Recently in how to Category

Extremely off-topic: cold-weather bike gear, part 3

January will mark my fourth anniversary as a year-round biker in Minneapolis, and since we have recently skipped from Halloween to mid-January, weather-wise, I'm reflecting on my wintry experiences, again.

After last year's polar vortex, I have a new record low riding temp: -16 °F/-26.7°C. It is just -tiring- to ride in that (though surprisingly, it doesn't require a whole lot of new gear.) So I took the light rail to work quite a bit last winter (I bought a house last fall, and my very short list of requirements included "less than 0.5 miles from a light rail station".)

Most of my observations from previous years stand. Wool is wonderful and I feel very very sorry for people who are allergic.

Ski goggles are still awesome, but over-the-glasses is still a pain in the patootie. At warmer cold temps, the heat from your skin fogs the glasses as soon as you stop moving. At colder cold temps, the fog freezes on your glasses lenses. Honestly, winter/bad-weather biking may be the thing that -finally- convinces me to get contacts.

Additional thoughts:


One in front and one behind is really not enough, and I see many folks with only one (front -or- rear) or no lights at all.

Really, really - people can't see bikes in the dark. They just can't - pedestrians, other bikers, -and- drivers. Even if you have reflectors, those only work when lights are being pointed at you. Active lighting matters.

I use a -lot- of stuff from Night Ize - mostly from REI, including the Spokelit:
I have SpokeLits in green, blue, and "Disc-o", on two different bikes. I also use their Helmet Marker, and lots of their small carabiner lights.

My headlight is a PlanetBike Blaze - and wow, they are on super-sale right now at REI, so if you're looking for one... I have had trouble mounting that on the handlebars of my hybrid that I use in the winter, but a little Sugru applied to the mounting rig fixed that right up for me.

My taillights are nothing to write home about; I think one is Planet Bike and one is something else.

I also really like the LightWeights stick-on reflectors - have applied them to some clothing that has been repeatedly laundered, and they're still stuck on tight. Also have some on various bags, and my helmet. My jacket has reflectors built in.

2. Waterproofing/snowpants

I still like the Novara Stratos pants I got a couple years back, but also frequently use a pair of old men's wool pants I bought at a thrift store instead of them. The wool breathes better, and keeps my regular pants about equally clean.

I waterproof leather stuff (boots and mittens, primarily) with Sno-Seal. Good stuff, cheap, really works, have used on hiking boots for years. Don't use on suede unless you want it to turn shiny.

3. Mitten liners

Finally wore big holes through the custom wool liners my friend Amy made for me a few years back; luckily my friend Jo is a professional knitter/felter who is whipping up a new pair for me as I write. Still a huge fan of my leather chopper mittens, just not the nasty liners they come with.

4. Boots

The camping/hunting toe-warmers are not as helpful at ultra-low temperatures as I thought they were the first year I tried them. I bought some insulated boots last year, and those helped some on the really cold days.

I cannot imagine that $350-winter-biking boots -really- keep feet warm in a way regular boots can't, but maybe someone who has money to burn can enlighten me on that subject.

I also can't imagine wearing -any- shoe with a bike cleat in the winter, or even toe cages. I use my feet for balance/speed control way more in the winter, cannot -imagine- wanting them attached to the bike.

5. Riding surfaces

You're actually better off when it's colder, because solidly frozen surfaces are pretty easy to ride on (with studded tires. Incidentally, I got three full winters of use out of that first set; I need to replace them, but I'm waiting for a big sale next month.)

Solidly frozen stuff does lend itself to skidding, even with studs, when you go around corners. And if you slam on your brakes hard, you tend to fishtail. It happens. There is a lot more slipping and sliding when riding in the winter, no matter what the surface - you just have to stay relaxed, don't let a little slip or bump scare you too much, and you'll be surprised how much you -don't- fall!  (Also, even if you fall on ice, which sounds kind of scary and hard, it is usually less rough than asphalt, and you're wearing more clothes, so less road rash than in warm-weather falls.)

Salt is NOT YOUR FRIEND. Yes, it's corrosive, but that's not really it. Salt creates soft patches. The softer a surface is, the harder it is to ride on, and the more you slide around. Worse, salt facilitates the creation of ruts, and if it freezes afterwards, ARGH.

