Fair use for the Instagram age

Social media are the latest wave of Internet-powered creativity to challenge notions of copyright and fair use. How do scholars and students know the ethical and legal constraints in social networks where sharing is the norm rather than the exception?

It was not long after the World Wide Web’s inception that its paradigm of freely sharing information clashed with mainstream notions of information as property. Social media like Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube are both the latest canvases for creators to express themselves as well as the latest battlegrounds for conflicts over intellectual property.

Wendy Seltzer is unusually qualified to clear the air around fair use in the Instagram age. As strategy lead and counsel for the W3C consortium, she literally represents the Web in its interaction with international law and civil concerns. Her background includes affiliations with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Tor project, and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard. Seltzer also founded and developed the Lumen Database/Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, a project to study and combat the ungrounded legal threats that chill activity on the Internet.

Finding a common ground between the rule of law and the practice of artists and art historians has been an enduring concern for Anne Goodyear, co-director of the Bowdoin Museum of Art and former curator at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum. As President of the College Art Association in 2015, Goodyear spearheaded the development of a Code of Best Practices for visual artists in the fair use of copyright materials.

Following a discussion including these legal luminaries will be a workshop on legal innovations of the Internet era, such as how to apply a Creative Commons license or use the privacy-respecting Tor browser.

Photo of Wendy Seltzer by Joi Ito from Inbamura, Japan – CC BY 2.0.

Blueberries, Clams, and Beer

Against the backdrop of a fifty-year trend toward globalization has emerged in the last few decades a movement to reclaim local cultures and economies. Beyond the surface of branding like “Made in Maine” stickers lie vibrant social networks with deep historical and geographic roots. Such local economies recently become grist for artists using digital techniques to document the precarious lifeways of rural America.

The Clam Cam is a videocamera attached to harvesters digging in Maine’s beaches, allowing viewers to get their feet wet–virtually if not physically–as they witness this seaside economy from a first-person perspective. The Maine Beer Map, meanwhile, charts the growth of microbreweries across the state while also unearthing the histories of 19th-century brewers in Portland, demonstrating that artisanal beer is not a new phenomenon.

Wild Difference works with with local farmers, UMaine Cooperative Extension researchers, and retailers in Washington County to develop a heritage center about wild blueberries–leveraging cultural assets to reanimate the local economy and save this rare wild fruit, its local farmers, and its 10,000 year history. The only wild fruit under commercial cultivation, the wild low bush blueberry, and the local farmers who have tended them for generations, are in danger of extinction. The project has already garnered lead funding for the development of a physical and virtual museum, and is currently awaiting matching funds from an NEH Digital Humanities grant.