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Attribution is Catchy

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Credit is Due (The Attribution Song) by Question Copyright and artist-in-residence Nina Paley with Bliss Blood on vocals.

By pairing an important message with a catchy tune, the point sticks with you far longer than a © symbol will.

I focus a lot on attribution in my complaints about abuses of copyright in the science communication world. One of the reasons for that is, to an evolving extent, I think artists should be open about sharing work from their back catalogue (I think it should be their choice, foremost). Certainly in my case, I’m more often hired to create new works rather than license old ones. So sharing = yay.

But sharing has to include attribution, or else getting hired to create a “Original Work by Glendon Mellow evopunk artist extraordinaire” just won’t happen. I love the bit in Question Copyright’s video at the 35s mark: liars and cheaters can be found out. The tools for maintaining a bit of an eye on uses & abuses of an artists’ work are getting easier. Google Search by Image, Tineye and IMGembed are just the start: I imagine setting a Google Alert for a certain image won’t be far behind.

Question Copyright have a lot of thought-provoking videos. A free-wheeling open-sharing, no-copyright world is a liberating idea. The only thing that stops me from embracing it fully is the worry that it’s built on the demise of the artist-as-professional, since new creations are made by actual humans who have to eat and have shelter and stuff. When everything is shared instantly, how can someone live off of the money?

But then again, if we live in a world where a cartoonist can be sued for asking for unattributed art to be removed, then maybe we can’t go much lower. Maybe respect for artists to make a living from their work is just gone already and unorthodox new ways forward should be accelerated.

I don’t have answers in this post, I have wonderments and thought-fragments. Weigh in with yours below.



Glendon Mellow About the Author: Glendon Mellow is a fine artist, illustrator and tattoo designer working in oil and digital media based in Toronto, Canada. He tweets @FlyingTrilobite and is on Instagram. You can see Glendon's work-in-progress at The Flying Trilobite blog and portfolio at Follow on Twitter @symbiartic.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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