Remix Guide

When copying is fair dealing

Under NZ copyright law, you usually have to have permission (or a licence) from the copyright holder before you can make any kind of copy or adaptation of someone else's work. However, fair dealing is a specific exception to this legal protection that allows copying for purposes of research, critique, reviewing, and news reporting. The Copyright Council of New Zealand provides more detailed information in their factsheet on fair dealing.

Allowing copying as a digital content owner

Today, almost every possible use of digital content available on the internet involves making a copy, potentially triggering copyright infringement. At the same time, abundant sources of cultural creativity have become readily accessible along with the digital tools to create new works. Users now often have choices, which may mean bypassing one source of content for another that is easier to use. This means that, if you try to forbid copying, users may well either stop using your site or just take your content anyway. As a digital content owner, you may need to balance three things:

  • protecting your income if you depend on creating content for a living (the original purpose of copyright)

  • maintaining traffic to your website if you depend on use of your content to generate support (advertising-supported services and many public heritage organisations may require this)

  • having users respect your intentions for how they will use your content (particularly if you do not want to threaten your users or take them to court)

Content owners can expect that users will be interested in digital copies of content that can be accessed immediately and used for a variety of purposes. If you want users to respect your intentions for use of your content, you need to respect their needs for accessible and usable content. Providing clear descriptions of the rights that exist in the content you own and of the permissions you allow is a good start. This needs to be done for each item or collection of items you have online, and may require you to review and correct past poor practice.

Part of your purpose may be to provide public access to digital copies or information about content you own or hold. If so, you may want to encourage users to interact and engage with your content. This can build patronage for your website, a relationship with your users, and wider interest in your content. There are many choices available for adding this functionality. They include providing for user tagging and comments, running a blog, and making use of social networking content sites like Flickr.

Providing content for remix

Providing some or all of your digital content freely to users specifically so they can make it into something new has a variety of benefits. One of the greatest benefits is to change the way users view your content. Where there are clear permissions, it becomes much easier for users to appropriately choose to use one form of content for remix over another. You will be encouraging reciprocity by giving permission in return for requesting respect for the content creators. Encouraging these choices is a positive development, as it promotes community-based norms rather than relying on legal threats or artificial barriers.

For organisations specialising in cultural and heritage material, you have a unique opportunity to build a new relationship with your users. Your collections may contain material that is rare or unique, out of print, or restricted from display due to fragility or lack of space. Providing digital access is a way to increase both the usage value and the heritage value of these items.

Remix at its best is a profound way of teaching creators young and old the value of their heritage, allowing them to reforge it in a way relevant to them. forgotten histories can be brought back to life, and past creative insights can be applied in new ways. One thing you may need to be prepared for is to be surprised (or even a little shocked) at what people come up with.

Enabling users to make your content into something new

Make it easy for users to identify and choose materials from your online digital content. There are three steps to consider in adding or making changes to digital content for remix:

Step 1: Select your content with the user in mind

Some content is better suited for remix than others. Users will be interested in both the content and the visual form of a digital object, depending on how they plan to make use of it. Referencing or linking to the original digital item may be important if the remix is a form of documentary or social commentary. Titles, authors, dates, and other descriptive information will assist this and searching. You may want to consider grouping content for remix or reating a space on your website to search and access it from.

You may find our Make it Digital Scorecard decision making tool helpful for prioritising material you have not yet digitised.

Step 2: Choose a format that is easy to edit

Enabling access to higher-quality digital copies will make it easier for users to adapt a work for remix. This is particularly important for audio and video resources, but also for image and text. Avoid the use of watermarks and formats not designed for editing, such as Flash objects. A lot of remix uses will be designed for viewing on a high-definition television, LCD computer monitor, or handheld device. Quality ideally should be good enough to output on these devices.

You can read about useful digital formats and some of the issues for editing in our Creating digital content guide.

