Permission or Free Culture?

Creative Commons logoDisclaimers like “this video is not owned” and that “no copyright infringement is intended” have zero legal validity.  It used to be that copyright was only enforced against commercial copyright infringement.  But we’re living in copyright crazy times.

In most of the world, any video (music, painting, movie, story poem etc.) that is created is automatically locked into copyright by the videographer/maker.

The reason Lawrence Lessig calls ours “permission culture” is because when you copy ANYTHING under such copyright law without getting permission from the copyright holder (who may not be the creator) you are committing copyright infringement.    copyright jail ~ by question copyright

Copyright infringement used to be a purely civil matter, but as it is “strengthened,” not only is it becoming harder to tell what is infringement, it is becoming criminalized, which means anyone– from school kids to grandparents — needs to be aware of this in self defence.

Since everything starts out copyrighted, sharing it is copyright infringement, which is illegal most places–  unless it is in the public domain or it is licensed to share with a free culture license like Creative Commons.

If you want people to share your story, poem, song, picture, video etc. here is the Creative Commons tool to select the license *you* want.

The Question Copyright “Copyright Jail” is by Nina Paley

Licensing your Tumblog

copyright jail ~ by question copyright

Tumblr is full of people exuberantly infringing copyright as they share culture. Rather than risking copyright infringement, I prefer to stick to free culture works ~ which are either licensed to share or in the public domain.

I also take care to credit and attribute anything I reblog, even if it is public domain work.

Many Tumblr themes come with a built in Copyright All Righs Reserved declaration.

But if you’re like me, if you think culture should be shared freely, you don’t have to leave your tumblog locked up in copyright – you can give your Tumblog a free culture license instead.

Tumblr allows users to publish our blogs under any license we like.
Here’s how:

There is a menu at the top of your dashboard that has a gear icon (second from the right)

When you click the gear you get a menu
>choose EDIT THEME

Now you’ll be in the customize menu, and in the left sidebar at the top you will see “Custom theme” and directly under this
>>click the link that says Edit HTML >

In the Edit HTML sidebar hold down the Control key and press “F” (for find)
and a search bar will appear at the top of the sidebar

in the search box type © 2014
> press the down arrow and it will take you right to the place that says © 2014

This is where you can type in the details of the license information you wish
to replace © 2014 with:

<a rel=”license” href=””><img alt=”Creative Commons License” style=”border-width:0″ src=”×31.png” /></a><br />
<a href=”” rel=””cc:attributionURL””>The NAME OF YOUR TUMBLR</a> by YOUR NAME HERE is licensed under a <a href=”””” rel=””license””>Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License</a>

which will look like this:
Creative Commons License
The NAME OF YOUR TUMBLR by YOUR NAME HERE is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License

Have fun spreading free culture!

Image Credit:
Public Domain Copyright Jail by Nina Paley @ Question Copyright

Online Accessibility

When we talk about accessibility issues, it usually means accessibility for people with disabilities. The internet has tools like speech readers, that can make it accessible for the blind.  Subtitles or closed captioning can make online video accessible for the deaf.   I learned early in my blogging career that typing a description in the alt=”” field,  allows speech readers to tell visually impaired users what images I use.  It’s a little more work, but it’s worth it if I can make my contect accessible.

But there are other accessibility issues that have nothing to do with disability.


Internet standards are still evolving, but the internet works, because at its heart, every web page uses a programming language called HTML.  Just as every email we receive should be readable, every website we visit should work, no matter what browser we are using, because the data is in HTML.

making html inaccessible

I just went to check out a website called C.A.C.P./A.C.C.P. Official website. Although I am using this particular site as an example, this is certainly not the first time I have been annoyed by a website that wants me to remake my computer to accommodate it.

I’m pleased to see this official Canadian Website is bilingual. But this is what I see:

Screen Capture of the CACP Intro Page with No-Script blocked video


A blue letter S with eyes and teeth of a snake is confined in the red circle with a diagonal line through that has come to symbolize the word “No”The large yellow square in the middle of the webpage indicates this is something NoScript has blocked. NoScript is a browser plug-in that prevents Javascript and Flash from running unless I grant it permission. Javascript allows files to execute, or run, on your computer. That’s one way people get viruses and spyware. NoScript blocks such “active” content, but if I choose to trust the source, I can decide to allow it with a mouse click.  The other thing I tend to avoid is Flash for a couple of reasons.


Flash video consumes a fair bit of bandwidth; so if your internet use is capped, as many are these days, NoScript allows you to decide whether to display the flash ads or video on your computer.


For me the more compelling reason is that Flash is proprietary software, and as a free culture advocate I prefer my web content in free or open formats.

my choice

If I do want to see this video, I can choose to click on the letter f in the centre of the page and grant it permission. But this is my first time here. Why would I do that? I don’t know this site, or who runs it personally.  Is it really run by CACP?  Why should I trust it? Do I have a compelling reason to gamble my computer security?

Not hardly.

Then I look at the text displayed under the blocked video.

Our site is best viewed with Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer 7.0. To view and use this page and aspects on other pages Macromedia Flash Player is required.
To download this plugin visit
© 2008 CACP/Ribbet Inc. If you have difficulty with the website contact the Webmaster

I should not have to use a particular browser to see a web page display properly.

Or worse, download specialty software to use it.

Instead of telling me that I have to use a particular browser, if the web designer was doing her job, the page should display properly on any browser.

If it’s a mess, I’m certainly not going to switch browsers to something one website tells me I must have.  If I had to do that for every website I visited, I might not have room for my own files on my computer.   Besides, I prefer to learn from those who know what they are doing, and try to avoid taking direction from those who don’t.

And of course, Macromedia Flash Player is proprietary software owned by, so that is hardly in keeping with my free software leanings.  The webmaster might have chosen an open format like OGG Theora or the new HTML5 instead.  But even if they choose to make their video available in such a closed format, if they want to make the site accessible, the web page shouldn’t be  broken, as this page is.

To make it work, at minimum there needs to be text providing a synopsis of what is in the video.  The best case scenario would also include the full text of the script along with any necessary written description of the visual content.

If they want to make it accessible, that is.

If they don’t want to make it accessible, if the sense of entitlement is such they believe they have the  right to dictate such things to vistors,  they can tell us that we must conform to their demands if we want to see the content.  Their way or the highway.

Of course, this is a little nicer than some, because there is a small “skip this intro” link in the top left corner of the screen.  This way I can skip over the content they can’t be bothered to make accessible.

Personally, I’d rather just skip it.