Archive for 2008

The Giant Pool of Money

When the financial crisis first hit, I found myself grappling as much as my students were with the complexities of our economic system. Though I am a homeowner and realized that many of the problems stemmed from so-called "mortgage-backed securities", I honestly could not figure out my own place in this meltdown.

That was until I heard the economic terms contextualized in narrative form on a public radio program, This American Life, entitled, "The Giant Pool of Money". I'm sure some of it is oversimplified, but what I enjoyed about the show (in free podcast form) was that the hosts never took for granted that the audience understood what those "creative" financial instruments like CDOs (Collateralized Debt Obligation) were!

Knowing that my American Studies students could benefit from this explanation in the midst of a unit called "Stories and Histories", my teaching partner, John O'Connor, and I designed an activity which harnessed the power of our 42 students to our collective advantage.


We assigned each student a portion of the radio transcript to visually represent as a single slide. In order to make this a truly collaborative effort, we dropped the students into 2 adjacent computer labs, and had them all simultaneously edit a shared presentation via Google Docs.

It was an amazing endeavor to observe, as students got up from their computer terminals in order to negotiate with their peers the transitions and shared metaphors from slide to slide. Check it out:

In terms of copyright and fair use considerations, each student was required to cite and link back to every image they re-purposed in the shared presentation. Once the project was completed by the students, I organized the slides and then matched it to the original radio audio on another website, SlideShare.

I wanted to model permission-seeking to my students by making a formal request to National Public Radio. Unfortunately, after a few friendly emails back and forth, This American Life refused my request. Therefore what you see above is somewhat limited in that it lacks the soundtrack. I'm still pursuing other avenues as I post this. What do you think? Was our class project an example of "fair use" or did we take it too far by wanting to share it with a wider audience?

UPDATE (5/22/09): I've decided that I will publish the completed presentation on the web after all. After a school year of sharing this project with private audiences, I posted my dilemma to a wiki dedicated to ending copyright confusion. Here is a portion of the response I received from Renee Hobbs of Temple University:

What a creative way to incorporate media literacy into the social studies curriculum! As I look at the piece, it seems that your students have demonstrated their understanding of the content by transforming the "This American Life" segment into a new work through their imaginative multimedia slides. The educational value of this assignment is based, in fact, on the careful relationship between the audio and the images....[W]here you have asked permission and been refused, your decision about distribution rests completely on your comfort level about whether this use indeed a fair use....I think it's a great example of how, sometimes, we use a whole piece of media in our work with students -- and for the specific learning objective, we need to use the whole piece.


LIFE's Amazing Resource

Designing a new presentation? Need raw material for student research? For a treasure trove of (mostly unpublished) images, try the new Life Photo Archive hosted by Google. LIFE magazine's catalogued images number in the millions and easily reach all the way back to the 1750s.


The image below actually contains live links. Click on any decade to see a sampling of images, which will show up as a Google image search tagged with a green LIFE keyword.





Code of Best Practices in Fair Use

Just released. I will comment further once I've digested this document from the Center for Social Media of American University and the Media Education Lab of Temple University.

UPDATE: Here is an edited version of a presentation I gave at the NICE (Northern Illinois Computing Educators) Conference in February, 2009. More recently, I have presented this material at the IETC (Illinois Education and Technology Conference) in November, 2009, and at both ICE (Illinois Computing Educators) and CUE (Computer-Using Educators) conferences in February and March, 2010, respectively.
Copyright And Fair Use
View more presentations from Spiro Bolos.
LATEST UPDATE:
"You are a Presentation SuperStar on SlideShare!

Your presentation is currently being featured on the SlideShare homepage by our editorial team.

We thank you for this terrific presentation, that has been chosen from amongst the thousands that are uploaded to SlideShare everday.

Congratulations! Have a Great Day!,

- the SlideShare team
"

A Way Around the Law?

Photograph of a VHS cassette and a metric rule...Image via WikipediaAt least at our school, one of the teacher tools that was prohibited last year was the extracting of short DVD clips for classroom use. I think we all know what advantages this process offers, especially within the confines of the 40-minute period (or, as I like to refer to it, "the 40-minute fury"!). Excerpting clips instead of fumbling with the menus and previews of an actual DVD was the fulfillment of the early promises of DVD technology. Instead, I see teachers running around with old and degraded VHS tapes, laboriously cued and re-cued up to the scene they wish to use in class.


