MANIFESTO: Technorhetoricians and/as Copyright Activists
With the debates described, the issues looming, and the promises of digital composing practices that rely on pastiche, remix, and appropriation, we offer the following recommendations for technorhetoricians, new media writers and designers, teachers, and students who want to participate in copyright activism and the protection of Fair Use:
- We must recognize and understand the ways that our work will move online, and we have to take an active role in articulating our needs and wants regarding our work—through an informed understanding of copyright, through Creative Commons sorts of licensures, and by other means.
- We must give credit where credit is due, using whatever modes and tools are available within digital realms. Attribution is key to an ethics of Fair Use.
- We have to recognize that there are implications for our actions in digital space, but at the same time we must be bold, experimental, creative, progressive, and generative.
- We must educate members of our own communities of the dangers facing digital authorship. The labels assigned to us by mass media outlets—titles such as “thief” or “pirate”—harm the copyright activist movement. Our communities must understand the implications of legislation passed against our practices, and why the community of digital authors is necessary for artists as a whole.
- We must engage ourselves in the legislative process—via elected officials, legal representation, community organizations—as an avenue of battling harmful legislation against creative remix and nuanced, appropriately complex and fair understandings of digital authorship.
- We must foster open communities dedicated to the creative process. Our work is not separated from the communities that surround us; we must not separate ourselves from it either. Whether this support comes from engagement in creative processes and the delivery and distribution of digital work, or this support comes in the form of legislative activism, we must be prepared to act in solidarity against purely profit-driven forces that seek to stifle digital authors.
- We must exercise our own creativity. Not only does this participation encourage the growth of the artistic ecosystem as a whole, but it allows us to fully understand the depth of the situations we must face and to appreciate the necessity of our practices.
- We are not pirates; we are not thieves. We are a legitimate and necessary community dedicated to fostering creative processes and the rich, robust, global networks that facilitate, enrich, and provide an outlet for these very processes.
Implications of Digital Copyright Issues for Writing Classrooms
As writers and as writing teachers in this historical moment, we find ourselves negotiating the labyrinth of copyright law alongside students. The tenets, values, and beliefs we have discussed here outline areas for writing instructors to pay attention to as we address authoring; authorship; authorial rights; existing digital copyright law; and the rights, roles and responsibilities of authors and creators in digital spaces.
Folding digital constructs of authorship, copyright, and ethics into our writing curricula will require additional research and writing about these issues to teach—and do—digital composition in all of its complexity. We will need to consider and/or reconsider, for example, the types of tools we teach as we both teach and model responsible use of digital media. We will have to coordinate class time to teach students various software, hardware, and integration of digital media that will best situate them for responsible use of others’ creative work. Students’ digital compositions will be geared increasingly toward a much larger and more authentic audience as their work is stored or posted online as a Web site or to a filesharing space, and this in turn will require more than an awareness of digital copyright issues. Rather, digital media pieces published via public forums such as the Web will necessitate both a familiarity with copyright and attribution, but also deeper understandings of audience, context, purpose, delivery, and other variables that have certainly played a role in our writing classrooms, but which migrate and evolve in interesting ways in digital spaces.
We will and must continue to re-define what we think of and count as “original composition” and concentrate our attention more on the acts of connecting taking place between digital media pieces that have been strung together to best communicate a new argument. Although the debate surrounding digital copyright is tricky and indeed creates an ever-changing, convoluted labyrinth for teachers and students, the affordances digital media offer for innovation and creativity to any rhetorical situation seems worth the time educating ourselves and our students as to the changing ideas and practices surrounding authorship and attribution.