This is a non-legal discussion of some aspects of how you should make use of the works of other people and companies. It is not legal advice and has not been checked by a lawyer, it simply sets out some principles which may be useful to you. Some information was drawn from the work of Don Tapscott, but he is not responsible if I have misinterpreted what he wrote.
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This discussion relates to plagiarism – copying someone else’s work and claiming it is your own as well as ‘appropriating’ the creative works of others and using these as a basis for your own creative work. The principle to apply is to acknowledge the work of other people if you have incorporated their work into your creative work. The Creative Commons license is one way to give you ownership of the new work you create by adding to the work of others, so long as you acknowledge their contribution and make the combined work available publicly under these same license conditions. As noted below, this may not apply to music, movies and other similar creative works.
Lifelong Learning – Referencing Your Sources
It was a facet of education in the last century that it attempted to fill you with all the information you would need in life. Rapid change and the growth in the quantity of information has made this unfeasible, so a key 21st century skill is to locate and synthesise the information you need as you go along. A personal system for noting the origin of information and the ideas you are using is vital for avoiding plagiarism but also helps in research as well as contributing to your ability to collect and pass on relevant information to your collaborators in the on-line world.
Working in a collaborative way assumes we will be making use of the ideas and work of other people and they, in turn, will use and build on our fresh ideas. In a sense they would not offer their ideas in a ‘public’ place unless they expected these ideas or creative works to affect those who experience them and change some aspect of how things are done in the world after that. Other things which are offered include movies, videos and musical performances. The way you can add to or combine these works to achieve your own creative objectives can vary a lot. The various creators of musical content have very different views about how their work can be used. As an example, people have created lip-sync videos of themselves using recorded music they have ‘appropriated’ from professional musicians. One response has been for the original music publisher to use the original music CD to install extra software deep in their customers’ computers which hides itself, altering and reporting on the ways customers can use the music. Another response has been for the musicians to dedicate a part of their official website to publicise the derivative work of their customers (based on their original songs), so that many viewpoints can be heard, their fans can participate in the creative process and there is spin-off publicity of their original music as well.
Web Apps and APIs
In the more technical applications space, it has long been possible to create a web application that uses live data from another web service or uses a web service such as Google Maps to display the results of your data ‘mash-up’. Sometimes the use of this data may cause traffic to the source site to become less and so reduce their income. Consequently, site operators will probably take action to stop you. Your efforts might also add value and increase traffic to their websites, in which case you will probably either not hear from them or they might try to hire you to work for their company. In either case such a company will probably expose their database and display components directly for you to use by publishing APIs which allow efficient computer-to-computer data transfers to assist ‘mash-up’ sites. Use of such APIs will be subject to conditions associated with data ownership, source acknowledgment and other similar matters.
Karsten Schluter provides a terse summary of what is allowed here.