Image Rights Online

Image available without restriction via Unsplash

I did a presentation recently on social media ethics and law in higher education, and the area that seemed to get the most interest and questions concerned the ethical and legal use of images. Ethical use might include not hotlinking to a site's servers to use an image, but ethics often crosses the line into law. You certainly want to respect copyright laws and intellectual property and those issues increase as the size of your organization increases in size and resources - and make you a more desirable lawsuit target.

Studies show that images and video increase retweets by 35 percent, and Facebook posts with photos get both more Likes and more comments. You write a post on a blog or any social network and you find a good image online - BUT do you have the right to use it?

Copyright protects all creative works. Those copyright laws protect photographers, videomakers and artists images. They also protect you when you create your own images that you share online. In fact, my first recommendation for image use would be to create you own original images. You own your creations and are protected even if you never registered it with a copyright office or other official body.

The U.S. section 106 of the Copyright Law states that only the copyright holder can reproduce the work, make derivative works based on the work, distribute the work to the public, and display the work publicly. That seems pretty clear and restrictive.

Image downloaded via GRATISOGRAPHY

Having worked in education my entire life, I know that the concept of "fair use" is often used as an exception to copyright. That is a rather gray area in many ways. Copyrighted works can be used without permission for specific “transformative” purposes that serve the public good. The questions that apply to these cases are:

Is it for commercial, non-profit, or educational use? (Commercial use presents the most problems)

Is the copyrighted work highly creative, or more fact-based? (Creative works are harder to justify for fair use)

How much of the work is reproduced? (There are no magic percentages, though I have often seen guidelines such as "as long as you only use less than 2 minutes of a film..." though they have no legal weight.)

How does the use affect the potential market for the original work? (Hurting the commercial value of the original is highly important.)

Fair use is often used in parody and criticism. If I write about a movie and my criticism includes several mages from the film to illustrate points made in the review, that meets the 4 criteria above. But adding a copyrighted photo on any post because it is attractive and eye-catching has no chance of being a legitimate use.

The myths I most often hear used as justification for using an image are  1) "But it's on the Internet"   2) "I didn't download it. I only hotlinked to it."  3) "I found it on Flickr (or Wikipedia or...)."   None of those are permissions to use an image.

So, where can someone get images to safely use besides creating them?

Creative Commons is one of the first sources usually mentioned. This system allows creators to make their work available for certain purposes using a Creative Commons (or CC) license and therefore not requiring express permission from the creator. You probably have seen their logo on Flickr, Wikipedia, or YouTube.

There are several Creative Commons licenses that allow or disallow including attribution, commercial purposes, and making derivatives from the original. See https://creativecommons.org/licenses/

You can search for images on Google, but unless you narrow your search using their "usage right" tool setting in the search, you are very likely going to end up using copyrighted images.

Downloaded at Pixabay

There are sites that offer only images that require no permissions and are royalty-free. One of my favorites is Pixabay.  As their site states: "On Pixabay you may find and share images free of copyrights. All pictures are released under Creative Commons CC0 into the public domain. You can copy, modify, distribute, and use the images, even for commercial purposes, all without asking for permission or giving credits to the artist. " However, they do caution that the "depicted content may still be protected by trademarks, publicity or privacy rights." That might be true of an identifiable person, logo or private property.

Pixabay and other sites often rely on user-generated content being submitted to the site and the creator offering the images for use. That is true for some images on Flickr, most on Wikimedia, and sites like Gratisography. Be sure to read any site's copyright and usage information, such as the one for Gratisography.com.

Unsplash is a collection of images licensed under Creative Commons Zero, meaning you can use them for any purpose without attribution.  

cc-search

My favorite recommendation is to use a search engine that can search multiple free image sources, such as the Creative Commons search at search.creativecommons.org. From there, you can search for safe images via Google, Pixabay, Open Clip Art, Wikimedia and others. (It also allows searches for music, video and other media.)

If you have a budget for images, you should consider buying the rights to stock photography from sites like shutterstock.com and istockphoto.com They offer large professional libraries of photos with licensing fees based on the size of image and intended use.

Do a search on something like "free images for your website" and you will find plenty of articles and sites with information on sources. Read carefully and be sure of the rights that are allowed.


Our Attention Economy

eye

Money follows eyeballs. I saw that phrase on a slide in a conference presentation about marketing with social media.

Everyone wants your attention. Your children want your attention. Your spouse wants your attention. You want the attention of your students. Nothing new about that concept and there are plenty of ways to get someone's attention.