Step 3: Create rights and usage statements

Your digital content is likely to belong to one of the following five groups of rights:

  • content out of copyright - content where copyright has expired or that had no copyright. This content can be labelled with the wording ‘no known copyright' or you can use the Creative Commons Public Domain Mark. Read our main Make it Digital guide on Enabling Use & Re-use and our Public Domain Guide for more information on copyright and expired copyright material.

  • content where you own the rights - if you are the creator or you have acquired the rights (such as through contract or bequest), you can license this using Creative Commons.

  • content where someone known owns the rights - if you own the material but not the copyright, you may be able to negotiate a licence with the rights holder on behalf of your users.

  • content where someone unknown owns the rights - this content requires research to attempt to trace the rights owner. If it was published over 50 years ago, it can generally be assumed to be out of copyright if this research does not track down the owner.

  • content that is a special case - there may be non-copyright issues restricting use, such as privacy (if created after 1993), cultural or political sensitivity, or restrictions on publication placed by donors to institutions. There may also be content that you depend on to generate revenue, regardless of its copyright status.

Choosing a copyright licence

Creative Commons (an international non-profit) provides six free copyright licences that you can use to make it clear which copyright permissions you are giving and which you are withholding on a digital item.

The New Zealand Government Open Access and Licensing Framework (NZGOAL) recommends that you choose the most open licence (the Attribution licence, or CC BY), which only requires users to attribute you as the creator and places no other restrictions on what they can do with your content. This allows the most free re-use of a digital work.

NZGOAL also suggests that publicly funded agencies should make no distinction between commercial and non-commercial usage in their licence. However, there may be cases where you depend on revenue or already have a separately negotiated licence for commercial use where a non-commercial licence choice may be relevant. In this case, you can choose one of the Creative Commons licences with a NonCommercial (NC) element. This forbids users to use your content for commercial purposes.

Adding a ShareAlike requirement (CC BY-NC-SA or CC BY-SA) means any new work needs to also be licensed under the same terms. Depending on how much of your material is used and the way it is used, this has the potential to make it hard for creators to distribute their new works. Think carefully about whether this option is really necessary for your content.

The most restrictive Creative Commons licences include the NoDerivatives (ND) licence element. These allow copying but do not allow derivative works to be made. These are not suitable for remix purposes.

Creative Commons provides a visual symbol (see examples above) and plain English text along with a persistent URL to link back to the full legal description. Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand (the local affiliate organisation) also provides these licences in te reo Māori. All Creative Commons copyright licences are free and easy to apply. You can use the licence chooser tool online.

Note that Creative Commons in New Zealand only applies for copyright works. Works where copyright has expired (such as many heritage items) cannot legally be licensed in this way. A ‘no known copyright’ statement is more appropriate. Creative Commons organisation also provides an international Public Domain Mark recommended for use where copyright is nown to have expired or not apply.

If you wish to have all copyrights waived for a work that’s still in copyright, you might consider using the CC0 universal waiver.

Terms of Use statement

Many terms of use on websites were written in an era when it was easier to put up a blanket statement as a legal disclaimer and leave it to users to worry about copying. Today this is a disservice to you and your users, as it discourages them from using your online services and respecting what your website says.

Rather than relying on wordy legal disclaimers, you can use your terms of use to describe the kind of community and behaviour you would like to see built around your content. Creative Commons provides an excellent set of user guidelines that can be used as a basis of drafting a Terms of Use statement for your remix content. You are free to copy and adapt this text, provided you attribute Creative for the original text.

Examples of Remix

Below are some links to examples of remix. If you find more that you think would be suitable for this guide, you can add a link in the comments box at the bottom of the page.

Page from scrapbook includes two photographs, 1842-1967 - an example of scrap book remix (on Manuscripts & Pictorial)

Photographer's joke - an early photo remix (on Flickr)

Vintage photoshop - a montage of two photos to create a family portrait (on Flickr)

Collage portrait of Georgia Stafford - using mixed analogue and digital techniques (on Flickr)

Sergey Larenkov's photo journal - photo blog of a Russian artist remixing images from World War II with the present day (on Livejournal)

Aotearoa - 2009 music video by Minuit (on NZOnScreen)