” for class.  However, since the book itself is tightly autobiographical, it made little sense to parade an endless list of factoids in front of 18 adults who all read the same book… and at least a few of whom had Google in the pockets.  The last tidbit to know here is that this is a graphic novel.  Within the pages, the author allows beautifully stark images to tell a good amount of the tale alongside the words.  It really is a masterful work about……  well, I’ll let you watch the clip and see.

Rarely do I dive into the minutiae of the nuts and bolts of a creation like this.  Sometimes I sort of ignorantly assume that others will analyze the creation of digital media by simply examining how it presents itself.

Technically speaking, this is what I did:

  • Sat down with the cover of the book after reading and matched basic graphical elements to the style of the book using Adobe Photoshop.  I wanted everything to “match” the book.  Why?  Don’t ask.  I’m a sucker for design details like that.  I’m weird.  I know.  I tried to match the colors, the fonts, and other subtle design elements present.
  • Copied these design elements over into Keynote where I assembled all of the presentation materials as a traditional slide show.
  • Trolled iTunes for a bit of Iranian contemporary folk music to use as a soundtrack.  I know absolutely nothing about Iranian music.  Therefore, I wanted to simply find a track that mirrored the stark simplicity of the novel itself.  I think I found a good one.  I like it quite a bit, really.
  • Exported all slides as .jpg images into a folder on my desktop.  This took less than a minute in total.  Also- this conveniently numbered all images consecutively.
  • Uploaded all images to  Because they were already arranged in slideshow-order, no further shuffling needed to be done.  All that was left to do in Animoto was to select certain images to be “spotlighted,” followed by an upload of the .mp3 file for the soundtrack, and choose one of three overall presentation “speeds.”  Animoto then does the rest.
  • I ultimately remixed the video again to change speed and rearrange a couple of the highlights.  (one text-heavy slide displayed far too quickly)

Applications & Repercussions?

In the end, I felt like I created a pretty cool little video.  It certainly took a bit of time to do as a first run, but was largely automatic once the original slideshow was completed in Keynote.  Actually, this little clip made me so happy that, well… it almost makes me want to go back and re-read the novel.  To be perfectly honest, Persepolis is a pretty special work of art.

If you are new to this blog, you may think I have a exorbitant love for educational uses of video…  especially this one little free online tool.  In reality, while also juggling Lawrence Lessig’s Remix, a fascination with mashed-up content seems to be fresh on my mind.  That, and a recent discussion of the read/write/remix culture of 2009 in Doug Johnson’s session on copyright at METC 2009 last week.  In the Q&A afterwards I brought up an experience I had this past year regarding Animoto, UMG, YouTube and the YouTube content identification program.  In fact, Doug recently published one of his latest “Fair Use Scenarios” on this very issue.

Hossein Alizadeh and Madjid Khaladj


A New Hope

I think we are starting to see some really creative resolutions to fresh new uses of content…  that benefit all involved parties.  Even this video contains most of a copyrighted song entitled: Passion by Hossein Alizadeh and Madjid Khaladj.  Can readers of this blog download the song to an .mp3 later?  No.  Can they burn a copy of the song to play in a CD or DVD player?  No.  Is this educational use a mechanism to potentially generate more interest in the music as well as the book?  I hope so.  I wouldn’t highlight it if I didn’t think it held merit.

I decided to post the clip here after I realized that this might be a really cool way for an instructor to build interest in a book that an entire class might soon read.  (yes- like it or not, we still do this)  In fact, perhaps this is a really good way for a media center specialist, or librarian to pimp a set of newly-acquired novels to prospective students.  Perhaps it is even a way for students to reflect and then share a book with their classmates. (virtual booktalk?)  I think this could be a really great student-to-student viral marketing tool for discovering new reading material.

What do you think?  Is this song repurposed to a reasonable degree?  Does this use infringe upon the artist’s right to generate income from the song?  Does this use in any way cast a negative light on the work?  Is this kind of edu-marketing for students a reasonable educational use of the content?  Please share your thoughts on these and any other questions you see fit.

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The Importance of Being Tech Savvy

“Computer and Network Security,” was an informative look at the various ways that computers and networks can be accessed and manipulated by off-site operators and systems.  It was interesting to note how much of this chapter was similar to what Jeffrey Deaver had written about in The Blue Nowhere, and also how much of this information was discussed in our other reading, Internet and Computer Ethics for Kids.  Reading this chapter helped me appreciate the research that Deaver had to put into writing his novel, because, according to him at least, he is not a hacker by nature, but rather, was a lawyer who later became a novelist.   However, to truly understand the world of hacking – and to not be a participant – Deaver must have spent a good deal of time researching the various complex ways that hackers intervene with people’s privacy.

I found it interesting to learn that hacking began with MIT’s Tech Model Railroad Club.  I had no idea that model train builders constructed the term “hacking,” as well as much of the early hacking vocabulary.  The precepts that Quinn mentioned some of those first hackers citing as their code of ethics echo much of what Deaver had built into his novel concerning the attitude of computer cyberpunks.  The idea that all information should be free is quite intriguing.

Another section of the text I found was interesting was 6.4.4 – the section on Blue Security.  This section truly represented what a large problem spam can be, and why it currently isn’t controlled better.  Initially, it seemed as if Blue Security was on to something when they used bots to fight the spammers sending out millions of trash messages.  But one person, “PharmaMaster,” wreaked so much havoc on Blue Security’s servers that they had to discontinue their operations.