Elevation changes that run parallel to your wheels (ruts, or the edges of where a plow went, or the edge of a patch of thick ice) are dangerous, especially when there are cars next to you. Ruts, etc, can make you move up to a whole foot sideways without your control; if people are driving too close to you, pull over to let them pass, you do NOT want to get stuck in a rutted area with cars close by.

Elevation changes that run -perpendicular- to your wheels are FUN. Well, no, not potholes and stuff. But ridges of snow leftover from plows, or berms at the edge of a sidewalk are actually great fun to ride over. If they're soft, they are also way easier to get through than a long skinny patch of soft snow parallel to the wheels.

6. Lube & cleaning

Last winter is the first time my -brakes- froze solid while riding. This was mostly from grit & stuff freezing in the cables of the pull. Blowing on them thawed them out enough for a momentary fix, but I started carrying super-thick winter bike lube in my bag for slightly longer fixes.

The winter beater I was riding last winter was just really bad on a lot of dimensions, but at one point, my freewheel gummed up completely. I was able to fix it by mostly taking apart the back wheel, and dripping a lot of lightweight oil through it for several days, but that was another contributor to the light-rail usage. It's possible the freewheel wouldn't have gotten so bad if I'd been more careful cleaning the bike. Weekly cleanings of the drivetrain (somewhere indoors with heat) is pretty essential in the winter.

In conclusion: winter riding is not for everyone. I am still not an evangelist. But if you think you might want to try it, you may find it as fun as I do!  (If you're a local, let me know, and we can go riding some time!)
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Personal Photo Sharing - Things to Think About

We just had a "managing your personal photos" drop-in session here at the Libraries, and I was tasked to help people think about legal issues. Thought I'd turn my handout into a blog post!

If you're in it, you might not own it. (Except for selfies.)

Copyright ownership -usually- belongs to the photographer. So pictures -of- you often legally belong to someone else. Of course, when you take selfie, you -are- the photographer, so the ownership is actually easier.

As a colleague asked at the workshop, can you download and save all the pictures -other people- post of you on Facebook? You certainly don't own all of them, but most of your friends probably won't care. The big problems come when, unexpectedly, someone -does- care.

I wrote a little more about this "ownership" conundrum with pictures of yourself & family members a while back.

Even if you don't own it, you might still be able to use it.

You can use other people's stuff without permission -sometimes-. It's more likely to be okay to do that if you are building on their stuff to make new things, or to educate other people - and always better if not for profit. You'll want to Learn more about fair use to make educated and responsible decisions about this.

Not giving credit: sometimes a legal or academic integrity issue. ALWAYS DOUCHETASTIC

Providing credit or attribution is often not a legal requirement. But not providing credit, especially when it is -easy to find the original- is just a nasty move. If you like it enough to copy it, doesn't the person who created it deserve a little nod? Also, for school assignments and scholarship, not providing credit can result in disciplinary proceedings that are separate from legal courts - passing off someone else's stuff as your own is a serious academic offense.

There's tons of stuff you can 100% legally use for free

If you -need- to use a particular work to make a point, or to communicate an important concept, it may be legal under fair use. But if you want to remove uncertainty, look for stuff you are already actively allowed to use! The public domain includes works that we all own, and Creative Commons works are already approved for certain types of re-use.

Here's a whole lot of ways to find Free and Legal Stuff You Can USE.
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Free and Legal Stuff You Can USE!

Adapted from a presentation today at "Enhancing Quality Staff 2012", which a really fun and engaging symposium, and always really well-run (by UMN Libraries colleagues.)

Sometimes it gets a little tiring to work through all the details of copyright exemptions and exceptions. Especially when we're building on other people's stuff to make new things, we can make choices that make everything WAY EASIER - just search for inspiration amongst stuff you already know you can use!

(Note: this is all highly U.S-centric. Sorry, international folks, I don't know your public domain laws. Creative Commons should port, though!)

You Can Use Stuff When...

Copyright doesn't apply
This is also known as the public domain - the body of works available for all of us to use. We all own them! Sometimes it's hard to figure out if something is in the public domain, but there are two times when it's fairly easy:

If it was published, in the United States, prior to 1923
If it was produced by the U.S. federal government.