But it is a more recent way of thinking about attention to consider it as economics. I was listening to the audiobook of A Beautiful Mind recently. It's a book (and a good but highly romanticized film) about the mathematician John Nash. Nash received the Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on game theory as it was applied to economics. His ideas, presented in the 1950s, certainly must have seemed novel at the time, but 40 years later they seemed logical. That will probably be true of attention economics. There are already a good number of people writing about it.

Attention economics is an approach to the management of information that treats human attention as a scarce commodity. With attention as a commodity, you can apply economic theory to solve various information management problems.

Attention is a scarce commodity or resource because a person has only so much of it.

Not only in economics but in education and other areas that focused mental engagement that makes us attend to a particular item, leads to our decision on whether to act or not. Do we buy the item advertised? Do we do what mommy said to do? 

We are deep into the Information Age and content is so abundant and immediately available, that attention has become a limiting factor. There are so many channels and shows on the many versions of "television" competing for our attention that you may just decide not to watch at all. Or you may to decide to "cut the cord" and disconnect from many of them to make the choices fewer.

Designers know that if it takes the user too long to locate something, you will lose their attention. On web pages, that attention lasts anywhere from a few seconds to less than a second. If they can't find what they were looking for, they will find it through another source.

The goal then becomes to design methods (filters, demographics, cookies, user testing etc.) to make the first content a viewer sees relevant. Google and Facebook want you to see ads that are relevant to YOU. That online vendor wants the products on that first page to be things you are most interested in buying. Everything - and everyone - wants to be appealing to everyone.

In attention-based advertising, we measure the number of "eyeballs" by which content is seen.

"You can't please everyone." Really? Why not?

In the history section of the entry on "Attention Economy" on Wikipedia, it lists Herbert A. Simon as possibly being the first person to articulate the concept of attention economics. Simon wrote: "...in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it" (Simon 1971, pp. 40–41).

Simon was talking about the idea of information overload as an economic concept and that has led to business strategists such as Thomas H. Davenport to use the term "attention economy" (Davenport & Beck 2001).

Where will this lead? On the outer edges are those who speculate that "attention transactions" will replace financial transactions as the focus of our economic system (Goldhaber 1997Franck 1999).

Designers of websites, software, apps and any user interface already take into account attention, but information systems researchers have also adopted the idea. Will we see mechanism designs which build on the idea of creating property rights in attention?


The Information Literacy of Fake News

fake news

Pre- and post-election last fall, there were many stories in all types of media about "fake news." An article in The Chronicle asks "How Can Students Be Taught to Detect Fake News and Dubious Claims?" but I would say that non-students need even more education in this area. Of course, the real question is whether or not this is a teachable skill.

If you had asked me last January to define "fake news" I would have said it was a kind of satire or parody of mainstream journalism. The Onion online, or Saturday Night Live's news segment would fit that definition. Satire always has a bit of truth in it or it doesn't really work.

The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and other shows and sites have blurred the line. They use real news and sometimes parody it, but sometimes they are closer to investigative journalism. They can edit together clips of a persons inconsistencies in views over the years and create a montage that shows someone who either has a terrible memory or is a liar. It may frighten some to hear it, but many young people and adults list shows like these as their main source for news.

The fake news that is really the focus of attention now are ones (almost exclusively online) that produce wholly fictionalized news stories. Those non-journalistic entities have a very powerful delivery system via social media like Facebook and twitter.

A Stanford University report published last year concluded that many students could not detect fake or misleading information online. They gave students from middle school to college tasks to see how well they could tell a native advertisement from a news article or identify a partisan website as biased or separate a verified social-media account from an unauthenticated one

A larger conclusion I see here is that faculty often assume that young people are fluent in or savvy about n social media in the same way that it is assumed that digital natives know how to use smartphones, websites, photos, video and other digital technology. Bad assumption or expectation.

I remember teaching lessons on determining the veracity of research sources before there was an Internet and after. That has been a part of literacy education since the time when books became more common. I'm sure it was a teachable moment pre-print when a parent told a child to ignore gossip and stories from certain people/courses.

The Stanford researchers said that we need to teach "civic online reasoning" which is something that goes beyond its need in academic settings.

In whose purview is this teaching? English teachers? Librarians? I would say it would only be effective if, like writing in the disciplines, it is taught by all teachers with a concentration on how it occurs in their field.

The science instructor needs to teach how to determine when science is not science. An easy task? No. Look at teaching the truth of climate science or evolution. It is controversial even if the science seems clear.

Napoleon Bonaparte is credited with saying that "History is a set of lies agreed upon." If that is true, how do we teach the truth about history past and the history that is unfolding before our eyes?

But we can't just say it's impossible to teach or assume someone else will take care of it. Information literacy is still a critical, difficult and overlooked set of skills to teach.