One of the biggest questions I had while reading this chapter is what can be done to get our students to take security more seriously?  We are all supposed to know how wonderful today’s students are at multitasking, gaming, operating various programs, etc.  However, I have seen many instances where students don’t even sign out of their e-mails and student servers after they’re done using a public computer.  If they aren’t aware of the need to guard their privacy in this manner, how savvy are they at keeping their personal information safe on the Internet?

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The Good & Bad Inherent in Privacy

In Chapter 5 of Ethics for the Information Age, on “Privacy,” Michael J Quinn presents a broad overview of the laws and acts throughout history the United States has enacted that, in most cases, allow government agencies to access information most people would consider private.  What do most people consider private?  This is actually quite a good question, and Quinn begins the chapter addressing privacy.  Is privacy an entitlement that should be included in our Bill of Rights?  Ultimately, Quinn stated that this should be considered a prudential right; rational people would agree to “recognize some privacy rights, because granting these rights is to the benefit of society” (228).

Quinn also brings up an interesting questions – is privacy a good or a bad thing?  Typically, the word itself has a positive connotation to most people: “free from being observed or disturbed by other people.”  Personally, I cherish privacy in my home – even being interrupted by a random knock on my front door can nearly ruin my evening.  However, Quinn also brings up the point that most criminal activity is conducted or planned in private situations – so privacy can result in harm to society as well.

What I appreciated most in this chapter was the information presented in section 5.8.4 concerning the Patriot Act.  I already knew enough about the act to dislike it, but it was informative to read about the follow-up legislation as well as the act’s successes and failures.  It is especially interesting to note that the FBI/law enforcement agencies can receive warrants without “reasonable cause” as long as the agent states that the information is related to an ongoing investigation.  Even more intriguing is the fact that this can be done, even if the investigation is not linked to terrorism.

Looking back at history, most times an individual person or government agency is given powers that are not limited by checks and balances, abuse of those powers will ultimately occur.  In his brief discussion of failures of the Patriot Act, Quinn mentioned the case of Brandon Mayfield.  It is appalling to read that the FBI secretly entered his home multiple times, made copies of his hard drive, collected DNA samples and took multiple digital photographs, all based on a partial fingerprint found at a bombing in Spain.  This is one case that Quinn mentioned that illustrates an alarming abuse of power and invasion of privacy because of the Patriot Act.  The Patriot Act seems to be one that particularly invites the abuse of power, as well as the invasion of privacy.  However, Quinn does assure readers that the act does specify that government agencies will only use this information on suspected criminals.

Overall, the broad presentation of acts and laws in this chapter was very informative.

The Blue Nowhere: An Ethical Inquiry

The Blue Nowhere is a novel set in the information age in the center of Silicon Valley, a land where savvy computer geeks and genius misfits program/design/hack/crack with fingertips of gold. It offers readers a view into the world of the true Internet, a world beyond the operator friendly menus, shopping sites, and pop-up ads that most users associate with the web. The novel, published in 2001, depicts many scenarios that still strike home in a shockingly realistic fashion today: identity theft, the true availability of personal information on the web, the variability of computer crime, and the lack of viable resources to truly combat computer crime. One of the things I couldn’t help but wonder as I read the novel is how much computer crime has evolved in the seven years since this book was published. For example, “According to an IBM study, by 2010 the amount of digital information in the world will double every 11 hours.”

Global digital information doubling every 11 hours? Assuming that the research findings from the IBM study are reasonable, it begs the question of how anyone could maintain pace with this type of growth. Even taking inventive software creation into account, one wonders how this could possibly keep up with the vast scope of information on the Internet, as well as the seemingly limitless opportunities to do right or to do wrong.

This will make the study of ethics in relation to technology even more applicable. For those who balked at bringing Wyatt Gillette, a convicted computer criminal, into the investigation of the death of Lara Gibson to help with the “hacking,” necessary to solve the case, they must consider what will be necessary or considered ethical in the future. Utilizing the theory of Kantian ethics, bringing in Gillette to help with the case would be considered ethically wrong. Andy Anderson is using Gillette as “means to an end” to help him solve the crime, violating Immanuel Kant’s Practical Imperative, “Act to treat humanity, whether yourself or another, as an end-in-itself and never as a means.”

And yet, considering what would have happened had the enforcement officers NOT used Gillette as a resource, the case would most likely never had been solved. CCU officer Stephen Miller didn’t even catch the fact that Lara Gibson’s computer contained Unix code, the East coast version at that. Had Gillette not noticed this small, yet vital piece of information, the discovery of Phate’s identity (Jon Holloway) would have been greatly delayed, if it had been discovered at all.

Overall, I find this novel intriguing, and I enjoy the various twists and turns that Jeffery Deaver “networks” into this novel. Readers are forced to confront their own ethics when reading this story. Is Gillette “good,” “bad,” or somewhere in between? He potentially breaks the trust of Officer Bishop when he escapes to visit his ex-wife, simultaneously breaking the law as well. Gillette is a man that the law apparently does not apply to, and yet most readers identify him as a hero. Is this because of his curiosity and charming rebellion, or is it in response to the contrast between him Jon Holloway, who appears so glaringly immoral? Readers know that murder is wrong, but what about hacking into your ex-wife’s email, learning about the man she is currently dating, her travel plans, etc.?

I look forward to discovering how Gillette will finally track down Jon Holloway, as well as the plot twists I will encounter before reaching the ending. Where in the “Blue Nowhere,” is Phate truly lurking, and how will he ultimately be found?