"Where Credit is Due":
Thoughts and Resources
on ©opyright and Fair Use
in Haiga

In high school my English teacher assigned us a research paper. I worked hard on it, but when the graded paper was returned to me, she had marked it heavily in red wherever I had used commas instead of periods, abbreviated "volume" or "page" wrong or otherwise deviated from her prescribed style sheet. How many of us had a similar experience and now, even as writers ourselves, have an avoidance fear of footnotes and source citations?

On Facebook not long ago, I saw someone share a haiga she’s made with a photograph she’d “found on the Internet”—as if that whatever has been posted to the Web is free for the taking. Computers now let us copy/paste/right click/share/pin whole blocks of text and pictures with ease unknown in earlier times. Do the old rules our English teachers taught us about plagiarism not still hold? Yes, they do. The "Cooks Source Infringement Controversy" is a cautionary tale of what may happen to infringers (many thanks to Anita Virgil for this reference). Moreover, we've all heard how the media corporations pursue those who download and share music, and how they have lobbied to expand copyright protection far beyond what used to be considered a reasonable limit. Here's a chart that clearly demonstrates:

Expansion of U.S. copyright law
Tom Bell, Creative Commons

What can we do to stay out of trouble? Stick to using only our own poems and images? Well, that is the best way to cultivate a personal voice, but collaboration and creative response are so important in haiga aesthetic that it would be a shame to limit ourselves needlessly. Now and then all of us come across a poem or an image that just seems to ask us to respond to it and share our response with others.

Instead, why not learn what we need to know about the obligations, rights and opportunities that are ours under the "Fair Use" exceptions to copyright? I've been collecting resources pertinent to haiga and especially to the use of images, which is where people seem to feel most uncertain. It goes without saying that nothing in this article should be taken as legal advice—I'm an artist/writer/teacher/editor, not a lawyer—but I hope you'll find it interesting, informative and creatively stimulating.

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