There is a ton of other stuff in the public domain, including things from well after 1923, but that's the easy stuff.

ETA, 6/27/12: please note that neither one of these situations is always 100% easy! For the 1923 cut off rule, "publication" can be an issue (e.g., letters in an attic from 1912 - probably never published, possibly not public domain.) And many federal government resources are produced by contractors, who may own the rights. You may need to learn quite a bit more, to make determinations about public domain status for yourself.

If someone other than you is making the assessment of public domain status, you will want to consider the reliability and authoritativeness of that assessment.

Permission has been granted
Here's one way to know you have permission: "Can I use this?" "Yes."

This often works well when you can make contact with the creator directly, but note, this only works if you ask the person who owns the copyright - which is often not the creator!

Open licenses are another way to know you have permission - it's a form of licensing where the rightsholder gives the whole world a license to use the work (though sometimes with some restrictions.) Creative Commons licenses are the most common form of open content licenses; free and open-source software licenses are another example.

Places to Find Stuff You Can Use

Creative Commons Search -
Search through many different sites for Creative Commons licensed content in a variety of media.

Internet Archive -
Slightly overwhelming listing of multimedia content. Creative Commons (& other open licenses) and public domain.

"The Commons" on Flickr -
Photos from archives & museums with "no known copyright restrictions" (i.e., probably public domain)

Open Clipart
Vector/clipart images. Widely varying quality. All public domain*.

Flickr Creative Commons content -
Use the advanced search interface on Flickr to find only Creative Commons licensed photographs.

Musopen -
Collection of sheet music and recordings. All public domain*.

CC Mixter -
Collection of sound samples and finished musical works. All Creative Commons licensed.

Jamendo -
Music site. All Creative Commons licensed. In and out of service, lately.

Magnatune -
Music site. All Creative Commons licensed, but primarily available to fee-paying members.

Project Gutenberg -
Collection of text and scanned-image copies of books. All public domain.

Open Library -
Project of the Internet Archive - somewhat free e-books. Public domain and other.

Volunteer-read audiobooks. All public domain*.

Many authors have also released new books under Creative Commons licenses, but they're not easily searchable from any one location.

Al Jazeera's Creative Commons footage -
Some of the better Creative-Commons licensed documentary footage available, though of course with limited topic coverage.
Vimeo -
Video site; allows creators to apply Creative Commons licenses to their videos. You can browse CC-licensed videos from this page.

Blip -
Video site; there is CC-licensed content on here, but no easy search interface that I can find at the moment.  

You can also search YouTube including "creative commons" as part of your search words - then check the full info to see if the video is licensed. (Or look at for info on how to license, but they don't quite support the full suite of licenses.)

*For any new work, including present-day recordings of public domain music, copyright automatically exists from the time of creation. Although some creators or performers may want to relinquish all their rights, it's actually kind of legally difficult to do that - most countries, the U.S. included, automatically give some rights that creators cannot sell or give away. Several of the "public domain" resources on this list include new content, but creators on these projects usually at least intend to cede their rights.

Stuff to Help You Use This Stuff

The following free and open-source software is all stuff I use (or have fairly recently used) on my personal computer (Linux Mint), my work PC, or both. -
Completely free and open suite of office software that interoperates pretty well with Microsoft.

VLC Media Player
Audio/video player. Will play any format you throw at it.

GIMP (the Gnu Image Manipulation Program) -
Photo editor - like Photoshop, but free and legal to install on as many computers as you want! Very full-featured, slightly different interface, but if you give it a couple of days, the adjustment is easy even for a longtime Photoshop user.

A vector image editor (like CorelDraw or Illustrator). Vector art is infinitely scaleable without loss of print quality, so this is a good tool for making posters, flyers, other one-page layouts. Most clipart (including all the .SVG files on is vector art.

Audacity -
Great audio recorder, mixer, and editor.

VirtualDub -
A good stripped-down open source program for basic video editing.

Zotero -
A very full-featured citation management program that is a browser plugin for Firefox, and that integrates with MSOffice and open office suites.