Although the DVD clipping process is clearly illegal according to the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), we now have an opportunity to apply for an exemption to the law. The Librarian of Congress (LOC) is about to revisit the law for the first time since 2006 and could grant us the same rights given to film studies professors at the post-secondary level.

If you are at all interested in crafting a "comment" (petition) to the LOC, please let me know. Just to give you some perspective: in 2006, nationwide, only 74 petitions were posted. These were made by various organizations as well as by private citizens. Each and every request was reviewed and ruled upon by the LOC. A successful "comment" by New Trier would certainly be consistent with our "Lighthouse District" reputation, and might also be a relevant tie-in to our ECGC initiatives. If you are from another school and wish to join me in this effort, please contact me here. The due date is December 2, 2008.




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Free Video Creation from ANIMOTO

Image representing Animoto as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBaseHave you or your students ever created slideshows with music? Usually, we are limited to computer-based programs like iMovie, iPhoto, Windows Movie Maker or Photo Story. But now there is an amazing online creation tool called ANIMOTO, which is Japanese for "ANIMOTO". It completely automates the process and syncs the images to the structure and sound of the music provided either by you or the website. You can even embed the finished video in another web page. And best of all, it's FREE.

The free version is limited to 30 seconds and doesn't allow any videos to be downloaded. BUT, if you are a teacher, you can request an educational account for you and your students as long as you promise to share what your classes are doing with the tool. The educational version is UNLIMITED and allows you and your students to DOWNLOAD the videos to a computer.

Here's a "get-to-know me" video I created for my students. All of the images came from my online Picasa account. You can also get images from your computer or websites like facebook, flickr, or photobucket.




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A Googley Way to Collect Info

This past summer at the Google Teacher Academy, I learned of an efficient way to collect student info or even create quick surveys. It's all via Google Docs, specifically the Spreadsheet function. My own knowledge of spreadsheets is woefully inadequate, since I am math-challenged. But this is just populating lists and cells, which I actually do understand! Here's how to create a web-based form from a spreadsheet:



So here's how I use a Google Docs form in my classroom. At the beginning of the year, I need the following information from my students:
  • Name (i.e., what they prefer to be called, NOT what the computer spits out)
  • Email address (i.e., an email address they actually prefer to use to contact a teacher)
  • Blog address (because each one of my students has his/her own Blogger weblog)
The beauty of this form is that because it is online, any link in an individual cell becomes "live", meaning, I can click on the web address next to my student's name and it will take me to the student's blog.

And here's what my form looks like (scroll to see the input fields):




Managing All of Those Bookmarks

Organizing Favorites in Internet Explorer 6>Image via WikipediaAs a classroom teacher and a person who's logged on to many different computers in the course of one day, access to my browser's bookmarks had become a challenging mess. For various reasons, I might not have my laptop with me and instead be forced to use the classroom desktop computer. Or, at home, I might be working on an entirely different computer, perhaps a Mac. What if I needed access to a video or online newspaper article that I found at home and wanted to share with my students or colleagues?

How can a teacher keep all of his/her bookmarks organized and in a centralized place? One of my colleagues just emails links to himself. But he receives so many emails on a daily basis that it becomes difficult to locate the original email in his inbox! Others lose all of their precious bookmarks every year when the IT staff re-clones computers. For me, the solution I've found is something called "social bookmarking".

video


Social bookmarking, at its most basic, is just a website that stores all of your bookmarks online. It can also organize those bookmarks by "tags" which are named by you. Notice my tags on the left side of this page? So, for example, I teach a sociology course. I found a great New York Times web graphic on social class, which I bookmarked using two "tags" of my choice: "sociology" and "class". In the future, whenever and wherever I am, I can access all of my bookmarks, click on the "class" tag and my bookmarks are instantly reorganized by that category. I actually did this once in my American Studies class while discussing The Great Gatsby: I wanted to give the students a visual of current American social stratification for a comparison to the the 1920s.

