Academic Book About Emojis Can’t Include The Emojis It Talks About Because Of Copyright

Jieun Kiaer, an Oxford professor of Korean linguistics, recently published an academic book called Emoji Speak: Communications and Behaviours on Social Media. As you can tell from the name, it’s a book about emoji, and about how people communicate with them:

Exploring why and how emojis are born, and the different ways in which people use them, this book highlights the diversity of emoji speak. Presenting the results of empirical investigations with participants of British, Belgian, Chinese, French, Japanese, Jordanian, Korean, Singaporean, and Spanish backgrounds, it raises important questions around the complexity of emoji use.

Though emojis have become ubiquitous, their interpretation can be more challenging. What is humorous in one region, for example, might be considered inappropriate or insulting in another. Whilst emoji use can speed up our communication, we might also question whether they convey our emotions sufficiently. Moreover, far from belonging to the youth, people of all ages now use emoji speak, prompting Kiaer to consider the future of our communication in an increasingly digital world.

Sounds interesting enough, but as Goldman highlights with an image from the book, Kiaer was apparently unable to actually show examples of many of the emoji she was discussing due to copyright fears. While companies like Twitter and Google have offered up their own emoji sets under open licenses, not all of them have, and some of the specifics about the variations in how different companies represent different emoji apparently were key to the book.

So, for those, Kiaer actually hired an artist, Loli Kim, to draw similar emoji!

Note on Images of Emojis

The page reads as follows (with paragraph breaks added for readability):

Notes on Images of Emojis

Social media spaces are almost entirely copyright free. They do not follow the same rules as the offline world. For example, on Twitter you can retweet any tweet and add your own opinion. On Instagram, you can share any post and add stickers or text. On TikTok, you can even ‘duet’ a video to add your own video next to a pre-existing one. As much as each platform has its own rules and regulations, people are able to use and change existing material as they wish. Thinking about copyright brings to light barriers that exist between the online and offline worlds. You can use any emoji in your texts, tweets, posts and videos, but if you want to use them in the offline world, you may encounter a plethora of copyright issues.

In writing this book, I have learnt that online and offline exist upon two very different foundations. I originally planned to have plenty of images of emojis, stickers, and other multi-modal resources featured throughout this book, but I have been unable to for copyright reasons. In this moment, I realized how difficult it is to move emojis from the online world into the offline world.

Even though I am writing this book about emojis and their significance in our lives, I cannot use images of them in even an academic book. Were I writing a tweet or Instagram post, however, I would likely have no problem. Throughout this book, I stress that emoji speak in online spaces is a grassroots movement in which there are no linguistic authorities and corporations have little power to influence which emojis we use. Comparatively, in offline spaces, big corporations take ownership of our emoji speak, much like linguistic authorities dictate how we should write and speak properly.

This sounds like something out of a science fiction story, but it is an important fact of which to be aware. While the boundaries between our online and offline words may be blurring, barriers do still exist between them. For this reason, I have had to use an artist’s interpretation of the images that I originally had in mind for this book. Links to the original images have been provided as endnotes, in case readers would like to see them.

Just… incredible. Now, my first reaction to this is that using the emoji and stickers and whatnot in the book seems like a very clear fair use situation. But… that requires a publisher willing to take up the fight (and an insurance company behind the publisher willing to finance that fight). And, that often doesn’t happen. Publishers are notoriously averse to supporting fair use, because they don’t want to get sued.

But, really, this just ends up highlighting (once again) the absolute ridiculousness of copyright in the modern world. No one in their right mind would think that a book about emoji is somehow harming the market for whatever emoji or stickers the professor wished to include. Yet, due to the nature of copyright, here we are. With an academic book about emoji that can’t even include the emoji being spoken about.

Source: Academic Book About Emojis Can’t Include The Emojis It Talks About Because Of Copyright | Techdirt

Robin Edgar

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