If you've got any favorite open content, public domain content, or open source software resources, feel free to add in the comments! Anon commenting is okay, but I'm a slow moderator. :)

Registering ©

Unlike almost any other element of copyright law, there's actually some straightforward information about how copyright registration works that could, in fact, enable you to make a pretty clear decision about your own course of action. Wild, I know!

Registration is how you "copyright" something, right?

NOPE. The use of the word "copyright" as a verb is outdated. Registration is unrelated to ownership of a copyright.

A human being capable of expressing herself in almost any way already owns copyrights. Copyright attaches automatically the minute a work is "fixed in any tangible medium of expression", under U.S. law. Most other countries have similar laws in which a copyright comes into existence at the same time the copyrightable work does. (Whether a work is copyrightable (i.e., the kind of thing copyright applies to), and whether it is "fixed in a tangible medium" (i.e., recorded somewhere, even if fleetingly) are technical questions I'm not gonna get into here. Both are addressed in § 102 of the copyright code, for starters.)

Then why do people bother registering? What does it do?

Registration provides some important benefits:

First and foremost, registration is a prerequisite for any civil infringement suit - no one can sue someone else about a copyright without first registering that copyright. However, registration can take place at any time during the existence of the copyright - and can even take place after a copyright holder finds out about an infringing use.

Second, registering before any infringement takes place makes sure that certain legal remedies are available. Specifically, registering within three months after publication and before any infringement takes place means that statutory damages and attorney's fees are on the table in a lawsuit. If registration happens later, those remedies are not available.

Attorney's fees are pretty straightforward - the winner of a lawsuit can ask that the loser has to pay their legal fees. Statutory damages are a little more complicated - basically, the plaintiff doesn't have to prove they lost any money (which is what damages usually mean) - they just have to prove that infringement took place, and they get a pre-set amount of money ($750 - $150,000 per infringing copy).

Finally, registering your copyright soon after publication creates a presumption both that the copyright is valid, and that the registered owner is the real owner. This isn't usually a big issue, but the effect of a presumption in court is that anyone who wanted to argue that the copyright in fact belonged to them would have to prove that the registered owner was not the real owner.

That all sounds serious! I should register!

Well, registration does cost money ($35-$160 US.) And it isn't required. And the creator absolutely owns the copyright automatically. And registration is almost only ever relevant to lawsuits about the copyrights. So some people do choose not to register - and many more simply don't realize they can.

Even creators who don't ever register still own their copyrights, and can distribute, license, or sell their work secure in the knowledge that they are legitimate copyright owners. As owners, if they discover doing something with their work that they believe is infringing, they can still send completely legitimate letters requesting that such uses be stopped. And if that doesn't work, they can register after the fact.

Even owners who register after an infringement has occurred can still bring a lawsuit. In a lawsuit, they can still get "injunctive relief" and "actual damages". That is, the court can order an infringer to stop what they are doing, or even to destroy all existing infringing copies. And the court can require the infringer to repay any actual monetary or business losses. These can include lost opportunities, but unlike with statutory damages, the copyright holder has to prove that they actually did have those losses.

Someone else says they'll register my copyright for me...

A third party registering copyrights on behalf of creators might simply be doing a nice thing - providing a service. But if they're charging for it, it might be something the creator can do herself for less money (it's currently $35 to register your own copyright online.)

A third party offering to register copyright on behalf of a creator might also actually mean that they're going to register it for themselves - if a creator transfers copyrights to someone else (such as a publisher) then that someone else will be the legit owner, and that someone else will be the one getting the benefits of the registration. If the creator wants to transfer her copyrights to the third party, fine; but if she's transferring her copyright because she's been told she'll get some benefit from the registration as a result, that's misleading.

If I register, do I have to give a copy to the Library of Congress?

Technically everyone who publishes anything in the U.S., registered or not, has to deposit two copies with the Library of Congress within three months after publication. Failure to deposit does not affect the existence of a copyright, but it does actually expose the copyright owner to the possibility of a fine! There are some exceptions for smaller print run publications and such.

So should I register my copyright, or not?

Every creator has different goals and intentions for their creations. There are few downsides to registering. Considering the benefits and costs of registration, and how those benefits and costs align with the creators' goals, can help with the decisionmaking process. So can consulting your own lawyer.