The social bookmarking website I use is called Delicious, though there are many others. If you look to the right side of this page, you can see the latest websites I have saved (under "Recently Bookmarked"). That's the social aspect of social bookmarking: you have the ability to share your great finds with others (like course committee colleagues). Or, if you like, you can keep ALL or some of them completely private. It's your choice.

If it still doesn't quite make sense, please check out this video (above, right) from the great folks at CommonCraft that explains this concept further.






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VoiceThreads

In two of my classes, I am using a tool called VoiceThread in two different ways. VoiceThread allows anyone to post presentations or slides online for others to view and/or add comments. Remember VH1's "Pop-Up Video"? The added comments are "pop-up" annotations created by any or all of these methods:

  • typing
  • recording your voice with your computer
  • recording your voice with your phone
  • uploading pre-recorded audio
  • recording video via webcam

This tool allows you to control exactly who has permission to "comment" on your presentation. You could easily narrate your own presentation for students who missed class. Alternatively, you could have 30 students comment on 30 slides. Or, 30 students could comment on a common slide or image. Here's 2 ways I am currently using VoiceThread:

  1. In my AP US History course, each student has been invited to annotate every past presentation in a collective effort to review the entire semester. I call this a "collaborative lecture", since the students are actually enriching the original presentation with information from their own reading. Press the big PLAY button to see a demonstration using actual student comments.
  2. In my Modern World History course, in preparation for a unit on European Imperialism, each student was asked to view a single image and add their unique comments into 3 distinct categories of responses, according to Ron Ritchhart's Intellectual Character.

    "SEE": what do you observe (do not interpret)
    "THINK": make an interpretation, but only with evidence
    "WONDER": ask a question
     
     How are you using or planning to use VoiceThread? For many more ideas, please check out out Collette Cassinelli's VoiceThread 4 Education web page.

Fact Check THIS.

As the election heats up, so do the negative attack ads. Plus, the increasing number of forwarded emails we receive from family and friends ramps up emotions and starts rifts. How many of us have received an email that claims Barack Obama is a Muslim or that Sarah Palin has a list of banned books?


A new free service from the St. Petersburg Times critically examines many of these wild claims, on a website that is both fun and informative for students and adults. Politifact.com uses a "Truth-O-Meter" to rate the accuracy of the most recent attack ads, and a "Flip-O-Meter" to assess how consistent a candidate has been over time. They even have a version for the iPhone so you can flout your knowledge at parties!

Here's a small sampling from the actual website:


Search Campaign Speeches via Video

Because it's an election year, the web is alive with innovative ways of keeping people up to date on the latest political news, including what the candidates say in their speeches. But if we rely solely on what the traditional media outlets (CNN, Fox, MSNBC) report, we as teachers know how much selection and bias really come in to play.

What if we could sift through the innumerable speeches of both McCain and Obama, and then search for our own topics, bypassing what the media "gives" us? Thanks to online video sites and some pretty sophisticated speech-to-text technology from Google, we now can!

It's easier to just try this tool rather than have someone explain it further. For example, type the word, 'withdrawal' (no quotes) in the search box and see which speeches and subjects emerge. You can even type specific phrases in the search box, as long as you set them off with quotes, eg., "No Child Left Behind".




Embed a YouTube Video in PowerPoint

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...>Image via CrunchBase As a Technology Staff Developer (TSD), placing a YouTube video into a PowerPoint presentation is easily one of the most requested "how-to"s I hear from fellow teachers. And unfortunately for Windows users, it's not a straightforward process, by any stretch. But I will show you THREE proven methods that I have used again and again. Since our school has switched to Microsoft Office 2007, these techniques apply only to that version of PowerPoint.



METHOD 1
Embed a reference to a YouTube video without actually downloading the video. This method will only work if you have a live and robust internet connection. Otherwise, you're out of luck. I can't take credit for this method: I found it on YouTube, and the creator/narrator is a woman named Laura Bergelis, who seems to know a lot about presentations and technology. You might enjoy reading many more tips at her website, Maniactive.




