Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Music and sound resources

I've talked about finding images for use in educational settings, but what about sound? Internet music is in the news these days, since today is the Internet Radio Day of Silence in protest to the proposed royalty rate hike for Internet radio stations. (Yes, I know, I said I wouldn't get into politics, and the issue is more complicated than either side is admitting in their statements, but I haven't heard any good reasons for a 300-1200% retroactive rate increase. Anyway...)

So, where does a student or instructor who just wants to liven up their classwork go for music? Luckily, there are several possibilities available for worry-free music and sounds. (Educators and students can use clips and samples of music under the fair use provisions of US copyright. However, if you are uncertain, nervous, or wish to use sounds and music for non-educational projects, you might want to stick with the Creative Commons licensed materials.)

The first resource is one of my favorites, the Internet Archive Audio Collection. There are thousands of recordings here available for streaming and download. There is no overall copyright policy on these files; different artists have different policies which will be indicated in the records. The Open Source collection has Creative Commons licensing. But there are also collections of audio books, poetry, live music, news, contemporary music, radio programs and podcasts, even sermons, all of which should be available for "fair use" educational use. Someone interested in media studies can have a field day.

The second resource is Creative Commons itself. The Audio Collection is full of sound and music that people want you to use in your projects. It's amazing. I recommend the OWL music search for a fascinating search experience. Find a piece that's like what you want (including in your own collection). Then OWL will find more pieces like that one. You can also search by text keywords, but, in either case, be sure to use the check boxes for the appropriate CC license, as these are all general search engines and will retrieve commercial music as well.

CC licenses, whether you find them through CC itself or via any other search, specify how the creators will allow use of their creations. No further contract is needed, as long as you work within the terms of the license. Common licenses allow non-commercial use with attribution, or sampling with attribution, or even commercial reuse. There is also CCMixter, which is a mixing site featuring attribution-noncommercial licensed pieces available for reuse.

The Freesound Project is a collection of CC licensed audio clips for reuse, based at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcellona. (I've been impressed with this collection before, but I can't get into it right now. Here is a little more about the project from CCMixter.)

There several sites that cater specifically to podcasters. Podsafe Audio maintains a collection of music licensed under Creative Commons and classed by genre. There are also ratings and reviews available. There is even a Collaborations site, which has pieces on which the artists are specifically requesting collaboration or assistance. On Podsafe Music Network you can listen to material on the site, but in order to download material for reuse, you have to register as a podcaster. This isn't really what you'd use for a one time project, but if you'd thinking of doing regular work, this could be a good option.

Of less interest to educators, there are also lots of "royalty free" music sites, where paying a one time fee will allow you to reuse the music over and over without paying additional royalties. If you are thinking of having a regular podcast or show, and can't find anything you like via the freely licensed collections, this could be useful. Here are a couple of lists to get started with: Podsafe Music by Sharon Housely and Royalty Free Music for a Podcast by Thomas Limoncelli (scroll down into the comments for more suggestions.)

Update (8/30/07): Here's an additional article comparing various big name online music stores' DRM-Free offerings: Finding DRM-free music online from TechCrunch. For those unfamiliar with the term, DRM is the protection system (or systems) that prevent you from playing digital files on "non-authorized" equipment. For instance, most iTunes files can only be played on the computer you originally downloaded the song onto, and music players hooked up to that iTunes (like an iPod)--with the exceptions noted in the article. DRM-free is not necessarily legally free for use, but it helps with the technical issues

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Banner down June 29-July 1

For end-of-fiscal-year processing, Banner will be down from June 29, 6 pm (Eastern), to July 1, 9 am. This will affect registration, payments, grade posting and viewing, etc., in BannerWeb and Banner INB. This will also affect the Banner password reset function. It will not affect MySCSU or other network functions. WebCT Vista should not be affected, though any updates to and from Banner (like class lists) won't go through.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Digital Identity

Does anyone else feel like there are bits and pieces of yourself all over the Internet? First it was email addresses--you could get a free email address at dozens of places. I ended up with a Netscape email address for downloading the browser one year. (And, no, I do not remember it at all, and I never checked it--so if it still exists, it must be filled with spam.) Now it's social networking systems and Web 2.0 tools. I've got dozens of accounts on all sorts of systems. A couple of times I've gone to check out something that someone sends me ("You've got to try this!"), only to discover that I already have an account with them from their beta test. Plus the webpages I've designed, articles I've written, reviews I've done, presentations, videos, etc., etc., etc.

Now there is a new movement to claim your digital identity. Google is supposedly coming out with a content claiming system aimed, among other things, at avoiding copyright lawsuits over YouTube. (It's not out yet.) For the rest of us, while we wait, ClaimID provides a way of claiming and organizing our own materials. It's sort of an extremely flexible portfolio system, allowing you to link to items that have some connection to you. There are some built in metadata (about me/not about me, by me/not by me), plus fields that allow you to add keyword tags, descriptions, creator info, "relation" tags, etc.

ClaimID uses the MicroID protocol to allow you to "claim" webpages that you have direct control over. When you place a code in the head section of a webpage, MicroID allows a 3rd party server to verify that you have editing rights to the page. You can link to other pages, but only those into which you can place the MicroID coding will be verified as yours. So, for instance, I was able to claim this blog, because I can modify the head section, but I haven't figured out how to claim a hosted WordPress blog, because I don't have access to the head section in the hosted template. There are some plugins that work with various software, including WordPress, that allow that sort of modification, so if the MicroID protocol catches on, expect to see more verifiable content options all around the web.

I've added my publications and presentations, some of the webpages I've created, and some of the services that I use. As examples, presentations are "by me" but not "about me", my faculty homepage is both "by me" and "about me", and links to educational institutions are neither "by me" nor "about me" but are linked with a relation tag of "education", and tagged with degree info.

I'm also thinking of using the "private mode" to keep a list of the services and sites that I have accounts with, probably with the usernames (but not passwords--it's not that private) in the notes. For instance, I had completely forgotten that I had set up an account with Schtuff, a wiki hosting company, while working with the SummerTech project last year. I got an email from them announcing their switch to PBWiki, and I was completely surprised. What I'm going to try and do from now on is whenever I sign up with a new service, including testing, I'll put a private link into ClaimID. Later on, when I'm looking at a "new" service, I can check if it's really new to me, and when I'm looking for a service to do a particular thing, I can glance down the list to see if there is something I've already tried out.