Please do note that there are a couple more complicated wrinkles around registration (different benefits) for works protected under the Visual Artists Rights Act (primarily works of visual art that could be described as "fine art") and broadcast transmissions.

There's more info about the options available for registration (although it's a bit out of date on the online options) and about how an enforcement lawsuit works, from the Stanford Copyright and Fair Use site.

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How I Talk About Fair Use - Intro & "Breathing Space"

When & why I Talk About Fair Use

"How do we/I know what we/I can and cannot do with other people's stuff?" is one of the primary things I'm asked to talk about in trainings and other outreach and education efforts. Often, what people think they really want to know is  "What is and isn't fair use?" They also often ask me to address this (and quite frequently other copyright concepts as well) in less than an hour.

The details of fair use are pretty... detailed - and there really are no exact boundaries that you can point to! In my experience, to do anything other than scare people away from ever reusing any copyright-protected materials again, I need at least an hour (preferably more) to address all those details, and a bunch of other concepts besides. The workshops I lead here on campus for faculty members are usually scheduled for two hours, often run over, and I quite frequently get feedback suggesting that they be longer. (I don't make them longer, because how many faculty members do you know who would voluntarily sign up for a three hour workshop in anything?)

So how to productively discuss fair use in 30 minutes? 15? 10? Rather than trying to talk about the details in high-level, glossed over detail, I try instead to talk about fair use as a concept, and about why it's important to scholarship, culture, and even our daily communications with each other! In the next few posts, I'll feature some of the slides and images I use in my talks, along with brief examples of how I talk about them.

Breathing Space

A number of court opinions make reference to fair use as "breathing space" in copyright law. Talking about fair use as breathing space is a good way to introduce some of the more complex issues (flexibility/uncertainty, and 1st amendment concerns) discussed below. But it's also a good overall summary of the doctrine, and one that makes sense for a lot of people on a gut level. I usually illustrate the "breathing space" concept with this image by Stéfan.

presentation slides talking about fair use as breathing space in the law and using photograph of two Star Wars stormtrooper action figures posed to look as if they're interrogating a Wall-E action figure. Photo is titled This is not the droid we're looking for.

Stéfan's photo is called "This is not the droid we're looking for" and is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.
(My blog is not SA-licensed, so I am not in full compliance with Stéfan's license. I apologize, but also think my use of the photo could be a fair use.)

This image is a good teaching tool for a number of reasons. First, it's funny and pop-cultural, which is almost always a good thing. (It's also an opportunity to bond with the Star Wars fans in the audience over an in-joke - so far, I've never not had at least one person in the audience who gets it.) Second, it's a well-executed photo, technically and conceptually - it's just an appealing image.

But most importantly for my purposes, it provides great opportunities to talk about how fair use exists in large part to deal with new and unanticipated uses, and to provide an outlet for commentary and cultural dialogue. There's a lot going on in this image - it's a silly joke, using characters from very popular movies - but it's also a witty juxtaposition of the two movies. And is there also an element of commentary on a totalitarian regime brutally oppressing a disenfranchised and abandoned manual worker? It also provides an opportunity to briefly address some elements of each of the fair use factors: is there market harm? To movie sales/licensing? To action figure sales? How "much" of the movies are being used? How central are those pieces used to the original work? And so on, and so on.

Sometimes I also use videos (usually short pieces thereof) from the inimitable PS 22 Chorus to illustrate the "breathing space" concept.

The copyright issues raised by their videos are quite densely layered, so more often we will view part of one of their videos to spark a general discussion about what kinds of uses should be tolerated in terms of cultural dialogue and participation. There are way too many great videos from the Chorus to choose just one - this one is my current favorite.

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Good Copyright and Creative Commons Practices - Presentation Slides

I'm calling this "Good Practices" rather than "Best Practices", because hey, there might be better ones!

Images punch up presentation slides, it's true. In fact, some of the most effective presentations I've ever seen have relied heavily or even exclusively on image-based slides. However, I very often see images used something like this:
Slide showing only a photograph and URL
The image is striking, and I definitely want to hear what a speaker has to say about it! But I'm distracted by that URL on the bottom - what's it doing there?