METHOD 2
Download a special extension ONCE to install into PowerPoint. Click on this link to see a pop-up video: *YouTube into PPT*  NOTE: if you'd like to share the presentation with others, make sure you save it as a "macro-enabled" Powerpoint presentation. It will actually work for people who don't have the extension installed.



METHOD 3
OR, you can actually download a YouTube video and embed it in your PowerPoint presentation. This method might take a little bit longer, but will result in a PowerPoint that will play regardless of whether you have access to the internet.

  • Download your video using a website called Mediaconverter. Just paste the video's url (eg., http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMJuy0JIyVA) into the "conversion wizard" where it says, "Convert a video or music by url"
  • Choose the file type to convert to: WMV
  • Click through the next steps without changing any settings
  • Once that's done, click "DOWNLOAD NOW" and make sure you remember where you saved the file.
  • Open PowerPoint. Click the INSERT tab, then the MOVIE button, and choose your downloaded video. That's about it!






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Fair Use?

Copyright symbol>Image via WikipediaOne of the trickiest issues for teachers is determining what constitutes "fair use" when utilizing copyrighted material, for ourselves or for our students. In the past, many well-intentioned educators published "fair use guides" on the web that were overly cautious or just plain wrong, focusing on, for example, the amount or percentage of time supposedly allowed when excerpting a clip. 


And certainly, the general public propagates many myths about what can or cannot be used. For example, take a look at this seemingly harmless (and mercifully short) 29-second video posted on YouTube:



You might have missed it, but Prince's classic song, "Let's Go Crazy" was playing in the background. According to Wired magazine, this video "was removed last year after Universal [record company] sent YouTube a takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act."

But you might have also missed the fact that, "after being taken down for six weeks, the video went back online last year, having now generated about half a million hits." (emphasis added)

Fortunately for budding video directors (like our students) and us, the courts are more recently and more often siding with the creators of such videos, according to the Center for Social Media of American University: "In reviewing the history of fair use litigation, we find that judges return again and again to two key questions:
  • Did the unlicensed use 'transform' the material taken from the copyrighted work by using it for a different purpose than that of the original, or did it just repeat the work for the same intent and value as the original?
  • Was the material taken appropriate in kind and amount, considering the nature of the copyrighted work and of the use?
According to Peter Jaszi of American University, "Fair use is like a muscle that needs to be exercised, but people can't exercise it in a climate of fear and uncertainty." I'm no lawyer, but it seems to me that if we and our students follow a set of "best practices", not unlike what we already do with written work, we are unlikely to be challenged on legal grounds. Based on the 2 legal questions above and our own previous experience with quoting and paraphrasing, our best practices should then be easy to articulate:
  1. The use of the copyrighted work is transformative.
  2. The kind and the amount of the copyrighted work used is appropriate for the assignment.
  3. The author of the copyrighted work is cited.



NECC: Digital Citizenship and ECGC?

This is the last post I plan to write about the sessions from the National Educational Computing Conference, or NECC. The last speaker I saw, Mike Ribble, of Kansas State University, is the author of Digital Citizenship in Schools, which is a forward-thinking work dealing with the ethics and the legality of student behavior on the internet, "emphasizing the positive aspects of technology usage: collaboration, learning and productivity".

Ribble argues that too often we as educators (and parents) provide our students with the latest technological tools without really explaining how to use them properly. We have already witnessed the many abuses under the current laissez-faire system: cyberbullying, illegal downloading, creating websites to complain about teachers, and using cell phones during class. As a response, most schools' Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) tell students what they can't do, but "do not teach students what is appropriate and why" (9). Under this umbrella of digital citizenship, Ribble identifies nine themes (all defined at his website):

Several mobile phones
  1. Digital Etiquette
  2. Digital Communication
  3. Digital Literacy
  4. Digital Access
  5. Digital Commerce
  6. Digital Law>Image via Wikipedia
  7. Digital Rights and Responsibilities
  8. Digital Health and Wellness
  9. Digital Security (self-protection)

As I sat in this session, I immediately thought of New Trier's Strategic Planning initiatives, specifically our Ethical Conduct and Global Citizenship (ECGC) action plans. After the success of the ECGC discussions in Advisery last year, and considering how involved our students are in social networks like Facebook and with technology in general, "digital citizenship" might be the next step in implementing our action plans.

