Copyright?

Last night, a 12-year-old kid emailed me about using my dad’s Ambassador Bridge Sunset photo on his website. I checked it out. Nothing at all like my first website on GeoCities when I was 12 — this kid has his own first and last name domain, and codes with the latest bag of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, XML, XSLT, and who-knows-what-else tricks. Pretty impressive!

What hit me was the reason for his email. He originally found the photo, downloaded a copy, edited it into the format he needed, and then posted it on his own site. Not knowing “that there were all these copyright stuff about images,” he had no natural misgivings about what he did – it seemed perfectly fair until a librarian came into his class and told the students about how evil it is to break the Holy Law of Copyright, especially when you’re in Grade 7 making a school project.

Struck with a sudden fear of being sued, he composed his email. This would have seemed ridiculous to me when I was 12 (just take a look at all the ripped-off Star Wars material on my old site), but I’ve since been exposed to a decade of Disneys suing preschools for painting murals of their characters.

I told him that, since pretty much everything on my site is under Creative Commons licensing, he had done nothing illegal, to say nothing of immoral. Then I directed him to the CC and FSF websites so he could hear the other side of the “intellectual property” story and maybe realize that his innocence about copyright wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

Oct 24th, 2007
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