The URL is because of copyright! Or citation! Or something!

If the presenter included the URL in an effort to comply with copyright restrictions, they're pretty far off the mark. Often, presenters consider their use of an image to be fair use - and often they think that giving proper credit is part of fair use. This is a misconception: no URL, citation, or attribution is required under fair use - and if the use is not fair, no URL, citation, or attribution will make it so.

This particular image happens to be in the public domain - so a presenter using this image on a slide would not have to wonder if their use was fair. But neither would the presenter have to provide a URL, citation, or attribution. No one owns public domain documents; anyone can do anything they want to with them!

Certainly giving credit and/or citing sources is an important part of many forms of discourse - but if the presenter was trying to give me information about the source of the image, the URL (especially such a long one) gives me almost no useful information. A traditional citation or a brief caption would be more informative for viewers than a URL. But including any textual information directly on the slide can be a big distraction: a list of citations, including URLs, as part of a bibliography or "image index" slide towards the end of the presentation might be a useful alternative in such situations.

I'd also suggest that, when the mode of discourse doesn't call for it, or when an image is so iconic that everyone knows where it came from in the first place, providing a citation on a presentation slide looks a little silly. It's not a moral failure to skip providing attribution. In fact, it's so much not a moral failure that United States copyright law almost never cares about attribution or citation.

But I'm using Creative Commons images - I have to include the URL!

Creative Commons resources are AWESOME! I love Creative Commons! (Happy Birthday, Creative Commons!) I'm sure I'll talk a lot about Creative Commons on this blog, including posts in the future about what CC is, how you can use stuff that's available under CC, and  making your own stuff available. However, the issues I've seen on presentation slides are from people who already know a lot of the basics, but are also a little confused.

It's true you must provide attribution anytime you use something that's CC-licensed (except for CC0-licensed works.) However - URLs are not sufficient to satisfy Creative Commons attributions requirements!

A lot of folks get their CC-licensed images from Flickr, and Flickr's Community Guidelines do ask you to link back to the original image on their site. But the Community Guidelines aren't exactly a legally binding document (especially for people who are not registered users), so it's not a legal requirement to link back to the original. It's certainly good practice to link back when you can, but in offline media, sometimes you just can't.

What you can do, and what is actually required under the Creative Commons licenses, is provide full attribution, either on the slide itself, or in a list of images on a separate slide towards the end of your presentation.

At minimum, proper Creative Commons attribution should include:
  • the name or user ID of the creator
  • the title of the work, if any
  • the Creative Commons license under which the original work is available
  • a reproduction of any copyright notices the creator included
  • if you've made a derivative work, an identification that your work is derivative
Here are some examples of Creative Commons attributions that meet these standards:

On presentation slides:
Slide using photo, with CC attribution enlarged

   Slide showing photo, with CC attribution enlarged

On paper and PDF copies of a poster:
detail image of CC attribution on a poster (full poster - PDF)
You may note that I often downplay the attribution by using small font sizes and lower-contrast text colors (though readable for most audience members.) This is because extraneous text on the slide is distracting to viewers. Sometimes a list of image credits towards the end of the presentation really is the most sensible way to provide attributions. When displaying my own images, public domain images, or even sometimes images under fair use, I usually credit them verbally, if at all.

Tips and tricks to help with appropriate Creative Commons attribution:
  • Save images with file names that include the appropriate information. Examples from my image folder: "GeneticsExhibitSanJoseTech-ccbync-ThomasHawk.jpg" and "CourseReaders-byncnd-SteelWool.jpg"
  • Download some Creative Commons icons, or get the CC Icons font
  • Use an attribution helper script (this one requires the Greasemonkey plugin, and I haven't yet seen any that create entirely ideal attributions.)
Creative Commons images that appear in the examples in this post:

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the how to category.

fun is the previous category.

news is the next category.

I'm Nancy Sims, the Copyright Program Librarian at the University of Minnesota Libraries.

Though I am a lawyer as well as a librarian, no content on this blog constitutes legal advice; if you need direct advice on your legal rights or responsibilities, please consult your own attorney. This blog represents only my own opinions and not those of my employer.

I'm @CopyrightLibn on Twitter.

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