Related reading: Mark Wagner's "Ethical Use of the Read/Write Web".


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NECC: The Importance of Spatial Thinking

First edition cover to >Image via WikipediaI attended two sessions dealing with the relative lack of spatial thinking across the curriculum and throughout the K-12 years. Bob Kolvoord specifically addressed the recent marginalization of both geography and earth science, while Dr. Terence Cavanaugh demonstrated the potential for infusing maps into the English curriculum.

Kolvoord, using a SmartBoard, whizzed through a demo of Google Earth, using only his fingers! But with considerably less flash, he showed how another free tool, ArcExplorer-Java Edition for Education (AEJEE: pronounced “aay-jee”) could be utilized to analyze data on energy consumption, natural disasters, and even election results.

Later, Cavanaugh showed how using the many new tools available for free on the web, both teachers and their students have the ability to construct custom maps related to course content. For example, after reading Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, an American Studies class might track and recreate Chris McCandless’ journey using Google Maps. Or, if a teacher didn't have a lot of time, Google’s computers have already created maps for several works of literature, including Around the World in 80 Days, War and Peace, and (surprisingly, below) the 9/11 Commission Report. Click on the map below for greater detail. Search for these and more at http://books.google.com.

Lastly, an exceptional Google Certified Teacher named Jerome Burg has created at least 23 “Lit Trips”, organized by grade level, using Google Earth. His site includes The Kite Runner, The Aeneid, and The Grapes of Wrath, among many other works.


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NECC: Copyright Confusion

Last spring, I had the pleasure and the privilege of contributing to a discussion funded by the MacArthur Foundation, and hosted by American University law professor, Peter Jaszi. He and others have produced an important document for educators entitled, "The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy". He argues:

As a result of poor guidance, counterproductive guidelines, and fear, teachers use less effective teaching techniques, teach and transmit erroneous copyright information, fail to share innovative instructional approaches, and do not take advantage of new digital platforms.

Unfortunately, this is something I witnessed at one of the NECC sessions I attended, entitled, "Copyright & Technology: Helping Students and Teachers Understand the Issues". Even with the best of intentions, a speaker who is not an expert in copyright and fair use for educators (read: a lawyer or law professor) can do much damage, especially considering the size and composition of the audience. I counted approximately 300 people in the audience, including classroom teachers, tech integrators, and administrators, and my worst fears were realized: the speaker was not well-informed on the current state of copyright and fair use. Instead, he cited outdated or incorrect "guides for teachers" found on the web.

Fortunately, help is on the way. Come November of 2008 (approximately), Jaszi and Patricia Aufderheide will release a MacArthur Foundation-funded guide for educators, similar to what they have already produced for documentary filmmakers. "[T]o develop and distribute a code of best practices...about the fair use of copyrighted material for media literacy education."

UPDATE (July 2008): The Center for Social Media has just released a Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video which deals with not only the creation but also the posting of video containing copyrighted material. Although this is not aimed specifically at educators, it may give us the ability to revolutionize what are students are able to produce and share in the classroom.






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NECC: PowerPoint Kills

Microsoft PowerPoint (Mac OS X)>Image via WikipediaI was fortunate to attend a one-hour presentation by Glenbrook South's own David Jakes, a practitioner of what he preaches! What follows is a short paraphrase of his talk:

Certainly one of the earliest (1987) of the technological democratizers was Microsoft's PowerPoint. We all know how easily it could add a professional sheen to anyone's presentation -- just by using the templates. But we also have sadly discovered that PowerPoint kills. Instead of being used to support a speaker, it has, in many ways begun to supplant the presenter simply because too many of its users treat the program "like a TelePrompTer". In lieu of rehashing his 10 suggestions, I'll embed them below. Jakes was generous enough to distribute his entire presentation online for free.


Jakes' style was similar to that of Stanford Law Professor Lawrence Lessig, who is my personal model for presentations I plan to give during the school year. Both presenters shun the use of templates and bullet points, and radically limit the amount of text on the screen, since the audience can always read it faster than you can say it. For links and more on Lessig and other styles of presentation, click on the presentation link (tag) in the left-hand column of this blog (under "my del.icio.us tags").

But the most important point that Jakes implied was how crucial it is that we model and teach these techniques to our students. Too often, he argues, we give our students the technological tools without the training they need to use them responsibly. As he humorously observed, "PowerPoint doesn't kill; bullet points do."


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NECC: The Wisdom of Crowds

James Surowiecki>Image via WikipediaMy wife and I are currently in San Antonio, TX attending the 29th annual National Educational Computing Conference, or NECC, sponsored by the International Society for Technology in Edication (ISTE). This is our first time at the NECC, which I soon discovered is pronounced "neck"!

I have to say I was thoroughly engaged in what the opening keynote speaker,
James Surowiecki, had to say and what it means for the classroom. It was also refreshing to hear someone speak about something fundamentally human at a technology conference!

The first part of Surowiecki's address was very similar to a creative radio piece called "Emergence", which I first heard on WNYC's Radiolab. In fact, he was one of many experts interviewed for that show. Surowiecki, a journalist and historian, argues, quite simply, that a collective of human beings is often much wiser than any individual person. Smarter than the smartest person in the room or even an expert in a particular field.

But what was even more interesting to me were the specific circumstances and structures that allow this to occur. The crowd can become 'wise' when the following factors are in place, for example:

  1. Cognitive diversity
  2. Thoughtful (and creative) grouping strategies
  3. Careful placement of "devil's advocates" within groups
Obviously, collaborative technological tools (like blogs, wikis, and social networks) can facilitate this process. This is an example of where technology can truly enhance instruction, and not just function as a bell or whistle.

Yet the implication for everyday classrooms is momentous. Consider the leveling philosophy and practice in our own school, New Trier High School. Students are grouped (levels 2, 3, 4, and 5) according to their "abilities", so that they will feel successful given a certain curricular challenge. But we are also fortunate to have 9-level, which purports to be a mixing of ALL of the other levels. This particular grouping of students has the potential to produce something far beyond what is accomplished by their peers in the most advanced levels. Is it true that we only need to apply the lessons of Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds, either using technology, or perhaps, just our brains?

The Google Teacher Academy

Yesterday, I was fortunate to be one of 50 educators worldwide picked to attend the Google Teacher Academy (GTA). After an almost 12-hour workshop on June 25th, including a tour of the famed Googleplex (in Mountainview, CA), I took away the following:

  1. Look at the educational applications for Google Earth. Try out the "layers" function. By the time you read this, you will be able to embed these earth maps on webpages as easily as Google Maps.
  2. Try out the newest features of Google Maps, eg., measuring distances and areas.
  3. Use the comment feature of Google Docs, and these annotations, helpful to students and colleagues, won't be seen when printed.
  4. Try the "fixed-width page view" (to show the borders of a Google Doc page).
  5. Look at some curriculum-specific applications of these tools by grade level.
I could honestly add much more to this list, but five items seem enough for now. Throughout the rest of this school year I will act as a Google Certified Teacher, so feel free to pick my brain on other uses for you and your students.

If you're interested, here is the 1-minute video I created (featuring the work of my 2007-2008 American Studies students) that supported my application to the GTA.



UPDATE (August 2008): The Google Teacher Academy is now accepting applications for GTA Chicago! Deadline is August 24 for the September 24th conference.

Disclaimer

Although this blog is authored by New Trier High School (NTHS) staff, the audience is global and the views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of NTHS as an institution.

Copyright and Fair Use

This site contains images and excerpts the use of which have not been pre-authorized. This material is made available for the purpose of analysis and critique, as well as to advance the understanding of technology in education. 
The ‘fair use’ of such material is provided for under U.S. Copyright Law. In accordance with U.S. Code Title 17, Section 107, material on this site (along with credit links and/or attributions to original sources) is viewable for educational and intellectual purposes. 
If you are interested in using any copyrighted material from this site for any reason that goes beyond ‘fair use,’ you must first obtain permission from the copyright owner.